About “Playing Mothers”

Synopsis

Playing Mothers is an exploration of the concept of motherhood. The play follows seven characters, both female and male, and all mothers in their own way. In a Straits Times article dated 10 Jan 1996, playwright Ovidia Yu said “anyone can mother a child regardless of gender.” Yu took four months to pen the 90-minute play, a commission by the Action Theatre Foundation of New Singapore Plays.

First Staging

Playing Mothers was staged by Action Theatre from 11 to 19 January 1996 at the Drama Centre (Fort Canning). The play was directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham and performed by Irene Lim, Deborah Png, Lee Phing Phing, Christine Chan, Benjamin Ng, Emma Yong and Robert C. MacDougall.

Responses

Straits Times reviewer Susan Tsang was not at all impressed by the production.

Ovidia Yu’s Playing Mothers, which deals with such an emotion-packed subject, is so listless.

[…]

Yu’s ear for dialogue generally is not as sharp as her eye for wit, and her plays often have trouble sustaining a sense of realism. This is usually compensated by her wit, but in Playing Mothers, the sense of character is almost non-existent.

The characters are sketchy at best, and lurch from being caricatures to delivering lectures about family.

Impressive set, but play about motherhood lacks real insight by Susan Tsang. In The Straits Times (15 Jan 1996).

Yu, however, was not fazed by the bad review.

Despite a disparaging review in this newspaper of her recent play, Playing Mothers, she says: “I started receiving mail from people who said they saw and enjoyed the show.

“Some of them were people I knew from reputation but never spoke to before. Much better response than a favourable review has ever got me!”

Two get recognition for dedication to stage work by Koh Boon Pin. In The Straits Times (28 Mar 1996).

The play even received praise over three years after its staging.

That production was Playing Mothers, by Ovidia Yu, which was put on by Action Theatre in early 1996.

It was a memorable experience. And who can forget the attractive and accomplished Christine Chan in her role as Lynn, one of the daughters? She was quite captivating.

So, imagine my surprise when I found that the play had received only tepid praise in a Life! review and had, in fact, come in for considerable flak.

Gosh, standards are high here, I thought. Because I would have given it a rave review.

Standing up to comedy by Ow Mei Mei. In The Straits Times (8 Sep 1999).

Additional Resources

  • Playing Mothers can be found in the collection Ovidia Yu: Eight Plays published by Epigram Books. A browsing copy is available in the Book Den.
  • The full text can also be found online at the National Online Repository of the Arts.

 

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The Vault: Becoming Mother
 is the third and final presentation in a series dedicated to exploring dance and Singapore play-text. Grounded in their dance practices of bharata natyam and ballet respectively, Shanthini and Jocelyn respond to themes of creation and creativity in the dramatic writings of playwrights Verena Tay, Ovidia Yu and Chong Tze Chien. Find out more here.