Five reasons why the play Mimi Fan is a classic

Ronald Bloom playing the part of Tony Maxwell in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Ronald Bloom playing the part of Tony Maxwell in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Mimi Fam... a play by Lim Chor Pee. -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Mimi Fam... a play by Lim Chor Pee. -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Leaenna Chelliah and Lim Teong Qwee rehearsing for their roles as Sheila Rani and Chan Fei-Loong respectively, in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Leaenna Chelliah and Lim Teong Qwee rehearsing for their roles as Sheila Rani and Chan Fei-Loong respectively, in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Annie Wee (nee Chin) played the title role of Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
Annie Wee (nee Chin) played the title role of Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
From left to right, Leaenna Chelliah as Sheila Rani, Annie Wee (nee Chin) as Mimi Fan, and Lim Teong Qwee as Chan Fei-Loong in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
From left to right, Leaenna Chelliah as Sheila Rani, Annie Wee (nee Chin) as Mimi Fan, and Lim Teong Qwee as Chan Fei-Loong in the play Mimi Fan (1962). -- PHOTO: Courtesy of the Family of Lim Chor Pee
(From left) Annie Wee (nee Chin), Ronald Bloom and Lim Teong Qwee in Lim Chor Pee’s play, Mimi Fan. -- PHOTO: Family of Lim Chor Pee
(From left) Annie Wee (nee Chin), Ronald Bloom and Lim Teong Qwee in Lim Chor Pee’s play, Mimi Fan. -- PHOTO: Family of Lim Chor Pee
Jacintha Abisheganaden as Sheila Rani and Gerald Chew as Fei-Loong in the play, Mimi Fan. -- PHOTO: THEATREWORKS (SINGAPORE) LTD
Jacintha Abisheganaden as Sheila Rani and Gerald Chew as Fei-Loong in the play, Mimi Fan. -- PHOTO: THEATREWORKS (SINGAPORE) LTD
Karen Tan as Mimi Fan in a 1990 revival of Mimi Fan (1962) by Lim Chor Pee. -- PHOTO: THEATREWORKS (SINGAPORE) LTD
Karen Tan as Mimi Fan in a 1990 revival of Mimi Fan (1962) by Lim Chor Pee. -- PHOTO: THEATREWORKS (SINGAPORE) LTD
Gerald Chew (left) as Fei-Loong and Karen Tan (right) as Mimi Fan in a 1990 revival of Mimi Fan (1962) by Lim Chor Pee. In its relatively short, 50-year history, Singapore’s English-language theatre has had its share of memorable plays. -- PHO
Gerald Chew (left) as Fei-Loong and Karen Tan (right) as Mimi Fan in a 1990 revival of Mimi Fan (1962) by Lim Chor Pee. In its relatively short, 50-year history, Singapore’s English-language theatre has had its share of memorable plays. -- PHOTO: THEATREWORKS (SINGAPORE) LTD

The play Mimi Fan (1962) by the late Lim Chor Pee (1936-2006) kicks off the series. Here are five reasons why it is a classic:

1. Lim, a lawyer, is widely considered to be Singapore’s first English-language playwright. Prior to the work of the late Lim and his contemporary, doctor and writer Goh Poh Seng, home-grown English drama reared its head very sporadically, written mostly by students and rarely published or performed.

Mimi Fan is set in the swinging 60s and is about Chan Fei-Loong, a Singaporean who returns home after his studies in Britain to find himself caught up in a tangle of relationships against the backdrop of a modernising Singapore. After this, Lim wrote one other play, A White Rose At Midnight (1964), a romance between an English-educated university graduate and a Chinese-educated former nightclub singer.

2. Mimi Fan broke away from a tradition of amateur expatriate theatre groups staging only Western classics in the theatre.

In the 1950s, Singapore English drama was primarily British drama – apart from British expatriate groups, the number of drama enthusiasts was limited, mostly because many Singaporeans were not fluent in the language, especially prior to self-government in 1959.

3. It was one of the first few forays into exploring the Singaporean identity on stage, as a young nation went through a turbulent era of sociopolitical change in the 1960s.

With the stirrings of a national identity and Singapore’s birth pangs came a more concerted effort to establish a Singaporean voice on the stage. Lim himself wrote in a 1964 article for the Tumasek journal: “A national theatre cannot hope to survive if it keeps staging foreign plays.”

4. It put the Experimental Theatre Club on the Singapore theatre map.

Lim co-founded the group, which was established in 1961 and pushed for experimental theatre with a Singapore lexicon over the conventional drawing-room drama. The group staged Mimi Fan to good reviews in 1962. Lim Teong Qwee, now a retired judicial commissioner and father of well-known actor Lim Yu-Beng, played the character of Fei-Loong. The Experimental Theatre Club was active until the 1980s.

5. It is a confident character study featuring two young women who chose their own paths in an era where women were still expected to find fulfillment through marriage.

The free-spirited Mimi Fan of the title decides to forsake the man who loves her, and her friend and foil Sheila Rani – intense, fiercely independent and whip smart – goes against the wishes of her family in pursuing an interracial romantic relationship.

The published script of Mimi Fan is available at Epigram Books at $13.90 (www.epigrambooks.sg)