Playwright's works capture everyday life

Faith Ng was talent-spotted when she took up a playwriting course at NUS.
Faith Ng was talent-spotted when she took up a playwriting course at NUS. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

FAITH NG, 31, playwright

When Faith Ng took the introduction to playwriting course in her first year at the National University of Singapore (NUS), her talent was spotted by Checkpoint Theatre's co-founder and joint artistic director Huzir Sulaiman, who staged her play wo(men) at the NUS Arts Festival.

"Professional actors were in it and it was given such professional treatment. I was so amazed that they were willing to take my words so seriously," says the married mother of one, recalling the beginning of her playwriting journey.

The daughter of a taxi driver and a housewife, Ng's plays capture a slice of Singapore life: Normal (2015) is about her experiences as a normal (academic) student, while For Better Or For Worse (2013) follows a married couple and their ups and downs.

She holds a Master of Arts with Distinction in Creative Writing (scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia and has received two nominations for best script at The Straits Times' Life Theatre Awards.

The 31-year-old is now also an executive (communications and engagement) and associate artist at Checkpoint Theatre.

When did you realise that you wanted to do art?

When I was very young, I had trouble writing. I don't know if it's dyslexia because I have never been tested, but I often wrote letters upside-down. To help me, my twin sister got me to write poems and, if I could make the words rhyme, she gave me a White Rabbit sweet. I was about seven and I thought: This is what it means to be an artist - getting rabbit sweets.

Who has the biggest influence on your art?

Checkpoint Theatre's Huzir and Claire Wong, who has directed my three plays. We talk a lot about art and what it means to be an artist. I'm still figuring it out.

When I told them I was lost as a freelancer trying to eke out a living, they gave me a home at Checkpoint Theatre. They taught me that there are many aspects of being an artist. Outreach, producing are all part of art-making and I've been trying to do those things since 2016 as an executive at Checkpoint.

What is the most difficult challenge in your artistic career?

Finances. I didn't want to depend on anybody while making art.

After finishing my master's, I was also going to get married. My husband said he would support me so I could focus on my art, but I know I had to find something to make it work.

When it comes to writing, I have to muster the courage to begin an idea because there are expectations - when is the first draft coming? When can I finish it? It's even harder as a mum now.

Who is your favourite artist and why?

I don't have a favourite, but there are a lot of inspiring people in theatre such as (theatre veterans) Alvin Tan and Haresh Sharma from The Necessary Stage and Kok Heng Leun from Drama Box and Huzir and Claire.

They have been in the industry for so many years and are still doing it. I respect them for making that kind of commitment to their art.

If you were not an artist, what would you have become?

I would be a painter. I took the art elective programme in junior college, but I thought, if I study this at university, I will lose my love of it.

In the end, I took a double major in literature and theatre studies at NUS.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 23, 2018, with the headline 'Playwright's works capture everyday life'. Print Edition | Subscribe