Politics

 

1992 - Glass Roots (Don't Step On Them)

Short Description
Zack: Look, we have been friends for over 10 years, and it’s still difficult for you to change my mind. How are you going to change people? Strangers, worthless strangers!

Marcus: If the only way I can get to your heart and your mind is to put a knife through it… are you saying that’s the only way? (pause) Zack, we have each other, don’t we?

Zack: Yes.
 

1997 - Galileo

Short Description
Science teacher corrupts minds of young

Dr Galilei's theories have upset local governments and religious leaders, who have reason to bleieve that the mathematician-scientist-philosopher may be teaching Narxist principles to his students under the guise of scientific education. [...]

In mitigation, Dr Galilei said that he had never set out to mislead his students, but had just wanted to make them question assumptions. "I have always liked [national] security the best..." said the father-of-three, "and would never do anything to upset that".
 

1997 - 9 Lives

Short Description
Notes on Proscriptions and Manners
Janadas Devan

There you have it, in black and white. No one can say that the government did not lay its cards on the table: Forum Theatre is scriptless; it makes possible the emrgence of unstructured voices' and that makes it difficult for the licensing authority to monitor performances. Forum Theatre, in other words, is objectionable because it is a form which manifests difference.

Unfortunately for Forum Theatre, there was no Palestrina in sight to convince the authorities that this instance of polyphony, no more than the other, was not threatening in the least; that the authorities could in fact have used the form, like the Church did Palestrina, for its own purpose. But the very suggestion of difference—""scriptless"" performances, ""spontaneous audience participation""—that alone was enough to set the alarm bells ringing.

Some things simply do not change.
 

1999 - sex.violence.blood.gore

Short Description
Ladies and gentlemen, The Necessary Stage apologises for this break in the performance. We would like to inform you that a scene that would have been performed at this point and 2 other scenes later in this play will not be staged. This is due to a fax received from the licensing division of Singapore Police Force on 30 November 1999. The fax reads as follows:
 

1999 - sex.violence.blood.gore

Short Description
Playwright's Message
Alfian Sa'at

I believed at one point of time that my disempowerment: political, social, moral, was some kind of power. That is why when Jeff asked me to do this play, I readily agreed. I wanted not so much to be deliberately controversial, but to give a voice to the marginalised, and to be unapologetic about it. Their songs would not be of reconciliation; petitions and pleas for inclusion into the mainstream, but brassy assertions of individuality.

'But isn't everyone marginalised at some point of time or the other, even the most privileged?'

A good question. In writing for this play, I also wanted to critique the politics of marginality. How long do we want to exploit our minority status, be it ethnic, religious, sexual, whatever? How far can we play victim? And if our oppressors one day decide to step aside for us without an argument, then where will the struggle be? Will we lose ourselves in the vacuum of their absence, losing all that we stood for, or more correctly, stood against?
 

2000 - Asian Boys Vol. 1

Short Description
Asian Boys Vol. 1: Playwright's Message
Alfian Sa'at

I felt the topic deserved much more than that. What has been missing so far in a lot of plays of this nature is dialogue. There is often a kind of polemicising, angry young men spewing vitriol against their oppressors, eyes flashing in helpless rage at the victimisation of their peers. Or on the other extreme, fatalism, the group of mourners at the funeral of the suicidee or disease-stricken. Yet there are soliloquies, both the rant and the lament, imploding under the weight of their fury or sorrow. The character of the goddess comes in as someone who is willing to listen and to sympathise. of course, the question is, does it take a goddess to engage with the marginal in society? Is such compassion superhuman?
 

2000 - The Programme #1

Short Description
The Arts & Society: How Far Should Art Go?

In May 2000, TNS hit the headlines again for having a naked man in an R(A) performance. In response, NAC's executive director, Mr Choo Thiam Siew, was quoted in the press as saying that he "did not find the performance objectionable". Yet the contention in the media has less to do with the naked body than the positioning of an R(A) show in an HDB precinct. It begs the question of whether violation of decency has any geographical relation.
 

2000 - focas #1: A Censorship Manifesto

Short Description
A Censorship Manifesto
Alfian Sa'at

By pumping up Gaynor's celebratory queer pride anthem, deploying absurd cartoon aesthetics through high-speed acting, as well as eliciting laughter through the "NETS or Cashcard" reference (revealing how the negotiation between censor and artist had been reduced to one of an economic transaction), the staging of the censorship act took on lurid shades of the carnivalesque.
 

