If you are stuck at home and have run out of Netflix shows to binge on, this just might be for you. When the circuit breaker was implemented, many local theatre companies generously shared recordings of past shows for all to watch. Every week, plays are being uploaded from some of the biggest and smallest theatre companies in Singapore for limited periods of time. If you’ve never been to the theatre, now is your chance to go for free from the comfort of your own home.
There is a misconception that the arts are meant only for people who like critical thinking or have expensive or atas tastes. Many local plays are meant for people from all walks of life and speak often to Singaporeans. The Singlish you hear every day, the weird habits you know and trends you see on the streets can all be found in a theatre. For example, Those Who Can’t, Teach (2017) by The Necessary Stage explores the everyday lives of teachers and students. Watching the actors on stage takes you back to those teenage romances, underage adventures and even the stresses of O levels and leaves you with a nostalgic escape to the past.
Before television and the cinema, the theatre was where people went for stories that would make them rock with laughter, stare in wonder or be moved to tears. If you still don’t think dramatic or comedic plays are for you, you can also check out the musicals such as those put up by Wild Rice.
Ever wondered what it would be like to have another job, experience another culture or live a different life? From the plays I’ve watched in the past, I have been a Chinese man searching for his ancestry in China, a nurse experiencing the horrors of World War II, a parent who lost her child to suicide, a woman with an autistic brother, a teacher, a volunteer for a local residents’ committee and so many more. I have learnt about the lives of people vastly different from myself.
Watching a play is in many ways similar to watching a film, the only difference is that it is a live performance, with real actors, in real time. With no fancy camera angles or stunts, you pay more attention to understanding the characters and listening to the dialogue.
Theatre, I believe, breaks the distance between the audience and the performers. That connection can be more powerful than the written word and more intimate than celluloid or broadcast media. That is why they can resonate and help develop a sense of empathy towards others of different vocations, cultures or lifestyles.
Empathy happens when you walk in someone else’s shoes. I believe that if we all had a little more empathy, we would be kinder to each other and the world would be a better place.
A few weeks ago, Pangdemonium streamed a play titled Falling (2016), which was about a family with an autistic teenager. Watching the play, albeit from my laptop screen, I stepped into the homes of these people and faced their struggles and their joys. Not only did it immerse me into the lives of people experiencing this, but it also educated me on how to be more understanding towards people with disabilities. Pangdemonium continues to stream new plays each week.
Supporting Local Artists
The local arts scene has been hit extremely hard by Covid-19. Even with the Government allocating a variety of support schemes, including $55 million to save jobs in the industry, there is much hardship ahead. Putting their plays online allows theatre companies to earn some income. While most plays are free to watch for a limited time, some include a rent option or a call to donate.
It is important to support the local art scene now for them to continue producing plays in the future. With the circuit breaker, many are turning, not just to TV shows or movies, but to recorded theatre, dance and music performances, to keep themselves occupied. It is evident, now more than ever, that the performing arts haven’t been getting the credit it deserves here.
Local theatre companies talk about issues that we face here and now. They are Singaporeans telling the stories of fellow Singaporeans. This brings people together to share and listen to each other, to build a kinder, more united society.
We can all play a part
Be sure to check the Facebook pages of local theatre companies such as Wild Rice, The Necessary Stage, Pangdemonium, and others to see which shows are available. From now till 12 June, Esplanade has put together eight plays from various companies, such as Teater Ekamatra, Checkpoint Theatre, Cake Theatrical Productions and Toy Factory Productions, as well as Dialogues for all to enjoy.
Check them out here!
[email protected] – MAMA WHITE SNAKE – Till 7 June
Esplanade – The Studios Online – Till 12 June
Nothing – Cake Theatrical Productions – Till 29 May
The Studios Online: Dark Room – Till 29 May
An Esplanade Commission by Edith Podesta
Esplanade Presents – 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove – Till 31 May
With Toy Factory Productions
The Coronalogues – Singapore Repertory Theatre