Language

 

1987 - The Waiting Room & Dead on Cue

Short Description
Local Drama—A Step Ahead
Alvin Tan, Andrew Koh

Throwing in Singlish for the sake of making the play local is an ornamental gimmick that fails to appease the aesthetic sensibilities of Singaporeans. In fact, sometimes it comes across as contrived. It is not enough. The audience must be able to identify, let alone be convinced of the character portrayals, the gestures, the essence of the themes, and even the blatant and implied tensions of our society that make up the context of the play. The design of the set—right down to the arrangement of the furniture—must be taken into account. The production, besides the directing, has to be aesthetically sound in local terms.

1988 - The Necessary Stage Newsletter

Short Description
Note—Vision:

Singaporeans are still too shy to bring on stage how they speak in daily life. There is a need to explore and experiment with more common issues and scenarios where an average Singaporean can see himself/herself on stage. Think about it!
 

1992 - Still Building

Short Description
Glossary

chewinggumless society - sale of chewing gum is banned in Singapore
hong yu - medicated oil
jaga - (noun) security guard or (verb) to guard
 

1992 - My Mothers Wooden Chest

Short Description
An Interview—The Director, The Actor and The Stage Manager

Haresh: It's a very Chinese play in the way you've explained it. And if left in Mandarin, I think a lot of us would not be able to appreciate the Chineseness of it. And for me the more I read it or watch it, I realise, it's not only Chinese anymore. Because things like fortune telling, superstition and all that... they're all very Singaporean and universal. Anyone can identify with them.

Jen Erh: I wanted to use music or a song in the play. I was thinking whether I should use an old English song or a Chinese song. To me, personally, I'm very much at home with old Chinese songs. But then, to most of the audience, if we have an old English song, say Elvis Presley, immediately it goes back to the 50s or 60s. But if I use a Chinese song, it might not work for the audience. But I'm not sure if the character will listen to Elvis Presley. I don't think so.
 

1994 - Off Centre

Short Description
Mak: This country no good. People no good. When I sell food, I wear badge. Smile. Smile. I go Woodbridge. Got poster. Smile. I smile.

1996 - Rosnah

Short Description
Then the more you talk properly, suddenly you wake up and realise you got slang...'How you're doing? Alright?' Then you fight back and say, 'eh cannot cannot, I cannot speak like that'.
 

1997 - Invisibility

Short Description
We are proud to be working with Sy Ren as playwright for the first time. Over the years, Sy Ren has been of great help to us as commentator, critic, translator and friend. We are pleased to have him back on stage after a six-year absence.

2001 - The Programme #4

Short Description
Quah Sy Ren:
A playwright out of respite

Sy Ren: I think people tend to confuse language politics with literature, especially in the Chinese theatre scene. That scene has a certain demand on their artists to not just come up with works of art but also raise the Mandarin standard in Singapore. So I usually prefer ethnically Chinese but English-speaking actors in my plays because I feel that my works will be freed of this baggage in such a way.
 

2004 - Ask Not

Short Description
Singlish and Multilingual Drama
David Deterding

1) How do different styles of speech reflect the educational levels of the various characters?
2) Do the characters vary their language according to the situation they find themselves in?
3) To what extend is there language mixing and switching, particularly between English and other local languages such as Malay?
4) Is there a development of styles between these two plays?

2007 - Off Centre

Short Description
Interview with Haresh and Alvin

(Haresh's questions for Alvin)
H: The play uses 'Singlish', different languages and code-switching of languages. Do you think Literature should reflect the way we speak, or the way we SHOULD speak? Why?
A: Literature should reflect both. Certain cultural nuances and perspectives are best expressed in native or indigenous language. And we should struggle with translation. For me, Literature is not just about language. It is about human beings and culture. In today's world, there is a great lack of intercultural dialogue, so even when we get physically closer as a global village, we have so little tolerance and respect for minority cultures and beliefs. If Literature has a function, it is to help human beings understand ourselves in the context of culture. We have to be less ethnocentric and more open. So the way we SHOULD speak is to open ourselves up to the rhythms of multiple languages so that we can enjoy a more holistic formation. After all, isn't that the primary function of education?

2010 - Model Citizens

Short Description
Act 3, Scene 2

Wendy: [in English] You are everything I loathe in a human being.
Mrs Chua: Why are you speaking in English?
Wendy: [in English] Because I can. Because English is my first language. I’ve demeaned myself by coming to see you again. How you barbarians become leaders of this country is beyond me.

2013 - Mobile 2

Short Description
Act 4, Scene 3

Geeta: [in English] Find out what? Hiro, calm down.
Hiro’s Phone: [in Japanese] Find out what? Hiro, calm down.
Hiro: [in Japanese] We were in class. Someone wanted to make a film about World War II. So I said, yes, that's good. It's very tragic what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One of them went, 'You've got to be kidding me. OMG! He hasn't a clue'. And they all said, 'You haven't a clue what YOUR country did in World War II!'
Hiro’s Phone: [in Japanese] Please re-enter your voice text.

2012 - October

Short Description
Mdm Lo: [You don't bluff. The water go inside the drain. Many people can walk here.]
Lu jangan bohong. Itu air masuk longkang jalan sana sana. Banyak orang jalan.

Saras: [What many people? You're blind or what? You see the water. You can't see is it?]
Mana banyak orang? Lu mata ada rosak ah. Lu tengok itu air. Tak boleh tengok ah?

2016 - Manifesto

Short Description
Movement 1, Scene 3: Som and Siok Dee's Argument (1956, Mixed Language Performance)

Tan: Kaoyin? Bodoh ah! Ni zai nia生命中最重要的是什么?对一个艺术家最重要的是什么吗?Jit ki long zhong 都 bo tiong yao eh! Wa ga li gong, cannot! Tak boleh! Ler ga Ping buay sai kaoyin! Ler ah see kaoyin eh wei, ler nang 一定没有好下场!
Som: Lu mahu ubah dunia dengan kata-kata lu. Gua mahu ubah dunia dengan cara gua.

2016 - Rosnah

Short Description
A Note From Aidli Mosbit

This year, after 22 years of dreaming up this character called Rosnah, I was given the opportunity to once again work with my favourite collaborators and this time to translate the play from English to Malay. Strangely, after 22 years, the words within Rosnah are even more relevant and applicable to people who question the idea of mobility vs. rootedness as we live our lives as global citizens.

2017 - Actor, Forty (演员四十)

Short Description
Creating actors: a conversation between Director Alvin Tan, Playwright Haresh Sharma and Dramaturg Melissa Lim

Alvin: I think that we at TNS have always enjoyed a unique position in multicultural Singapore, in that we do not carry the burden of representation as we are not associated with any one ethnic community. We may be known as an English-language theatre company to most people, but throughout our history, we have created characters from all ethnic groups, speaking their own brand of English and other languages.