E-MAIL INTERVIEW WITH KEN KWEK OF THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE) ON 11 AUGUST 2006
I wonder if you could share some of your thoughts about the forums you attended at the Singapore Theatre Festival. What you thought about them?
Being an inaugural theatre festival by W!LD RICE, I think the forums mark a promising start for the festival. Of the forums that have been held, I attended one: "Stayers And Quitters - Beyond Easy Assumptions".
I was immediately struck by how well-attended the forum was. The seats ran out. People were sitting on the floor and some were even standing. Another promising sign was that the discussion time was also extended.
During the discussion, people willingly offered their views. I did feel, nevertheless, a better effort could have been made to involve others in the audience.
What issues were discussed?
A key focus of the discussion was the play, "Homesick".
Two of my friends, who attended the forum and had not seen the play, got automatically convinced to watch the play! They bought tickets to watch the play immediately after the forum, although they initially did not intend to watch it. I later received feedback about how much they enjoyed the play.
The themes that the play covered were also discussed. One issue was why patriotism cannot be defined by one shade of paint, as much as there is a tendency to do so here in Singapore.
Some also shared about why they feel they belong in Singapore, despite having spent many years away from home. I thought the discussion aptly reflected the theme for National Day this year: "Our Global City, Our Home"!
What do you think is the impact of theatre on political discourse in Singapore, through activities such as the post-play forum?
One of the things I have realised about theatre - especially in recent years - is its importance as a tool of expression in Singapore. I find there are a lot more things that one can say or do in theatre, which one will certainly not find in mainstream media.
The post-play forum can serve as a useful platform to better understand the issues or themes raised in a play. People also get an opportunity to understand the views of the people behind the production. It can be useful to know, for example, why the director did this or that, or why an actor behaved like this or dressed like that.
All these eventually help individuals make informed decisions about the issues or themes covered by theatre, and this will benefit discourse in Singapore, political or otherwise.
Our media regulators also currently tend to give theatre professionals more space and flexibility, although there are precedents to show that such regulatory decisions can be subjective and inconsistent. This is, however, acceptable for situations where the legislation is flexible and some discretion is to be exercised; so long as the discretion is not abused, malicious or corrupt.
I also hope that theatre producers will consider selling the scripts of such plays at such forums, since this can help a person appreciate the play better and escalate one's level of engagement with theatre.