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Singapore gay theatre refers to LGBT-themed plays produced and performed in Singapore.

IntroductionEdit

See also: Singapore gay censorship

It was only in the second half of the 1980s that gay writers started to explore the hitherto taboo area of homosexuality in their works. The licencing officials, the Media Development Authority, however, was not quite ready so in 1988, 3 plays with gay themes were banned from being performed. These were Eleanor Wong's "Jackson on a Jaunt", Chay Yew's "As if He Hears" and Russell Heng's "Lest The Demons Get To Me". The first two plays were subsequently staged in 1989/1990 after negotiations with the authority. The third was staged in 1992 after Singapore's culture policy was liberalised by her new Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong.

Theatre CompaniesEdit

The following theatre companies have been active in staging plays which examine LGBT issues:

HistoricalEdit

ContemporaryEdit

The Necessary Stage LtdEdit

Action Theatre LtdEdit

Toy Factory Theatre EnsembleEdit

The Fun StageEdit

  • Tanglin Post Office PO Box 412 Singapore 921414. Artistic Co-director: Benny Lim. Tel/ Fax: 6225 0501 Email: funstage@thefunstage.org

W!ld Rice LtdEdit

  • Funan Centre. Former address: 3A Kerbau Road, Singapore 219142. Company Manager: Doris Lee. Artistic Director: Ivan Heng. Tel: 6292 2695 Fax: 6292 2249 Email: ivanheng@pacific.net.sg.

W!ld Rice had its funding cut in 2011, presumably for producing too many LGBT plays. It later secured funding from Man investments.

ProductionsEdit

The following are some of the local theatre productions which have featured cross-dressing or LGBT themes:

Before 2001Edit

In 1988, Theatreworks tried to stage Chay Yew's Ten Little Indians and Eleanor Wong's Jackson on a Jaunt. Both were plays on HIV/AIDS, featuring sympathetic gay male characters. In response, the Ministry of Community Development withdrew its funding, outraged that homosexuality might be put forward as "a natural and acceptable form of sexuality"[1].

In 1991, Dramabox presented Another Tribe by Otto Fong Yong Chin, Singapore's first Mandarin-language play to be given an R21 rating as it contained stories about gays youths and their love stories, including a relationship between an older and a younger man[2].

Also in 1991, Akka (அக்கா; literally "elder sister"; also slang for transgender woman) was written, directed and produced by G Selvanathan. It was the only queer-themed Singaporean Tamil play of the 20th century. Selvanathan was just out of army, walking down Serangoon Road in the vicinity of Desker Road when a friend asked him, "Why would you not want to do a drama about people like us?" This led him to create Akka in 1991, a play about a Tamil transwoman, based on conversations and interviews with members of the community. The work was presented at The Substation as part of Fourplay, a quadruple bill of short Tamil plays by Ravindran Drama Group. All the works dealt with social issues, so it was not actually all that shocking. Many people were deeply moved and there was great press coverage. The censors did not cause any trouble. The National Arts Council (NAC) did, but Selvanathan could not remember what. The thing that hurt him, however, was when the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) decided to telecast all the plays in the production except for his. It did not matter that theatre audiences accepted it. Transgender lives were not an appropriate topic for television.

In 1992, Theatreworks produced Tan Tarn How's work, The Lady of Soul and her Ultimate S-Machine, whose madcap political and sexual contents included a passionate gay love affair between a Minister of State and a senior civil servant. That year, the transgender community became a focus of attention in Russell Heng's Lest The Demons Get to Me and Michael Chiang's extremely popular comedy Private Parts.

And in 1993, lesbian theatre came into its own - Ovidia Yu's iconic Three Fat Virgins Unassembled featured a repressed dyke in its array of dissatisfied Singapore women, and Eleanor Wong's Mergers and Accusations presented the lesbian lawyer Ellen - the future star of a trilogy of lesbian plays, Invitation to Treat.

Local theatre presented an opportunity for Singaporeans to encode pro-gay messages into their productions, while being able to publicly disclaim a confessional side to their works - after all, many of these queer plays were indeed written by straight playwrights. Singapore's government had decided to invest in Singapore's cultural scene, yet by its nature, the theatre was always a space for outsiders of society, where genders could change in the dressing room in a puff of powder. No wonder the late Senior Minister of Education Tay Eng Soon desperately pleaded in a 1992 speech, "By all means, let our 'cultural desert' bloom. But please let the blossoms be beautiful and wholesome!"

