In 2016, six of Singapore’s leading Chinese language theatre companies united and formed the Singapore Chinese Language Theatre Alliance. Aiming to surface and address concerns and issues pertaining to the development of Chinese language theatre scene in Singapore, the six members of the alliance are Drama Box, Nine Years Theatre, Paper Monkey Theatre, The Finger Players, The Theatre Practice and Toy Factory Productions. Three years on, they’re ready to address these issues with a brand new festival this September.
Titled the New Works Festival, the origins of the festival came about from an open call launched in 2017 for new works written and created in the Chinese language by collectives and individuals. Organised in the hopes of identifying and nurturing a new generation of theatre practitioners for the Singapore Chinese contemporary theatre scene, four applicants were shortlisted and chosen to undergo an 18-month mentorship programme led by the various members in the alliance.
Now, watch as these works finally get a chance to be staged. Presented in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, the festival will showcase script reads of three new original works as well as a full production staged by a brand new collective over two exciting weekends, at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.
All three script reads will take place on Sunday, 8th September. The readings open at 11am with actor Goh Seok Ai’s Dancing Glory《坚强的阿花》. A first time playwright, Seok Ai’s script is about Ah Hua, an ordinary girl leading an ordinary life, yet may hide something far more unusual if we just listen to her story. This will be followed by The Finger Players’ new co-artistic director Ellison Yuyang Tan with her new play Let Go Lightly 《轻的声音》. Ellison, a former radio DJ herself, writes an epic tale spanning 30 years of a radio station struggling to stay afloat, while a group of passionate radio DJs attempt to save it, raising ideas of identity being shaped by what we believe in and the battles we choose to fight.
The script reads will end off with Zelda Tatiana Ng’s The Costume《戏服》, adapted from Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon’s novel of the same name. Spanning 80 years, Zelda’s script follows the dreams of a 15-year old immigrant from Guangdong in the 1930s, and her grandson Qiu in the 1960s, as they each struggle with their love for Cantonese Opera and its practicality in each era, charting the rise and fall of Cantonese Opera in Singapore through the eyes of the three generations.
The following weekend, the Esplanade Theatre Studio will play host to KNOTS 《结》, a full production and the debut of new six-member collective STRANGER (艺族), deriving from graduates of Drama Box’s ARTivate youth wing. The play follows a woman who awakens to find herself in the underworld, dead. But she soon learns she has little time to grieve, as she rushes through her application for reincarnation, revisiting various life-changing episodes of her life, only to find out that she has a knot in her heart, one that has been forgotten and buried in her mind waiting to be untied.
With the New Works Festival then, the SCLTA hopes to bring the contemporary Chinese theatre scene into the next generation, giving them the platform and opportunity to develop new works, from playwrights to directors to actors. Here’s to hoping that the festival marks the beginning of a strong new initiative that allows the theatremakers of tomorrow to shine and prove that there is a future in the local Chinese theatre scene.
New Works Festival 2019’s Script Readings will take place on 8th September 2019 at 11am, 2.30pm and 5pm, with tickets available here KNOTS will play on 13th and 14th September 2019. Tickets to KNOTS available on SISTIC All events will take place at the Esplanade Theatre Studio.