Interview with Christian W. Huber

Centre 42 is currently looking for aspiring theatre critics to join the 2018 cycle of Citizens’ Reviews! The programme is about to enter its fifth edition, and in this series of interviews, we ask our current reviewers to share more about what the journey has been like for them, as well as what they make of the arts criticism scene in Singapore right now. Christian W. Huber used to be a theatre director and producer, and after a ten-year hiatus from the arts scene, he became one of our Boiler Room playwrights in 2016, and joined our Citizens’ Reviews programme in 2017.

If you’d like to apply to become a Citizen Reviewer for our 2018, we are currently accepting applications until 22 October. Find out more about the open call and how you can get involved here.

Why did you want to join the Citizens’ Reviews programme?
It was an opportunity to get back into the arts in a subtler way than I had been involved before – when I had been a producer / director – and allowed me to hone my critical writing skills a bit more, which is an area of interest for me now.

What did you enjoy most about the Citizens’ Reviews programme?
I was able to enjoy different types of theatrical productions from different types of local art groups. I watched shows by established and aspiring theatre companies, as well as community and non-conventional pieces. Also, critiquing shows that are not performed in my mother tongue allowed me to review how much our arts groups have matured, and how they continue to grow in this ever developing (but more crowded) arts scene in Singapore.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a Citizen Reviewer?
I found out through my journey as a Citizen Reviewer that the reviews I panned were more challenging to write than those that I reviewed positively. However, I feel that the obligation the reviewer has is to yourself and the reader, rather than the arts groups/practitioners. I know from experience how and what it takes to mount a production in Singapore, hence I decide not to mince words on a piece if it was so warranted. I’d like to be encouraging at the same time, but for some shows, it’s hard to be so!

What do you think of the arts (and especially theatre) reviewing scene in Singapore right now?
Theatre reviewing has not quite caught up with the quality of some of the more established theatre companies in Singapore’s shows. It’s still a little premature, and whilst it is nice that most shows get reviewed in the nation’s dailies, arts reviewing here primarily communicates what the show is about, and some mention of the actor’s performances or director’s decisions. Not much else. Keeping everyone happy seems to be the modus operandi of reviewers writing for the dailies, but when readers only sees mostly positive reviews, it limits their expectations for a more critical response. There are some writers that offer more than that – an opinion, their perspective, etc. – but it has not made a dent in the overall quality of what you read from them.

Who are some of the theatre critics you follow/enjoy reading?
From the local dailies, I don’t mind reading Helmi Yusof of The Business Times and Akshita Nanda of The Straits Times, and from the Citizen’s Reviewers of 2017, I like reading Myle Yan Tay, Cordelia Lee, and Isaac Tan.

Interview by Gwen Pew on 26 September 2017

Find out more about the Citizens’ Reviews programme here.