Jackson on a jauntEdit

As if he hearsEdit

Lest the demons get to meEdit

Emily of Emerald HillEdit

M ButterflyEdit

The internationally acclaimed theatre piece by Chinese-American playwright David Hwang about a transvestite male opera star’s deceptive seduction of an unsuspecting French male diplomat in China was a watershed in more ways than one. It was staged during the 1990 Singapore International Arts Festival in the wake of the proscription of 3 gay plays just 2 years earlier, probably to symbolise newly-appointed Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's vision of a "kinder and gentler Singapore". It also marked the first instance of total nudity in Singapore theatre. The impact was heightened by the local media which, habitually sensitised to the political climate, highlighted members of the political elite seated in the front row taking in the spectacle with cultured nonchalance.

The Swimming InstructorEdit

Written by award-winning director Desmond Sim, it was first staged in 1999 in Singapore. The play has been described as a modern love triangle where a poor little rich girl and a workaholic professional young man fall in love with the same 'sexually-ambiguous' hunk – a swimming instructor[3].

Dreamplay: Asian Boys Vol. 1Edit

Written by then 23 year old Alfian Sa'at in the year 2000, Dreamplay unfolds within the structure of an allegory, loosely adapted from Swedish playwright August Strindberg's A Dream Play (1901). The goddess Agnes, daughter of the god Indra, comes to Singapore on a mission to save mankind. She discovers, with the help of the everyman Boy, that her terrestrial purpose is to put gay men back on the straight and narrow. The work comes with raucous gags and easy laughs, and Alfian's writing is gilded with a wide-eyed hopefulness and a raw lyricism that mixes gleeful camp and brash, in-your-face humour with rather straightlaced philosophising.

Dreamplay drops in on several points in Singapore's history, zig-zagging haphazardly from a gay club to a pair of coolies in 19th-century Nanyang to two fugitives dodging the Japanese in World War II. Agnes attempts to correct these errant men (or so she believes) in heavy-handed ways that reek of her guileless naivete. It is a clever, if showy, dramatic device, joining a host of other deliberately flashy flourishes that include action in slo-mo, nudge-nudge wink-wink puns and allusions (an anti-Japanese force is dubbed Force 302, referencing the Singapore Armed Forces' Category 302 said to be set aside for gay members of the army), and enough pop culture references to leave you sated for weeks. The play then swings in the opposite direction at its close, taking on a heavy, over-didactic air as it instructs the viewer to love and accept one's self.

It was restaged by W!ld Rice at Lasalle College of the Arts', Flexible Performance Space on Saturday, 6 July 2013[4].

The Gunong Sayang Association's Peranakan playsEdit

The matriarch in most Peranakan plays is played by a man, akin to theatre in Shakespearean times. Nyonya women were not encouraged to perform in front of an audience.

The most popular male cross-dressing matriarch to have performed in these plays was GT Lye, whose baju panjangs were made by Aljunied Brothers at Arab Street.

Kenny Chan is a comedic performer from Melaka who has also played the matriarch role and is known for what some consider rather crude stand-up comedy acts. Chan was most recently seen as Romeo in the TV12 series, "The Ways of the Matriarch".

Examples of Peranakan plays which featured a male cross-dressing matriarch include:

2001Edit

An occasional orchidEdit

From 17 April to 13 May 2001, the transgender play by Ivan Heng and Chowee Leow entitled "An occasional orchid" was staged at The Room Upstairs, 42 Waterloo Street[5],[6].

Shakespeare's R&JEdit

In May 2001, the Singapore Repertory Theatre produced "Shakespeare's R&J", directed by Tony Petito. It was a revisionist version of Romeo and Juliet in which all the roles were played by men[7].

Abuse suxx!!!Edit

In October 2001, The Necessary Stage staged a play called "Abuse Suxx!!!" which featured a scene in which the 2 male leads kissed each other[8]. It also starred Singapore's iconic cross-dressing comedian, Kumar.

2002Edit

Beautiful thingEdit

From 25 January to 24 February 2002 with occasional breaks, theatre company Toy Factory staged a Singaporean adaptation of the British play by Jonathan Harvey entitled "Beautiful thing" at the Toy Factory Theatrette, 17A Smith Street[9]. Directed by Beatrice Chia[10], it told the story of 2 teenage boys finding love and the prejudice that not only exists in laws, but in people's hearts.

Stop KissEdit

StopKiss001

In March 2002, Livid Room Productions, a feminist theatre company, staged a lesbian play by Korean-American playwright Diana Son entitled "Stop Kiss"[11] at the Toy Factory Theatrette, 17A Smith Street[12]. It features a female-female kiss and tells the story of Callie (played by Adelina Ong) and Sara (Esther Yap) who find themselves falling in love after a string of heterosexual relationships. When their courtship culminates in a public kiss, they become victims of a hate crime. While Sara lies in a coma in hospital, Callie's finds herself questioning her identity and her faith in their relationship. The play also starred Beatrice Chia, Chua Enlai and Brendon Marc Fernandez[13]. It ran from 21 to 24 March 2002, with an extended run from 28 to 31 March 2002.

