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Classic Singapore plays #3 - Emily Of Emerald Hill

Life! picks the classics of Singapore's English- language theatre and tells you why they matter in this third of a monthly series

Published on Aug 26, 2014 2:07 PM

Play: Emily Of Emerald Hill (written in 1982, first staged in 1984 in Malaysia, staged in Singapore in 1985)

Playwright: Stella Kon

What it is about: A charming Peranakan woman, Emily Gan, evolves from frightened young bride to a strong-willed matriarch. She tells of her deft manoeuvring in a new household to endear herself to her mother-in-law, her son's mysterious suicide and her husband's infidelity. The audience rejoices with her triumphs, but also feels deeply for her heartbreak and regrets.

Singapore theatre's most famous silhouette wears a tailored kebaya and beaded slippers. She sits alone, amid the imagined ruins of an empty house and finished feasts, haunted by her past.

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Background story

"The English-language theatre of Singapore promises to be the custodian of the future... the performance of Emily might well be the entry point to a viable and distinct Singapore theatre."

Late Malaysian theatre director Krishen Jit after watching a staging of Emily On Emerald Hill in 1985