Home-grown horror tales come to life

A live adaptation of local writer Russell Lee's True Singapore Ghost Stories series is part of this year's Textures literary festival

Renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran will regale the audience with the story of young girls who take part in a supernatural ritual in the hope of finding their soulmate.
Renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran will regale the audience with the story of young girls who take part in a supernatural ritual in the hope of finding their soulmate. PHOTO: ARTS HOUSE LIMITED

When people are ushered into the dimly lit Play Den at The Arts House on the night of March 9, they will be greeted by the sight of a lone woman sitting on the ground, surrounded by candles, an apple, a mirror and a knife.

That solitary figure is renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran, 49, who for the next 15 minutes, will bring to life the spine-tingling tale of young girls who engage in a supernatural ritual in the hope of discovering their soulmate, to shocking consequences.

The performance is part of A Night Of Terrifying Tales - a five-part live adaptation of stories from home-grown writer Russell Lee's iconic True Singapore Ghost Stories series - produced by MoonShadow Stories for this year's Textures literary festival from March 7 to 10.

Ms Kamini, founder and director of MoonShadow Stories, says the session is a gateway into Singapore literature.

"I'm using Russell's books as inspiration. I've completely adapted the stories and done things like amalgamating two stories into one, so definitely, the stepping point is through True Singapore Ghost Stories as a canon of work."

Co-commissioned by The Arts House and #BuySingLit and supported by the National Arts Council, the sophomore outing of the literary festival will feature more than 45 programmes centred on the Singapore literary scene.

Ms Lisa Lip, senior manager of programmes at The Arts House and producer of Textures, says: "We tried to programme with a wide audience in mind, so there is something for people who've never been to an arts festival, those who've had to read only one book of Singapore literature in school, and regular attendees of arts festivals."


    WHERE: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

    WHEN: March 7 to 10, various times

    ADMISSION: Free and ticketed programmes

    INFO: www.theartshouse.sg

For example, there will be exhibitions based on local works for festivalgoers who prefer visual art, and stage adaptations of Singapore literature for those who enjoy theatrical productions.

One such stage production is Samping, part of Spare Room Productions' The Page On Stage series.

Adapted from Singapore poet Cyril Wong's short story The Mistake, the one-man play will take the audience on a young Malay boy's journey through bereavement and persecution, and his first steps into manhood.

For playwright and director M. Raihan Halim, the production was his first time adapting something for the stage. The 37-year-old is usually known for his television work.

"It was scary. I felt totally out of my element as I'd never written anything that didn't have editing or cinematography involved. I did, however, have a lot of fun," he says.

Raihan chose to adapt the short story because it moved him.

"It's strange because the events in the short story didn't happen to me, but I somehow felt the pain, sadness and embarrassment that the character went through," he says.

The play also ties in with the festival's theme of Love And Loss (and some things in between).

"As we follow the character's journey, we experience grief, longing and affliction with him. It's also a personal journey for each individual as he connects with the play, taking away with him his interpretation of it," he adds.

For Ms Lip, this is exactly what the festival's theme embodies.

"In times of these heightened emotions (of love and loss), sometimes, turning to words can help us.

"Whether it's writing or reading the story of someone going through something similar, it helps us cope and make sense of our world," she says.

"All of this is found in Singapore literature. It's wonderful to read international writers, but our writers are writing in situations that we can relate to, with language that we can relate to, so I think it's more comforting."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2019, with the headline Home-grown horror tales come to life. Subscribe