StopKiss002

When asked how long the kiss was going to be, Adelina Ong, who was also the producer said, "We haven't timed the kiss yet, but I'm looking forward to a real juicy one." While the play also touched on homophobia and gay bashing, it was not angst-ridden, political or radical. Ong preferred to see the play as a story on self-discovery and the love and friendship between two people who happen to be women. "It just happens to be between two women. But because this is so, it could happen to anyone who's never considered homosexuality as an option before. And that's why this play is amazing... it makes everyone identify with the protagonists, from the falling in love, to having to muster the courage to fight for it later." Although the play is not about political rights, Ong who was also the co-founder of Livid Room Productions said that the play hoped to debunk the prejudice that homosexuals were sick or perverse as "homosexuality and heterosexuality are two ends of a continuum rather than dichotomous entities." Ong added that the play also spoke out against violence and hoped that people respect everyone's personal choices. "Everybody has the right to choose whom they love, and how. You'd want the same respect given to you." The production marked popular Singapore stage and television actor, Mark Richmond's solo directorial debut.

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2003Edit

Shopping and fuckingEdit

Directed by Beatrice Chia, who won a DBS Life! Theatre Awards in 2001 for Best Director.

Invitation to treatEdit

A month-long trilogy of plays performed at the Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel in April 2003. They were penned by acclaimed playwright and academic lawyer Eleanor Wong[14] and produced by W!LD RICE, a professional theatre company founded by well-regarded Artistic Director Ivan Heng[15]. Despite the stellar credentials of the artists involved in the production of the plays, it failed to secure any sponsorship, probably due to its lesbian theme[16]. Despite this, it enjoyed an overwhelming response with 3 additional performance being added[17].

The three plays of Invitation To treat spanned 20 years in the life of their protagonist, Ellen Toh, following her journey towards self-discovery and self-actualisation. She was a smart, ambitious and hardworking lesbian lawyer who married her best friend in a 'marriage of convenience' that presented her with the best of both worlds– a socially respectable position, and a husband who accepted her sexual orientation.

The plays swept the audience along a unique and enjoyable journey, an Odyssey of insights which recounted the story of one member of an invisible minority who struggled with her sexuality and, over time, grew increasingly confident and self-aware, with more than a little help from her friends. Heng hoped that the LGBT community would relate to the plays which included 'insider' jokes and references that could only be fully appreciated by the gay community, with scripts that were not dumbed down to accommodate a straight audience. Owing to its lesbian theme, the producers experienced great difficulty in securing a corporate sponsor.

Mergers & accusations and Wills & secession ran as a double bill from 2 to 6 April 2003.

  • Mergers & accusations examined personal choices and living in transition while dreaming of, hoping for, and wanting, the 'perfect' future.
  • Wills & secession explored the corridors of the past, and unravelled the bonds of family and faith in the face of disease and death.
  • Jointly & severably (world-premiered from 9 to 26 April 2003) laid bare the struggle for commitment, exploded the meaning of family, love and friendship, and the right of a minority to live and love honestly and fearlessly.

3 Men & A BootEdit

On 23 and 24 May 2003, 3 of Singapore's most talented theatre performers who also happened to by gay - Darius Tan, Gani Abdul Karim and Juwanda Hassim starred in the original musical production, "3 Men & A Boot" at the Victoria Theatre[18]. It was about 3 guys trying to make it in a very tough and fast paced Singapore. With love, faith and hope as their guide they waddle through funny, touching and nonsensical moments...with a smelly boot offering some help.

BentEdit

From 25 July to 17 August 2003, Toy Factory presented "Bent" at The Attic, level 4, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road[19]. It was an award-winning and groundbreaking play by Martin Sherman about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, coming out and the struggle for gay pride.

Mardi GrasEdit

From 13 to 17 August 2003, The Necessary Stage presented Harish Sharma's gay play, "Mardi Gras"[20][21],[22] at the Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel. The comedy was about a group of people wanting to organise Singapore's first Pride Parade. It starred well known local TV personalities including Hossan Leong, Jimmy T, VJ Rick Tan, with special guest appearances by Kumar and Irene Ang.

Beautiful Thing (in Chinese)Edit

From 1 to 26 October, Toy Factory staged, at The Attic, the Mandarin production of Jonathan Harvey's Beautiful Thing starring local actors Scott Lei, Charmaine Ang, Ben Xiao, Darius Tan and Alicia Kim in Singapore for the second time[23].

