In the Living Room: Koh Boon Pin chats with Russell Heng and Desmond Sim

This series of the Living Room is hosted by veteran journalist and actor Koh Boon Pin and continues the focus on local playwrights:

On 10 April: Activist, controversial playwright and scholar Russell Heng talks about his work in rejuvenating civil society on the stage and beyond.

On 17 April: Playwright, artist and poet Desmond Sim discusses his body of work and offers insights on the confluence of writing, branding and marketing.

Join Boon Pin in the Living Room for one, or better yet, both evenings of scintillating conversations with Russell and Desmond and unearth revelations behind their works.


Event details:
10 and 17 April 2015  (Fridays)
8pm @ Centre 42 Black Box

Admission is free. Register now to secure a seat.


About the Host: KOH BOON PIN

Award-winning journalist Koh Boon Pin has worked front- and back-end in newspapers, magazines, television and radio. He has, over 20 years, interviewed a broad spectrum of movers and shakers in the arts, sciences, as well as business, military and political spheres.

Audiences, both local and international, have also noted another side of him as thespian in productions such as Metamorphosis (TheatreWorks, 1989), The Dance and The Railroad (TheatreWorks, 1990), Private Parts (TheatreWorks, 1992), Six of the Best (TheatreWorks, 1996), The First Emperor’s Last Days (TheatreWorks, 1998), The Magic Fundoshi (Wild Rice, 2006), Diaspora (TheatreWorks, 2006 and 2009).


About the Playwright: RUSSELL HENG

“That I have been part of larger movement to rejuvenate civil society in Singapore. That whatever little we have done may make it easier for coming generations of Singaporeans who are or want to be different FROM the majority.
Russell Heng, on what achievement he is most proud of. (Source:, 16 August 2005)

Russell Heng had received a scholarship bond in the civil service in the early 80s to become a journalist in the Straits Times – Sunday Times Feature Editor and left in 1991 to pursue another career. He joined the university of southeast Asian studies as a fellow before pursuing a doctorate at the Australian National University (thesis in political science). In 2000 he returned to the university as a senior fellow.

In 2003, Russell Heng founded Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a non-profit organisation in Singapore which was dedicated to improve conditions for low wage migrant workers in Singapore. He is currently the president heading this cause, and has been active in the events which pertain to the migrant workers, i.e. Little India Riot, improvement of workers quarters, etc. In TWC2, they create a better environment which researches into social worker assistance, food programmes, and even a care fund for these migrant workers.

Since 1990, he has written 3 plays, all of which have themes deemed controversial then. Even though they have been flagged for their first initial production, all have been eventually produced by TheatreWorks.

An extract of the text from one of his plays Lest The Demons Get To Me: “…deep down, you know that you are no more honest than any one of us. … we lead lives of secrecy because we fear the consequences of others knowing about our secret.”

Lest The Demons Get To Me is one of three plays in the dramatised reading “Gender and Sexuality – selected works” directed by Jeremiah Choy and presented by Esplanade’s The Studios: fifty.

About the Playwright: DESMOND SIM

“I enjoy people doing my pieces because I read somewhere that theatre and storytelling are like little smoke signals that you let up there. And anyone who sees it, who recognises it, who loves it; they send smoke signals back. And somehow you feel less lonely for being here, and I’ve always felt like that’s my way of connecting with people.”
Desmond Sim, extracted from interview for Postcards from Rosa (Source: The Backstage Life Ep 35: Postcards from Rosa, 2 July 2013)

A veteran in the local theatre scene, Desmond was TheatreWork’s first playwright-in-residence (1991) and had helped set up the company’s Writer’s Laboratory (1990). He then went on to become the associate artistic director of Action Theatre (since 2004) and ran its incubator programme for new and existing Singaporean playwrights, Theatre Oasis. Beyond writing for the stage and film, Desmond is also an accomplished painter and has held more than a dozen painting exhibitions on Peranakan figurative themes. He currently owns and runs a consultant company Desmond Sim & Co. Pte Ltd.

Desmond has, to date, written over 30 plays, almost all of which have been performed in professional theatres in Singapore and abroad. An extract of the text from one of his plays Autumn Tomyam: “I had a dream also – of flying out somewhere else and having the choice to live the life I truly wanted. But I was trapped… by fear, I was too afraid.”

Autumn Tomyam is one of three plays in the dramatised reading “Gender and Sexuality – selected works” directed by Jeremiah Choy and presented by Esplanade’s The Studios: fifty.


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The Living Room is a programme by Centre 42 that welcomes chat and conversation. Through focused but casual dialogues and face-to-face exchanges, this programme encourages participants to re-examine trends, happenings, people (on & off-stage) and phenomena in Singapore theatre.

Find out more about the Living Room programme here.