Local theatre company The Second Breakfast Company (2BCo) ushers in their 2021 season with an exciting, ambitious project they’ve been working on for some time now: Robert Yeo’s The Singapore Trilogy. Slated to be staged in March at the Stamford Arts Centre Black Box, The Singapore Trilogy combines Robert Yeo’s Are You There, Singapore? (1974), One Year Back Home (1980) and Changi (1997) into a single production, each dealing with nationhood and politics in the early years of Singapore’s independence.
“This will also be the first time all three plays of the Trilogy will be performed together in a single adaptation, including deleted scenes from original manuscripts, new writing and a revised ending in consultation with Robert Yeo.”
All three plays were written by Robert Yeo, considered one of Singapore’s pioneers of English-language literature. 2BCo has been working on the project with Robert for almost two years, studying the narrative and character arcs across the three plays, while looking at the relevant context of Singapore’s history, alongside conducting interviews with both Robert and others. This process has been critical for Artistic Director Adeeb Fazah, and Dramaturg Nah Dominic, in delving deep into a work that has hardly been staged. This will also be the first time all three plays of the Trilogy will be performed together in a single adaptation, including deleted scenes from original manuscripts, new writing and a revised ending in consultation with Robert Yeo.
“How will our 2021 audiences respond to this? What about this writing lends itself relevant to the here and now?”
Adeeb explains: “This project affords us the valuable opportunity to shine a light on one part of our theatre history – what were playwrights of a younger Singapore thinking about? We are also working on a new staging that is cognizant of its time in history – how will our 2021 audiences respond to this? What about this writing lends itself relevant to the here and now?”
“Between political detention and personal entanglements, wills and friendships are put to the test: what are we prepared to compromise for the sake of our ideals and loved ones?”
In their premieres, the three plays of The Singapore Trilogy provoked reflection about the staging of politics in a new nation forging its own identity and development. Set across the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, The Singapore Trilogy follows the intertwining stories of two siblings and a close friend – Chye, Hua and Fernandez – first as international students in London before returning home to participate in Singapore politics with opposing ideologies. Between political detention and personal entanglements, wills and friendships are put to the test: what are we prepared to compromise for the sake of our ideals and loved ones?
Fresh off the 2020 General Elections, this staging takes the opportunity to reflect on where we are today in domestic politics, and how things have changed since our independence. While the production follows the three stories, it is also inspired by recent developments in the Singapore political landscape, fully intended for the contemporary, theatre-going audience.
“Viewers might come with the baggage of their personal experience at the 2020 General Elections,” adds Adeeb. “With a play like the Trilogy, they’re not hoping for a rehash, but they want to be challenged, to be surprised.”
This is in line with the mission of the company in “challenging young people with fresh perspectives” through revisiting old plays, also making it relevant and accessible to modern audiences. In addition, 2BCo is eager to welcome audiences back into a live theatre venue to enjoy The Singapore Trilogy. Due to the smaller audience numbers, the company also intends to stream a digital version of the Trilogy online after the physical run, with more details on streaming to be released in due time.
Featuring cast members Shrey Bhargava, Casidhe Ng, Ong Yi Xuan, Lim Shien Hian, Yuri D Hoffman, Aricia Ng and Aiswarya Nair, watch as 2BCo revive this classic of Singapore theatre for our contemporary times, and find the ties that bind our politics from the past to the present, in one epic production.
The Singapore Trilogy plays from 11th to 21st March 2021 at the Stamford Arts Centre Black Box. Tickets available from Eventbrite Digital streaming details to be confirmed.