You may not have heard of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) before, but by the end of Lotus Root Support Group, you’ll be fully aware of how common the condition is and how it affects women in Singapore.
Devised and performed by Miriam Cheong and Shannen Tan, and directed by Renee Yeong, Lotus Root Support Group is a brand new independent theatre show, and the first in Singapore to discuss the topic of PCOS. Drawing inspiration from stories from the community, and both actresses’ personal experiences, the show aims to highlight and inform audiences on how PCOS is a common yet often overlooked and misunderstood endocrine disorder with lifelong metabolic issues.
“PCOS has a global prevalence of 1 in 10 women. Just as a comparison, diabetes has a prevalence of 1 in 9 in Singapore, yet there’s really not much awareness of the condition,” says actress Shannen Tan. “There’s always that feeling that you are fighting this battle alone and it can get quite lonely because this condition ‘unsexes’ you. When I’ve shared with women that I’m working on such a show, the most common response I’ve received was, ‘Oh! I have PCOS too, I thought I was the only one.’”
PCOS has no fixed list of symptoms and each woman can experience different constellations of symptoms which range from acne, menstrual irregularity, obesity to chronic fatigue and pelvic pain. It is the most cited cause of infertility and presents a significantly higher risk of not just diabetes and cardiovascular problems but also likely, COVID-19. As of now, there are no known cures.
“In recent years, there have been a greater spotlight on female reproductive and sexual health and wellness and I think this is an important conversation to add. What’s even more relatable is the central question of how do you try to cope with something you have no control of? This very much resonates with the current times living with the unpredictability of COVID-19,” says director Renee Yeong. “I wouldn’t say that this production is just for women with PCOS, I would say it’s for anyone who is trying to cope with something they can’t control.”
In the show itself, audiences will meet Jane, a typical over-achieving Singaporean girl, along with her fellow “cyst-er” Xin Yi. Wrecked by the symptoms of PCOS, the women attempt to get to the bottom of this complex chronic illness to free themselves and women everywhere. Through a lo-fi rap, a spin class and a Multi-Level-Marketing scheme, the two women question – what does it mean to cope with something you have no control of?
“Even for me, when I found out that Shannen had PCOS after months of knowing her, it was this sudden feeling of solidarity, of someone who could understand what the struggles are like having such a specific condition,” adds Miriam Cheong, who previously highlighted the condition in her solo show The Other F Word.“Our symptoms were so different but we felt like we had so much in common at that moment. It felt like both of us became our own support group. That was very comforting and we hope that this production will be able to do that for women who are going through the same thing.”