2004Edit

Landmarks - Asian Boys Vol. 2Edit

From 4 to 15 February 2004, W!ld Rice presented "Landmarks - Asian Boys Vol. 2" at the Esplanade Theatre Studio[24]. Written by Alfian Sa'at and directed by Ivan Heng, the collection of eight short plays told the stories of the lives of gay men in Singapore set against a familiar backdrop of saunas, cruising spots, parties, coming out issues, sex, and the city.

Lovers' WordsEdit

Main article: Lovers' Words

"Lovers' Words" was a play directed by Richard Chua in February 2004. It was scripted by Qiu An Chen from Taiwan and starred Willy Lau, Scott Lei, Sarah Tng, Sabrina C and Jaff Fong.

Advertisement:

"What does it take to love in a homosexual reality? Perhaps, only a boy and girl will know as they come together to explore the intricacies of building a relationship. They live in a gay society with a plague looming large, and heterosexual reality being a taboo, love seems to be non-existent. In the end, sexual reformation seems to be the only solace they could find. R(A)-18 Partial nudity involved. Performed in Mandarin."

After submitting the script to MITA (Ministry of Information and the Arts) for approval, the regulatory body required some of the lines to be axed. The first scene where everybody was in G-strings had to be dropped.

Male-male kissing was also limited to 2 minutes after some negotiation by the director.

Not GuiltyEdit

From 12 to 22 May 2004, Singapore's iconic drag comedian, Kumar, acted in the play "Not Guilty" at Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel[25]. The play, produced by Arts Central, directed by Alvin Tan and written by veteran playwright Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage was about Kumar's life, childhood, family, being Indian, career and living in Singapore.

Top or bottomEdit

From 28 July to 1 August 2004, director Alvin Tan and playwright Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage restaged 2003's glamourama "Mardi Gras" at the Jubilee Hall, Raffles Hotel with a new cast, script and sequel entitled "Top Or Bottom"[26]. The latter ran from 4 to 14 August, with breaks. The new cast included Paerin Choa, Jay Espano, and sitcom queens of Singapore, Irene Ang and Koh Chieng Mun. While Mardi Gras examind the issues faced by the Singapore gay community as a whole, Top Or Bottom looked at problems faced by the gay individual. Hossan Leong took the lead role of makeup artist Faith who had to deal with the untimely death of a friend. It lead Faith to question the way he has lived his life, including the choice he made long ago to come of the closet and set it on fire. "Mardi Gras" and "Top or Bottom" were part of the first ever Nation.04 Arts programme which included several other plays like the first Mandarin production of "Mergers and Wills"[27] and art exhibitions.

Private partsEdit

It took Singapore by storm when it premiered at the 1992 Singapore Arts Festival, generating a buzz that lasted well past its 2 sell-out seasons, both during the festival and its immediate rerun, when it played to an estimated audience of 20,000.

The cast of "Private Parts".

Many felt that Private Parts was popular playwright Michael Chiang’s best play to date; definitely, it was his most politicised. The man who defined Singapore comedy with runaway hits like Army Daze, Beauty World and Mixed Signals, surprised many with this pointed yet poignant piece of writing.

Pushing the envelope the way no other local production had ever done, Private Parts was a play many agree was ahead of its time. One gets involved with a talk-show host who soon finds out the true meaning of reality TV. One gets a glimpse of the brutality of media competition: how far would one go for higher ratings? Plus, for a nation of gawkers weaned on the night-time beauties of Bugis Street back in the 60s, here was an up-close peek into that mysterious world of drag queens. What more could one want from theatre in the rigid, pre-RA days of Singapore?

Hype aside, Private Parts made news because it was able to engross even the most conservative of audiences with its bittersweet (and unexpectedly moving) story about 3 transsexuals trying to find their place in life. Way before Hollywood was feted for daring to do the same by putting Terence Stamp, Guy Pearce and Hugo Weaving in heels and makeup for Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994). Not to mention Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes and John Leguziamo donning even bigger bouffants and bosoms in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything (1995).

The story: Briefly, a Star Search winner fronts a current-affairs talk show to improve ratings. His life turns upside down when he ends up in a sex-change clinic with 3 transsexuals. After befriending them, he tries to get them on his show.

Private Parts proved to be such an audience favourite that it was revived in 1995 for another run, this time including a Mandarin version (which starred Edmund Chen and the late comedian Hua Liang) as well!

And 12 years on, Michael Chiang’s much-acclaimed play returned to the Singapore stage for a limited season, to wow new audiences, and hopefully bring back some of its old supporters. The new, updated production had its run at the Esplanade Theatre from 28 July to 1 August 04.

