I am presently a schools correspondent with The Straits Times. I will be moving to the School of the Arts, Singapore at the end of the month (June 29, 2015), to teach literature and literary arts.
How do you feel about your play being picked as a feature of Going Local 4?
It is both a privilege and an honour to be part of a proud tradition started by Buds Theatre Company’s artistic director Claire Devine.
Summarise Hands Down in 14 words or less.
A married couple discovers their incompatibility while in a competition to win a car.
What inspired your passion for playwriting?
I have always had a love for writing and the English language. Theatre is one of the avenues in which I express myself creatively.
The play on paper can be vastly different from the creature on stage – are you prepared for any potential changes?
Staging a play is like sailing a ship; with all hands on deck, everyone – from cast to crew – works to move the play forward.
As with all ships I’ve built, I leave this vessel in the good hands of the director, who will steer it in the direction she thinks best.
I’m fine with it taking a different tack – so long as it doesn’t go off course.
What do you hope to achieve with Hands Down?
I wrote the play in response to a trend taking place in Singapore society and mirrored in my circle of friends.Because of the way housing policy is designed, many young Singaporean couples ballot for public housing at a young age.
When the key arrives some years later, some of these couples – having grown in age and maturity – realise they are not as in love with each other as they used to be.
Understandably, the sunk cost is, sometimes, perceived as greater than the benefits of backing out of the impending nuptials. These couples end up entering an unhappy marriage, along with all its attendant ills.
Is there a better way for Singapore to enact pro-marriage policies, while balancing housing considerations in a country with limited land? Or is it a case of mismatched expectations versus a practical reality, when it comes to finding a companion and a life partner? I hope the play gets people to start thinking about these issues – or even finding a solution, if possible.
What are some memorable things theatre practitioners have said to you?
One common sentiment expressed by many writers – playwrights, poets, novelists, etc. – whom I know: For every play that goes to stage, or every book that goes to print, there are dozens more that remain as unfinished drafts or rejected manuscripts, languishing in the bottom of the drawer.
The Pareto principle suggests that 80 per cent of an artist’s best output is going to come from 20 per cent of his input. So it could well be that 80 per cent of your time might be spent achieving 20 per cent of your work.
Having said that, don’t settle for inefficiency. Learn from the mistakes you make, and and don’t make the same mistake again. Better yet – get a good mentor who gives good feedback. It’ll cut down the time you’d need to take to get to where you want to go.
Hands Down is a comedy about a married couple that finds themselves facing off in a challenge to see who can keep their hands on a car for the longest period of time in order to win it.
The catch: whoever puts his or her hand down first loses the car – and the marriage to boot.
This year’s Going Local comprises four short plays, including Dressing Up by Gwendolyn Lee, Don’t Colour Outside Of The Lines by Jaryl George Solomon and The Untitled Funeral Play by Luke Vijay Somasundram.
There are four shows, as follows:
Fri, 26 June, 8pm, Tampines Primary School Black Box
Sat, 27 June, 7:30pm, Toa Payoh Central Community Centre
Fri, 3 July and Sat, 4 July, 8pm, Zhenghua Community Centre
Standard tickets are $20 while concession tickets (for students, senior citizens and national servicemen) are $15.
Food and lodging will be provided by the OCC, which will have a National Arts Council-appointed manager/administrator to handle finance matters, maintenance arrangements, residency rosters, events such as poetry readings, etc; a part-time chef to provide lunches and dinners for the artists; and other support staff, where required.
“When I’m dead, demolish it,” said the man, in reference to his home.
But what would happen after is a foregone conclusion: A multi-storey condominium called 38 Oxley in its place – not exactly the most fitting tribute to one of the founding fathers of Singapore.
If we preserve it as it is, it’d be an insult to Lee, who specifically asked for it to be demolished.
His rationale for demolishing it was, ostensibly, to prevent an Ozymandian ending to a place where he must’ve had many happy memories.
“I’ve seen other houses,” he said. “Nehru’s, Shakespeare’s – they become a shambles after a while.”
This is the same man who once said that “poetry is a luxury we cannot afford”.
Well, we can afford it now, after all that he and the old guard have done to build the nation – many thanks to them for that.
In the case of the latter two, they don’t exactly provide spaces in which artists can reside for an extended period of time to work.
Extended interactions are important; artists work in solitude for much of the time – sometimes, not by choice, because the profession is as such.
More opportunities for working closely with other artists – at residencies and festivals for example, where artists work and live together – will help broaden perspectives and deepen understanding about crafts that take years to hone.
To pay tribute to the man in a respectful manner, we keep the house as it is, so there is room for memory and nostalgia, but we put it to another, better use – putting soul into Singapore through the arts and literature.
After all, Lee was always one for pragmatism. Putting 38 Oxley to practical purpose – as the OCC, in higher service of the nation – would’ve been what he’d’ve wanted.