STIGMA by Tan Chia Wei & Shalyn Yong

“We are all in this together”

Reviewer: Lee Min Jie
Performance: 16 July 2016

Stigma is a youth-led community theatre project mentored by Rosemary McGowan and other members from the Singapore Drama Educators Association (SDEA) over a six-month period.  It compiles stories that highlight the struggles and spirit of youths with mental illnesses. A simple and straightforward play that hits home.

Directed by Tan Chia Wei and Shalyn Yong, Stigma cleverly condenses its messages into short vignettes. Each short story succinctly fleshes out the challenges youths with mental illnesses face in everyday settings such as in school, at home, and in the hospital.

Each story is personal and heartfelt. It is difficult to watch and disheartening to learn how they were bullied in school, misunderstood by teachers for coming to school late, deal with an alcoholic mother, and even hear disparaging and derogatory remarks from doctors.

The youth ensemble, who devises and performs the piece, moves like clockwork despite minor hiccups in scene transitions. Their ability to remain calm and collected in front of a live audience at such a tender age is possibly gleaned from all the curveballs life throws at them.

So invested and dedicated is the cast in performing that they forget a mic is in their hands. When they have to deliver more emotive lines, their screams and shouts reverberate well into my eardrums. That and the confusing coloured lights that flashes sporadically is amply compensated by the enthusiastic song and dance item in the finale.

Stigma also saw participation from Singapore Association for Mental and Singapore Polytechnic. Perhaps it is this influence that resulted in a scene from a therapy session. In light of everything that the play has starkly revealed, maybe it should be us in therapy instead of them.

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STIGMA by Tan Chia Wei & Shalyn Yong
16 July 2016
The Arts House 


Lee Min Jie is a third-year Theatre Studies major at the National University of Singapore who is drawn to Theatre’s ability to immerse one in a world carefully conjured up by artists.