Autumn TomyamEdit

White sails over blue seaEdit

East Side storyEdit

2005Edit

PorcelainEdit

From 7 to 17 April 2005, with breaks, Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble in collaboration with the Esplanade presented the eagerly awaited local debut of Singapore-born, Los Angeles-based playwright Chay Yew's "Porcelain" at the Esplanade Theatre Studio[28]. The controversial R(A) play, which was bestowed the prestigious London Fringe Award for Best Play in 1992, followed a young Asian man's struggle to find himself in the face of homophobia and racism after shooting his lover in Bethnal Greens Tube station's cruisy toilet. It was directed by award-winning directors Goh Boon Teck and Beatrice Chia, and starred LIFE! Theatre Awards Best Actor nominees, Nelson Chia and Mark Richmond.

Boxing cabaretEdit

  • A unique one-woman show on 17 and 18 June 2005 by Parinya Charoenphol, also familiarly known in Thai as Nong Thoom. The famous former Muay Thai (kickboxing) champion who stunned the world with her gender change invited the audience into her colourful world where strength meets beauty, fight meets dance and heart meets mind.

Spirits 'Yao Jing'Edit

  • It world-premiered on 3 June 2005 at the Victoria Theatre. Written as a special dedication to Toy Factory's 15th anniversary and directed by award-winning director Goh Boon Teck, it recounted once upon 5,000 years ago when 5 ill-fated beauties were impeached for their tramped existence. Spirits unveiled 5 untold stories of Sai Jing Hua from the Qing dynasty, an infamous protitute, Bao Si from the Zhou dynasty, the concubine who never smiled, Lu Hou from the Han dynasty, the revengeful empress, Ya Zuan Ji from the Tang dynasty, a poetic priestess and Ke Shi Ming from the Ming dynasty, the Great Madam, all of whom were despised and condemned by Chinese historians.
  • It was crafted as a musical, infusing 5 different forms of Chinese opera, namely Yue, Jing, Li Yuan, Huang Mei and Yu, with contemporary funk. No traditional opera musical instruments or props were employed in this unconventional fusion. Instead, there were 4 actors, 5 martial artistes, 7 musicians, 1 saxophonist and 5 genres of opera in this creative mix.
  • Spirits advanced Chinese opera a step forward, creating a new theatre platform for the younger generation. Multimedia effects and high-tech neon swords replaced traditional props. An outrageous wardrobe dazzled and a fascinating mobile stage transported the audience to another world.
  • The constantly challenged notion of masculinity in Asia has unfortunately led to the near extinction of opera female impersonators. Toy Factory proudly featured 5 of these professional 'Nan Hua Dan' from Singapore and China, which made the musical drama all the more gripping.

QuillsEdit

From 16 to 25 September 2005, theatre company Luna-id presented "Quills", a play about the Marquis de Sade in which its dashing lead actor, Reehan Engineer, displayed one hour of full-frontal male nudity, a first in Singapore[29]. It was staged at the DBS Arts Centre, home of the Singapore Repertory Theatre, 20 Merbau Road, Robertson Walk.

BoysEdit

A project by Richard Chua, after Lover's Words, about heterosexuals in a homosexual society. It was an extension of Chua's belief that life should be led honestly and truthfully. In his quest to further meditate on love between people (in this case, among 3 boys in their 20s), Chua embarked on this project to push his collaborators to work in a space where they had nowhere to go, but to clean.

Cleaning was an essential task that would bring these boys to the next phase of eternity. The story was about love - love that seemed to be defined differently by different people, with different perspectives, resulting in different outcomes. Each boy had a love story to tell.

2006Edit

A Language of Their OwnEdit

From 30 March to 9 April 2006, Checkpoint Theatre presented US-based Singaporean playwright Chay Yew's "A Language of Their Own" (RA18) at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. The play, which won the George and Elisabeth Marton Playwriting Award and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) Media Award for Best Play starred actors Phin Wong and Koey Foo.

Let Me Entertain You!Edit

From 12 to 15 April 2006, director Loretta Chen presented "Let Me Entertain You!", a production starring Darius Tan which featured songs from a myriad Broadway and Off-Broadway musicals, and riveting, risque and raunchy theatre at the Arts House's Play Den[30]. Joining Darius onstage were veterans like Gerald Chew, Gani Karim, and Hatta Said, amongst others.

The Seven-Month ItchEdit

From 8 to 12 November 2006, The Necessary Stage and Action for Aids presented an interactive play entitled "The Seven-Month Itch", written by Haresh Sharma and directed by Aidli 'Alin' Mosbit, with audience interaction facilitated by company artistic director Alvin Tan[31]. Daniel Yeo and Timothy Nga played Daniel and Jason, 2 gay men who had been boyfriends for 7 months before the latter met a man in a club had unprotected sex with him. Audiences could interrogate actors (hotseating), suggest certain courses of action (playback theatre), or march in and replace the main character themselves to change a course of action (forum theatre).

