First-time winners stole the spotlight at The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards 2020.
Among the winners across the 12 categories, six were first-timers, including designer Loo An Ni, who won Best Costume for Mandarin play First Fleet; theatre practitioner Petrina Dawn Tan, who took home Best Set for comedy The Truth; and playwright Nabilah Said, who nabbed Best Original Script for Malay drama Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native.
Tan, 31, who holds a master's degree in collaborative theatre production and design from London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama, designed a complex yet elegant set for The Truth, featuring beds, sofas and shelves that popped out of a white wall to create different settings.
She said: "I feel very excited and inspired to continue pushing the boundaries of design. Being nominated alongside the other veteran set designers is already a huge honour."
Nabilah, 34, who is a member of Malay playwright collective Main Tulis Group and theatre collective Rupa co.lab, added: "It is my first time being nominated and winning, so it definitely feels very validating."
As Angkat was her first full-length work as a professional and independent playwright, she felt she needed to prove her worth.
"There were days when I felt discouraged and wanted to give up. But while writing can be lonely, thankfully, theatre is collaborative."
The play, which was about the relationship between a woman and her adopted child, scored two other wins: Best Director for Noor Effendy Ibrahim and Best Supporting Actor for Adib Kosnan - another first-time winner.
In the show, he played a variety of characters - from an orphan boy, who returned as a ghost, to a singing competition judge.
The 34-year-old associate artist with Checkpoint Theatre was nominated twice in previous editions of the awards - last year for Best Supporting Actor and in 2018 for Best Original Script - but lost both times.
On his win this year, he said: "It feels nice to be recognised... The whole team was essentially a big group of friends working together with a lot of laughter and care for the work and I am happy that people enjoyed my performance in it."
He particularly liked portraying the irreverent and cheeky side of his characters, as this was a marked departure from roles he played in previous productions.
"As a theatre practitioner and a member of a minority race in Singapore, I see it as my responsibility to open up conversations about the experiences of minorities, as well as put more of such stories on stage, including those that draw on my own experiences as a Malay Singaporean."
The play that nabbed the Production Of The Year award this year was First Fleet, which centred on the transportation of a group of convicts to Australia.
It was jointly presented by Nine Years Theatre and the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre.
The well-crafted production was bolstered by the efforts of Loo, 33, who was given the Best Costume award for her designs which featured convertible outfits, such as skirts that could be turned inside out into military jackets when the actors switched roles.
She said: "The audiences were seated on three sides of the stage, so there were very few areas where the actors could change clothes or hide costume items. And since almost every cast member had to switch characters, I tried to have everybody wear everything all the time.
"To decide on the costumes' colours, I researched what people wore on the ships that sailed from England to Australia in the 18th century. For their silhouettes, I was inspired by British fashion during the Regency era. I wanted outfits that heavily referenced period costumes, but still maintained a modern edge."
On First Fleet winning Production Of The Year, Mr Nelson Chia, 48, its playwright-director as well as co-founder and artistic director of Nine Years Theatre, said: "I am elated to hear about the win... Through the production, the message I want to convey is the importance of listening to other people's stories and what we may learn from them.
"The general consensus is that First Fleet is a layered story, not just about colonialism, but also about humanity."
First Fleet (Nine Years Theatre and Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre)
Jo Tan for Forked (The Finger Players)
Oliver Chong for A Fiend's Diary (The Finger Players)
Nabilah Said for Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019)
Neo Swee Lin for The Truth (Singapore Repertory Theatre)
Adib Kosnan for Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019)
Noor Effendy Ibrahim for Angkat: A Definitive, Alternative, Reclaimed Narrative Of A Native (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019)
Loo An Ni for First Fleet (Nine Years Theatre and Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre)
Lim Woan Wen for Forked (The Finger Players)
Petrina Dawn Tan for The Truth (Singapore Repertory Theatre)
Inch Chua, Uthaiyan Kumanan and Evan Low for 'Til The End Of The World, We'll Meet In No Man's Land (TheatreWorks)
Urinetown: The Musical (Pangdemonium)
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2020, with the headline The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards 2020: First-timers steal the show . Subscribe