Arts Preview Singapore Theatre Wild Rice

Wild Rice announces three new shows that give voice to the youth for 2023 season

Wild Rice has announced an exciting line-up of three new shows made for, by and about young people: The Wonderful World of Dissocia, Every Student Is A Good Student / In My Head and Fair Play. The three shows reflect Wild Rice’s commitment to empowering young people to make and watch theatre that speaks to and for their generation. Each one grapples with the issues that matter to young people growing up in Singapore today – from mental health and gender roles, to the pressures of surviving the punishing school system.

What would you do if you lost an hour out of your day? How much are those stolen moments worth to you? And how far would you go to get that time back? In May, Young & Wild will take the stage in a boldly inventive production of Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia – a funny, surreal exploration of mental health through the journey of one woman looking for a lost hour of time. But beneath its bright, colourful surface lies a host of strange, funny characters, from a violent scapegoat to insecurity guards, all of whom desperately want her to stay in Dissocia – hopefully forever.

“Young people are increasingly challenging the ways in which we think and talk about mental health issues here in Singapore. They are so brave about facing up to them and not sweeping them under the proverbial rug,” says programme director Edith Podesta. “I’m excited to see how the ensemble comes to grips with the no-holds-barred depiction of mental illness in The Wonderful World of Dissocia; I hope it will help them grow in their understanding of the world and themselves.”

This production is the graduating showcase for the eighth cohort of Young & Wild, Wild Rice’s dedicated training programme for aspiring actors from the ages of 18 to 35. Under Podesta’s guidance, the 12 members of this ensemble have spent the past year learning the art and craft of acting for the stage. This batch of graduands comprise Jovi Tan, Gosteloa Spancer, Monil SJ, Tiara Yap, Elisa Mustika, Nicole Shaan, Eleanor Ee, Michelle Hariff, Hoe Wei Qi, Valerie Tan, Su Paing Tun and Christian Yeo.

“Young & Wild is the most comprehensive acting course I’ve ever attended,” says Tiara Yap, 28, who writes and performs for SGAG and joined Young & Wild to hone her skills as an actor. “You really get well-rounded training in all aspects of theatre from industry professionals – apart from acting, we also learn about voice work, industry practices, and even the importance of self-care!”

A fiercely tragicomic exploration of trauma and mental health, The Wonderful World of Dissocia turns theatrical convention inside out to hilarious and heartbreaking effect. In playwright Anthony Neilson’s own words, “if you like Alice in Wonderland but there’s not enough sex and violence in it, then Dissocia is the show for you.”

Coming up next in June is Singapore Youth Theatre’s Every Student Is A Good Student / In My Head, a double bill devised and performed by a young company of artists in their teens. The two plays explore what it is like to be a teenager growing up in Singapore today – the former exploring the challenges of surviving our regimented education system; and the latter inviting audiences to experience the chaotic inner life of a teenager from inside their head.

How do young people survive the overwhelming pressure to fit in at school and get good grades? And why does it feel like their thoughts and emotions are constantly at war with one another? In Every Student Is A Good Student, we find ourselves trapped in a regimented, deeply unimaginative education system that has only one primary aim – turning out carbon copies of good students whose only purpose in life is to work hard to get good grades. But what happens when one student just can’t fit the mould?

Things take a wildly Freudian turn with In My Head, where we meet a young person who seems to have it all figured out – their pleasure-seeking Id co-existing in perfect harmony with their impulse-controlling Superego. But their internal balance is thrown out of whack when a Raging Hormone suddenly appears on the scene, ready to wreak all kinds of havoc. Let the mind games begin!

“I hope that, through watching our show, audiences will be able to empathise with us and really hear what we have to say about our lives and our experiences,” says Por Kate Yi, 16. First launched in 2020, the Singapore Youth Theatre programme teaches young people from the ages of 13 to 17 how to write, direct and act for the stage. This year’s batch comprises Samuel Hadden, Ashton Ho, Darius Kyan, Mrittika Kumaran, Han Leng, Pranaya Murugan, Por Kate Yi, Ramaa Shirish Rangnekar, Siti ‘Theo’ Sofeana, Scarlett Summer, Nadya Zagorodnova and Harry Zhong.

“Everything you see on stage comes from these brilliant young artists,” says director Thomas Lim, Wild Rice’s Associate Artistic Director for Youth & Education. “That’s what Singapore Youth Theatre has always stood for – the freedom for young people to express themselves and make sense of their place in the world through their own stories.”

In October, Wild Rice will be restaging Fair Play, a piece written and directed by Thomas Lim that was first staged during Wild Rice’s Grand Opening season in 2019. The play aims to start conversations among its young audiences about gender roles, societal expectations and how fair they really are.

Moments before they make their entrance into our world, Boy and Girl are each assigned scripts by a Playwright. As they rehearse for the lives that they will lead, they begin questioning the roles that they have been given. Why are women and men expected to behave in certain ways? How did the world come to be such an unequal place for women and men? Can there be a different way of raising future generations?

“Gender roles and the societal expectations that come with them are very much in the consciousness of teenagers today,” Lim elaborates. “With Fair Play, we want to spark thoughtful conversations amongst young people who are starting to think about the roles they play in their families and in society at large.”

Wild Rice thus invites young people to participate in the shared experience of theatre – to engage with a play’s themes and think about how the issues raised relate to everyday life and the world we live in.

“If you want to understand what young people think, feel and care about these days, come join them at the theatre. Their bravery, insights and talent will blow you away!” says Ivan Heng, Founding Artistic Director of Wild Rice.

The Wonderful World of Dissocia plays from 11th to 14th May 2023, Every Student Is A Good Student / In My Head plays from 15th to 18th June 2023, and Fair Play plays from 16th to 19th October 2023, all at Wild Rice @ Funan.

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