2007Edit

Happy Endings: Asian Boys Vol.3Edit

From 11 to 29 July 2007, W!ld Rice presented "Happy Endings: Asian Boys Vol.3" (rated M18) at the Drama Centre Theatre, National Library[32]. It was written by playwright/poet/social activist Alfian Sa'at, who in 2003 e-mailed Johann S. Lee, author of Singapore's first gay novel, "Peculiar Chris", soliciting his permission to adapt the novel into a theatre production which deals with what happens to the characters as they grow older, even creating an imaginary author as a character in the play. It starred an ensemble of both new and familiar faces including Lim Kay Siu, Karen Tan, Timothy Nga, Ben Seow, Pierre Goh and Hansel Tan.

Hitting (on) WomenEdit

Hitting (on) Women, a powerful psychodrama on the love between two women by author Ovidia Yu, was produced by ACTION Theatre and performed in full from 10 to 19 August 2007 at 8pm at The Room Upstairs, 42 Waterloo Street. The play was directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall and starred actresses Janice Koh and Serene Chen (all of whom are not only straight, but also past winners of the Life Theatre Awards). Prices for the tickets were $30, $35 and $40 available from www.sistic.com.sg. Its website was www.action.org.sg.

A special matinee performance of the play on 11 August at 3pm was marked as an event in the IndigNation 2007 Pride Festival calendar. Yu herself confessed that it was her favourite piece among all the scripts she had written - which is quite a statement, considering that she had penned local classics like Three Fat Virgins Unassembled and A Woman on a Tree on a Hill, and still refuses to anthologise her work on the grounds of not finding enough she is proud of.

Yu's work had the strength to make the audience laugh and wince with pain in the space of a split-second, speaking with heartbreaking honesty on the troubled reality of many lesbian relationships today. Read in front of an audience of over 800 at the Esplanade Theatre, it easily won the first prize in Action Theatre's "Theatre Idols" competition for new plays.

The play is especially important because it dares to take on the hot-button issue of domestic violence in gay relationships, which - while it may not be politically correct to say so - remains a big problem in lesbian couplehood today, made worse by the fact that insufficient laws exist to protect its victims. Amazingly, Yu manages to make both her abusive and abused characters so likeable and empathetic, that the audience cannot help but be put in the same position as the heroine who finds it hard to break free from love for her own survival.

Read a review of the play by Kenneth Kwok on The Flying Inkpot:[33].

2008Edit

Death and DancingEdit

From 20 to 23 November 2008, Buds Theatre Company presented "Death and Dancing" at Play disco, 21 Tanjong Pagar Road[34]. The funny, uplifting play, performed stand-up comedy style, was about 2 friends named Max and Max, a gay man and a lesbian woman (acted by Benjamin Wong and Rebecca Lee respectively) both struggling to define themselves against society's expectations.

2009Edit

Kumar: Stripped Bare and Standing UpEdit

From 19 to 21 March 2009, Dream Academy presented 'Kumar: Stripped Bare and Standing Up' at the Esplanade Theatre. In a Fridae article shortly before the performance run and during the shows themselves, drag icon Kumar came out as a gay man for the very first time after denying the fact several times before[35].

From 8 to 25 July 2009, Wild Rice staged "Own Time Own Target" a double-bill of comedies at the Drama Centre. The dealt with the Singapore army and included a musical about a gay soldier[36].

From 6 to 8 August 2009, Leona Lo, possibly Singapore’s best known transsexual, performed her one-woman play, "Ah Kua Show" at The Substation. It was directed by Emeric Lau and was based on her 2007 memoir "From Leonard to Leona: A Singapore Transsexual's Journey to Womanhood", written over a course of 11 years. The book traces the major milestones in the 34-year-old PR consultant’s life from suffering a nervous breakdown while performing compulsory military service, surviving a suicide attempt at 19 to using his tuition money for her sexual reassignment surgery in Bangkok in 1997 whilst she was a first year student at the University of York in the UK. The play was Lo’s latest attempt to bring transgender issues to the forefront[37].

2010Edit

Can ChangeEdit

By Haresh Sharma.

2011Edit

Family OutingEdit

By Joel Tan.

Balek KampongEdit

By Haresh Sharma.

Mata HatiEdit

By Robin Loon.

2012Edit

TonguesEdit

By Jason Wee and Sean Tobin.

Bedok ReservoirEdit

By Wesley Leon Aroozoo.

2013Edit

PeopleEdit

By Joel Tan.

2014Edit

Let's Get Back TogetherEdit

By Kenneth Chia and Mark Ng.

