The Vault: Big Bird and the Cat

In this instalment of The Vault, Margaret Chan remembers Kuo Pao Kun (1939-2002), her dear friend and creative collaborator. Kuo was a humanist and patriot whose life and work indelibly shaped the course of Singapore theatre.

Margaret was tasked by Kuo in the last year of his life to produce The Eagle and the Cat. He told her the play was his most important, even though it had not received much attention. To Margaret, the play is clearly autobiographical, a precious capsule in which Kuo shares his beliefs that fuelled his vocation as a writer of theatre. She proposes that there are no clues but clear meaning in the tropes of “Big Bird” and “Cat” which appear in this script.

Join Margaret Chan in her investigation of Kuo Pao Kun’s metaphors of Big Bird and the Cat. Features readings from four of his plays by Ali Khan, Margaret Chan and SMU students – The Eagle and the Cat (Chinese 1990, English 1995), The Evening Climb (1992), Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral (1995), Mama Looking for Her Cat (1988).


Event Details:

Monday, 12 October 2014
8pm @ Centre 42 Black Box

Admission is free. Register now to secure a seat.

About the Playwright:

Kuo Pao Kun (1939 – 2002) is an important figure in Singapore’s cultural history whose life and work incontrovertibly shaped the local theatre landscape. He was a prolific playwright whose oeuvre spanned linguistic, cultural and artistic boundaries. His iconic plays have been performed multiple times across many different countries and translated into many languages. He also founded many of today’s prominent and enduring arts institutions, most notably The Theatre Practice, The Substation, and the Intercultural Theatre Institute.

About the Plays:

The Eagle and the Cat was first staged in 1990 for the opening of The Substation. It is a monologue that tells a surreal tale of a man who turns into a cat. The Evening Climb premiered at the Singapore Festival of Arts 1992 and is a strange tale of three 70-year-old characters in search of a mythical big bird. Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral is one of Kuo Pao Kun’s most acclaimed works. First staged in 1995, Descendants is a lyrical play based on the ancient mariner Zheng He which comments on the trappings of modern life. Mama Looking For Her Cat is recognised as a ground-breaking play for its use of multiple languages. First premiered in 1988, the play is about a mother, who speaks only Hokkien, in search for her lost cat.

About the Artist:

Margaret Chan is a familiar face and name in local theatre, television and film. As a pioneering actress in Singapore English-language theatre, she is best known for her iconic performance as the titular matriarch in the monologue Emily of Emerald Hill. She was also a journalist and food critic. Margaret received her PhD in Theatre/Performance Studies from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2002 and is currently an Associate Professor of Theatre Associate Professor of Theatre/Performance Studies (Practice) at the Singapore Management University.

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The Vault: Big Bird and the Cat revisits four of Kuo Pao Kun’s plays, refreshes and retells the stories in them through the eyes of theatre veteran Margaret Chan and in collaboration with SMU students.

Find out more here.