The 1962 play Mimi Fan by Lim Chor Pee, widely recognised as Singapore’s first English-language play, featured two Indian characters, Baram and Sheila Rani. In the ’70s and ’80s, playwrights Robert Yeo and Michael Chiang showcased more Indian characters in their plays. While Yeo’s were politically-minded individuals with oratorical gifts, Chiang’s were larger-than-life scene-stealers in sparkling comedies. In the 1990s, complex and even iconic roles were written, from Vinod in Haresh Sharma’s Off Centre to Nisha in Elangovan’s Talaq.
However, from the 2000s onwards, fewer roles were being created for actors of Indian ethnicity. Some playwrights claimed the acting pool had dried up. But some actors counter-claimed that there was little substantial work for them in the theatre industry.
Written by Aswani Aswath and dramaturged by Alfian Sa’at, Absence Makes the Heart… is an attempt to trace the presence and absence of Indian roles in Singapore English-language theatre, from the early days of its birth to the present moment. Featuring the actors Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, Sivakumar Palakrishnan and Grace Kalaiselvi, the work will ask: How much do we miss those who have gone missing?
About Aswani Aswath
When she’s not wearing the teacher hat, Aswani Aswath is a freelance writer who believes that stories provide a voice for the powerless and platforms inviting discussion and change. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the National University of Singapore, Aswani was a Writer-in- Residence for Buds Theatre Company. Her works have been staged in schools, Singapore Youth Festival competitions and community projects that were commissioned by the National Library Board and EmancipAsia. Aswani also writes for Tamil theatre and her recent scripts include Kadal + Karai and Pazhuppu for Ravindran Drama Group and the Asian Youth Theatre Festival.
About Alfian Sa’at
Alfian Sa’at is well-known for frank, insightful, and provocative literary and dramatic works, written in English and Malay. As the Resident Playwright of W!ld Rice, he has written acclaimed plays such as the Asian Boys trilogy (2000, 2004, 2007), Cooling-Off Day (2011), and the historical epic Hotel (2015, co-writer). Alfian is also an author with published collections of short stories and poems. He is a four-time winner of Best Original Script at the annual M1-The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards and a 2001 recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literature.
The Vault: Absence Makes the Heart… traces the presence and absence of Indian roles in Singapore English-language theatre. Written by Aswani Aswath and dramaturged by Alfian Sa’at, and featuring the actors Rebekah Sangeetha Dorai, Sivakumar Palakrishnan and Grace Kalaiselvi.