Through five full-length productions and 16 sets of dramatised readings, the Esplanade's annual Studios season will be putting 50 iconic Singaporean English-language plays in the spotlight.
Running from April 2 to May 10, The Studios: fifty is part of the national arts centre's year-long programme to celebrate Singapore's Golden Jubilee. It is co-curated by the Esplanade and playwright-director Chong Tze Chien. Tickets go on sale on Thursday via Sistic.
The full-length plays in the line-up are Emily Of Emerald Hill by Stella Kon, directed by Aidli "Alin" Mosbit and starring Karen Tan; The Weight Of Silk On Skin by Huzir Sulaiman, directed by Tracie Pang and starring her husband Adrian Pang; Off Centre by Haresh Sharma, directed by Oliver Chong and featuring Siti Khalijah Zainal and Ebi Shankara; Descendants Of The Eunuch Admiral by Kuo Pao Kun and directed by Jeff Chen with an established ensemble cast; and The Lady Of Soul And Her Ultimate 'S' Machine by Tan Tarn How, which will be directed by Zizi Azah, featuring a mix of emerging and familiar faces.
The rest of the plays will be excerpted and performed as dramatised readings. They have been grouped thematically or according to a playwright's body of work. A mix of younger directors will be tackling these plays alongside more established practitioners.
For instance, seasoned director Samantha Scott-Blackhall will be directing selected works by Eleanor Wong, and Claire Wong will take on several plays by Kuo Pao Kun. Among the younger directors, Irfan Kasban will be directing selected work by husband-and-wife duo Paul Rae and Kaylene Tan, and Tan Liting will be tackling plays from a younger generation of Singapore playwrights such as Joel Tan and Faith Ng.
Chong Tze Chien tells The Straits Times: "We wanted a mix of seasoned and new directors - it is a celebration of the community by the community."
Some thematic groupings include Re-imagining History, which covers Madame Mao's Memories by Henry Ong, Watching The Clouds Go By by Robin Loon and The Last Temptation Of Stamford Raffles by Ng Yi-Sheng. Another arc is Gender & Sexuality, which features Chay Yew's A Language Of Their Own, Russell Heng's Lest The Demons Get To Me and Desmond Sim's Autumn Tomyam. Yet another set of readings focuses on Singapore's early years of local theatre, with plays by Lim Chor Pee, Goh Poh Seng and Robert Yeo.
Esplanade producer Rydwan Anwar says that they hope audiences who have watched the plays before will be inspired to revisit them alongside those who have not yet seen these works. He adds that the team took months to decide which plays should be in the lineup, and that this list is not meant to be "the most representative".
"Admittedly, there's always that inevitable subjectivity in any selection," he says. "We can only hope to present the story of Singapore Theatre by marking its perennial concerns and themes that have shaped the scene, shifts in practices and artistic trajectories either through a playwright's oeuvre or in the scene in general, and cover the range of styles that have characterised dramatic writing in Singapore."
Follow Corrie Tan on Twitter @CorrieTan
THE STUDIOS: FIFTY
Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio, Esplanade Rehearsal Studio and Esplanade Recital Studio
When: April 2 to May 10, various times
Admission: Tickets to full-length productions at $30. Tickets to dramatised readings at $5 (any five dramatised readings at $20, any 10 dramatised readings at $35) from Sistic from Jan 22 (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)