Singapore

I’m in Singapore, returning to work with old collaborators Access Path Productions and Intercultural Theatre Institute  (ITI) and new partners Singapore Writers Festival. After the sudden snap of cold weather and signs of morning frost when I left the UK, Singapore is like swimming in a hot broth. The air at times feels liquid and languorous, but it is the beauty of the place and extraordinary mingling of cultures, cuisines, languages and belief systems that has me suddenly staring, standing stock-still in the street, entranced.

I’m teaching some seminars in Intercultural Dramaturgy at ITI, while the graduating cohort are in rehearsals with Phillip Zarrilli, preparing for the Singapore premiere of LIE WITH ME, my reworking of Schnitzler’s La Ronde.

Intercultural Theatre Institute: outside the rehearsal room

It is rare for a writer to have a second chance with a published or produced piece of work and I feel immensely fortunate to have the opportunity to rework LIE WITH ME  for a Singapore context. The student actors have all been assisting in this revision, researching specific topics such as funeral practices, the law and attitude regarding homosexuality, online ‘influencers’ and employment law, amongst other apparently obscure subjects. I originally wrote the play for a London-context, reflecting the experience of urban life for young people in a metropolis. Shifting the context to Singapore has been fascinating. As a playwright I’ve been surprised and excited by the amount of editing and re-writing I’ve had to do, to make the context credible for Singapore. I’ve had to reinvent some of the figures, such as a refugee – very common and current in an European context, but not here. It’s been intriguing exploring alternative characters and dynamics and I’m immensely grateful for the research and suggestions the actors have given me.

Phillip Zarrilli leading his psychophysical approach to actor-training

Prior to the daily rehearsals, Phillip Zarrilli leads the students in his psychophysical approach to actor-training, using kalarippayattu, yoga, and tai chi. One of the focuses is ‘atunement’ to the space and each other on stage.

The elephant pose. Kalarippayattu. Phillip Zarrilli with 2019 ITI cohort

LIE WITH ME differs from the original (first produced in 1897) in that it focuses on encounters and interactions of all kinds, not just sexual. It raises various questions, such as how do we form genuine relationships in an unstable, post-truth world? What are the ‘rules’ of sexual engagement in a ‘swipe-right’ culture? What lies do we tell ourselves and each other in a throw-away consumerist world filled with ‘alternative facts’?

The production opens at the Esplanade Theatre Studio on 7th November and runs until 9th November. Tickets and information are available here.

Other activities while I am here in Singapore include a lecture-performance at Singapore Writers Festival on 2nd November, and a workshop on 3rd November, challenging ableist language and the representation of difference in fiction, poetry and plays.

I’m delighted to be reunited with some of my collaborators from And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues for a lecture-performance, followed by the Asian launch of The ‘d’ Monologues (published by Oberon). It was fantastic to pick up the scripts again with Wheelsmith Danial Bawtham and Grace Lee-Khoo. I’m looking forward hugely to the event and it will be a privilege to share this with some of the brilliant Deaf and disabled Singaporean individuals who supported, engaged with and inspired the fictional monologues.

 

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