2001 - The Programme #2

Short Description
Reviewing Performance and Forum Theatre in Local Performance Space
Sinclair Timothy Ang

The authorities are wary that both Forum Theatre and Performance Art might be used politically to threaten social stability. As such, practitioners of these art forms have a hard time getting a public entertainment license. Even if a license is granted, any non-scripted performance—and Performance Art that does not come with a script—will not be funded by the National Arts Council (NAC). In addition, the artists are required to deposit a sizeable security deposit.
 

2004 - Ask Not

Short Description
Jacked Off with No Pleasure: Censorship and The Necessary Stage
Ray Langenbach

When they censored the scenes in sex.violence.blood.gore the government inadvertently made their own agency appear to be the object of Boy Boy's polemic against the faceless "voyeur". The desire of the censor to enter into the 'arena' of the play (again as the audience was invited to do in Forum Theatre), and to excise those lines, scenes and characters it does not condone, conflates the desire of the voyeur to control 'his' object of desire through the appropriating of that object as 'image'. Censorship, then, through the association with the voyeur, is tagged in this passage as the unsatisfying and unpleasurable masturbating of another's penis.
 

2006 - Off Centre

Short Description
Haresh's Notes

If Off Centre comes across angry at times, it's only because I was angry when I was writing it. After being commissioned by the Ministry of Health in Singapore to create a play on mental health, with funding of S$30,000, the Ministry then read the first draft of the play and requested for "less extreme depictions of mental illness". The Ministry also had problems with the way the play represented God/religion and National Service [Ministry of Defence].
 

2008 - Gemuk Girls

Short Description
Director's Message
Alvin Tan

Today, nudity is allowed on stage, and plays touching on paedophilia and death penalty are passed by the Media Development Authority with a rating or an advisory.

Early this year, The Complaints Choir Project, one of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival shows, was only allowed to perform at one venue as a private event due to the presence of foreigners in the choir. Yet, just recently, PM Lee Hsien Loong announced the move to ease bans on political films and demonstrations.
 

2008 - Gemuk Girls

Short Description
Marzuki: When I reached the gantry, I saw the director. Hello, Sir! Thank you! My family is waiting for me. He laughed.

Director: Mr. Mazuki, this is not a farewell. You are not rehabilitated. Are you ready to confess now?

Marzuki: Confess? I laughed. You said I can go home. My family is out there. Look at them Sir…they are waiting for me. I tried to leave but he stopped me.

Director: You think we will release you when you are still a threat to national security? Confess now and you can go. Sigh here. Just sign here.

Marzuki: I took his pen. I’ll sign, I’ll confess…I’ll do anything. Please just let me go. But I couldn’t. My hand didn’t move. I couldn’t sign. I couldn’t confess to something I wasn’t.
 

2012 - Model Citizens

Short Description
Model Citizens: Celebrating Difference
Alvin Tan

When I think of the phrase 'model citizens', I am prompted to ask: What am I looking at? What citizenship are we addressing here? What is this reality we 'belong' to? Would there not be an array of modes and modulations when we take into account the rate and range of intercultural interactions occurring in a world without borders? Indeed, how do we prepare ourselves to be citizens of contemporary realities? We have to quarrel to converge. We have to engage in conflict to synthesise. We have to debate to transcend.
 

2016 - Manifesto

Short Description
Director's Message
Kok Heng Leun

The beauty of strangers sharing the same place, the public space, and yet being able to speak freely and fearlessly seems almost idealistic. How can one feel free to speak if one fears what one says may offend another?

In his essay The paths of Arts and Politics Astrayed, Lu Xun noted that a person who has suffered from poverty and later becomes rich, will turn into either one of the following: a humanistic being who will have empathy for others: or, because of the harrowing experience of poverty, a selfish person who will be less tolerant and less open.
 

2017 - Being Haresh Sharma

Short Description
Thoughts on Privilege
Haresh Sharma

It's time to change. It's time to stand up to those who use their position of power to silence those who can barely speak. The disadvantaged need allies—those who play a crucial role as arbitrator, defender and sometimes, champion of the disadvantaged.