The Way We GoEdit

By Joel Tan.

Mass HysteriaEdit

By Steph Chan et al.

Akka: The EndEdit

By Selva Avant.

2015Edit

With/OutEdit

By Loo Zihan.

The Incredible Adventures of Border CrossersEdit

By Ong Keng Sen.

Akka 3Edit

By Selva Avant.

HotelEdit

By Alfian Sa'at and Marcia Van Der Straaten.

HawaEdit

By Jonny Jon Jon.

RagnarokEdit

By Andrew Koi Sutherland.

2016Edit

CountingEdit

By Sabrina Dzulkifli.

GRINDEdit

By Shar Pi'ee and Goh Boon Teck.

Long WeekendEdit

By Kenneth Chia.

My Mother Buys CondomsEdit

By Helmi Yusof.

I am LGBEdit

A performance produced by Loo Zihan, commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA)[38]. It ran from 18 to 20 August 2016 from 7pm to 11pm at 72-13, the home of Theatreworks.

Advertisement:

Who am I? Am I my name? My Body? My Sex? My History? What State do I represent? Should I believe in the State? Perhaps I am propaganda for a State that does not yet exist. Or perhaps I am here to expropriate what can never be mine. Perhaps I should return to my home. Where is that? Where my father’s ashes were released, swallowed by the fish he fed every day? I ate that fish.

You are a performance artist. It is the 24th of January 1994. You teach contemporary art at a public university. One day, you receive an anonymous letter from your students. The letter calls for a boycott of your classes.

“If we are taught by him next year, we will not go to his classes. His teaching is too political and is about sensitive issues. He teaches performance art, which is now forbidden in Singapore, and we are quite right not to go.”

You are LGB. LGB is Lan Gen Bah. You were born in 1948. You are a Marxist. A scientist. An ideologue. A member of the government. A citizen of the State. You are Song Liling. You are Cheng Dieyi. You are Ray Langenbach. You are Loo Zihan. You are Lee Mun Wai. You are Shawn Chua Ming Ren. You are Bani Haykal. You are State power. An individual. An ISA (Ideological State Apparatus). A KPI (Key Performance Indicator). You are LGB, without the T. You are a meme. Propaganda. You are not yours alone; you are an idea demanding its own acceptance.

2017Edit

Pretty ButchEdit

By Tan Liting Tan.

Detention KatongEdit

Detention Katong[39] was a musical comedy written by Selena Tan and produced by theatre company Dream Academy. Performed at the Esplanade Theatre, it was about bad girls who do good and included a lesbian character.

DetentionKatong001


Synopsis: Amanda Chin is a straight ‘A’s student, teacher’s pet, and loved by all. One day, she gets herself sent to detention, and has never been happier. She is intent on showing us that good girls are not all good, and that bad girls can do good. Amanda’s mother, Linda, (Serene Chen, Public Enemy) who seems very secretive these days, sparks off this intrigue. The girls are led by Valerie Choo, Kimberly Chan, Melissa Gan, Natalie Yeap, Sharon Sum, Alyssa Lie, Munah Bagharib, and Inch Chua.

All this while, the girls are surrounded by a hotchpotch of teachers: The Discipline Mistress of Pain (Neo Swee Lin, Phua Chu Kang’s Ah Ma), a hotshot know-it-all Principal (Darius Tan, Monkey Goes West), the School Counsellor in need of counselling (Sebastian Tan a.k.a Broadway Beng®) and the worldly-wise Malay & PE teacher (Suhaimi Yusof, The Noose). As sure as the sun rises in the East, Katong is the hippest spot to be spotted one's your teenage years. However, these years are also one of the most challenging in life. One goes from Dimples to Pimples, Ponytails to Telling Tales, all while trying to be cool, or just pretending to follow the rules.

Lyrics for Detention Katong were written by Selena Tan (Dim Sum Dollies & Sing Dollar), with a team of music composers headed by Elaine Chan (Dim Sum Dollies, Monkey Goes West & Sing Dollar), Sarah Cheng-De Winne (Brand New), Dave Tan (Electrico) and Benjamin Kheng (The Sam Willows).

DinnerEdit

By Jonny Jon Jon. The play featured a married Muslim woman asking her lesbian girlfriend to marry her husband so they could be in a polygamous relationship. It was commissioned for Late Night Texting 2017 under Main Tulis Group.

TompangEdit

By Hazwan Norly. The play was overtly about two ex-lovers who were lesbian. Like "Dinner" by Jonny Jon Jon, it was commissioned for Late Night Texting 2017 under Main Tulis Group.

TangoEdit

By Joel Tan.

