Koh Chieng Mun back on stage

Veteran actress Koh Chieng Mun, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, is back after a nine-year hiatus from the stage. -- PHOTO: GENERASIA
Veteran actress Koh Chieng Mun, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, is back after a nine-year hiatus from the stage. -- PHOTO: GENERASIA

Veteran actress Koh Chieng Mun will return to the stage for the first time in nine years next month, in theatre company Generasia's Women Of Asia.

The 54-year-old, who is best known for playing housewife Dolly in the sitcom Under One Roof, was diagnosed with breast and kidney cancer in 2005. Her last theatre show was Toy Factory's 10 Brothers that year.

She says of her return to the stage: "I've been asked time and time again, but this time, I agreed because I feel confident enough about my health. I've been tracking my health for three years to see if I'm completely well and I feel great."

Koh will be starring alongside Nora Samosir in Women Of Asia, a collection of eight monologues written and directed by Asa Gim Palomera.

Palomera, who is the wife of the Spanish ambassador to Singapore Federico Palomera Guez, wrote the stories in the mid-1980s, after a visit to a red-light district in Asia.

The Korean-American, who declined to give her age, says: "You go inside, you see these incredible souls performing and people sitting there watching. You watch it and you feel hurt, physically. That's the reaction I got. I came out and cried."

Her experience inspired one of the vignettes, Virgin Sale, which tells the story of young girls who are sold into prostitution by their parents.

The other seven stories cover Asian women from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Milking Madame Butterfly Yet Again explores the image of Asian women in art through the eyes of an opera performer and The Indian Dowry is about a woman who suffers at the hands of her abusive in-laws.

Koh says of the show: "It features a whole range of women in different circumstances and it's always the same question: How do you cope as a woman in a man's world? It's still a man's world."

Samosir, 55, adds: "It's the 21st century, but even in Singapore and in what we would think of as modern societies like the United States and Britain, there are still inequalities at play."

The show, which has travelled to New York and Melbourne, is produced by Generasia, a theatre company which was set up this year.

Artistic director Richard Tan, 58, hopes that the company will be a platform for younger theatre practitioners to learn from those with more experience.

He says: "It's the idea of passing a legacy from the old to the young and the hope that they will learn something. That's what Generasia is all about - it's not just about the play itself, but how we nurture the people we work with to grow with the company."

Alongside veterans Koh and Samosir, the show will feature two newcomers to the theatre scene: Nadia Abdul Rahman, who graduated from Lasalle College of the Arts with a degree in acting last year, and Kimberly Chan, who is currently in a musical theatre programme at the same institution.

Although the show was written almost three decades ago, Palomera says: "The saddest thing is that nothing has changed. Yes, some of us have made it, we've been given education. But there are millions of women who are still poor and underprivileged, and who are still going through it."