Foreign BodiesEdit

A 1 hour 15 minute intermissionless production by Eugene Tan (a.k.a. Becca D'Bus), it was performed from Thursday, 5 January 2017 to Saturday, 7 January 2017 at 8pm at the Esplanade Recital Studio for the 2017 M1 Fringe Festival[40]. It asks what one does with a foreign body. One either removes it or gets used to it. Adjust, grow, and assimilate.

Advertisement:

In Singapore's march towards 6.9 million people - many of whom are imported — how do we make space for each other? Let's start by taking off our clothes! In trying to understand what might be a “new normal”, perhaps it is the expatriates who might have something unique to share.

A cast of all genders and bodies from the community in Singapore come together to form Singapore’s first diverse, politically progressive burlesque troupe! Produced and mentored by Eugene Tan and Madge of Honor, diva of high performance burlesque, they create a burlesque revue like no other. Everyone’s been an expat, except Madge, who is a Foreign Talent.

What do Foreign Bodies do? We take our clothes off.

SKIN IN SIN is a brand new burlesque troupe, birthed through this production, with an eye towards performing, thriving and making a (very naked) mark in Singapore. Endeavouring to be as diverse as possible, the multicultural members of Skin in SIN are, for Foreign Bodies, being drawn first from people who have lived some kind of expat experience—either returned Singaporeans, or people who were born elsewhere and now call Singapore home. In the future, Skin in SIN will expand its membership to include folks from all walks of life and a diversity of lived experience.

2018Edit

PotongEdit

By Jonny Jon Jon. The play, produced by Teater Ekamatra, featured a male-to-female transgender character played by Fared Jainal.

13.13.13Edit

By Shen Tan.

The InsidersEdit

The Insiders, a play written by Alfian Sa'at for the graduating class in theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts and directed by Jo Kukathas, featured interviews with 21 women about their lives as queer individuals in Singapore. The work was inspired by Singapore's first newspaper articles on the lesbian community entitled "The Outsiders", published in 1972. It was performed in early April 2018 to sold-out audiences.

FaghagEdit

A one-woman autobiographical musical play written by Pam Oei and directed by Ivan Heng, it was rated M18 by the IMDA[41]. Presented by W!ld Rice during its Singapore Theatre Festival, the sold-out production ran from 19 July to 22 July 2018 at Lasalle College of the Arts's Flexible Performance Space.

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"Pam Oei likes gay boys. Gay boys like her too. She has always felt irresistibly drawn to them – even as a teenager, before she knew what the term ‘gay’ meant. Over the years, Pam’s adventures have included: coaxing gay boyfriends out of the closet, attending her first gay wedding in 2001, fighting to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code in 2007, and being the Countdown Queen at Pink Dot every year (though the job is less ‘queen’ and more ‘drill sergeant’!). This makes her a gold-star straight ally and a bona fide faghag.

Join Pam and the multiple characters she plays in this rainbow-coloured cabaret. Accompanied by maestro Julian Wong on the piano, Pam will tell jokes, share heart-warming tales and throw in a few torch songs for good measure. Along the way, she’ll demonstrate why she deserves the title of Singapore’s Number One Faghag!

When asked what inspired her to write the play, her maiden attempt at being a playwright, Oei said: “Being one of the biggest ‘Faghags’ in Singapore, I thought it would be good for me to write down my experiences of what it’s like. When I discovered when I was one. How I became one. How fun it’s been to be one. And also how 377A is still over our heads. I think it’s part of the Faghag’s job to examine that closely.”"

Kumar50Edit

By Kumar.

2019Edit

CatamiteEdit

By Loo Zihan.

a line could be crossed and you would slowly cease to beEdit

By Andrew Sutherland. It was performed at the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI).

Glorious, Monstrous, Hantu Tales from SingaporeEdit

By Cyril Wong et al.

Desert BloomsEdit

By Ng Yi-Sheng.

2020Edit

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • 1 August 2006, Fridae article, "A look back on gay theatre in Singapore" by Ng Yi-Sheng[42].
  • A list of LGBT characters portrayed in Singapore theatre, posted by The Savage Circle on SiGNeL in June 2000:[43].

External linksEdit

  • The Flying Inkpot theatre and dance reviews: [44],[45] - The Flying Inkpot was launched in 1996 to create an online platform for writing about the arts in Singapore. Despite being staffed by volunteers, the theatre wing has established itself as the longest-running theatre and dance review journal in Singapore, with over 800 reviews in its archive. It also provides comprehensive listings of productions, auditions and workshops.

AcknowledgementsEdit

This article was written by Roy Tan based on information published on Fridae, with some information contributed by Wikipedia users who are Singapore theatre aficionados and writer Ng Yi-Sheng.

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