Profile: Goh Boon Teck

Published on 2 March 2015

Theatre titan Goh Boon Teck is more interested in being crazy and creative than being popular.

BY jo tan

Playwright/director Goh Boon Teck has dramatised the lives of everyone from legendary local transsexuals to young Mandopop wannabes — but never his own. “My ego’s not that big and my story’s not that interesting,” he says with a shrug.

Some may beg to differ. This kampung-born lorry-driver’s son inherited a love of art from watching his wayang-actress mother Oon Ah Chiam. He dreamed of being a tenor, but felt “very uncomfortable” onstage. Instead, he painted, priming himself for a visual-arts career at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. On a fateful occasion, he was roped into making props and puppets for late playwright and theatre director Kuo Pao Kun of The Theatre Practice (TTP). Shortly after, Goh set up Toy Factory Productions Ltd (or Toy, for short), his very own theatre company.

Today, Toy is a 25 year-old multi-award winner, with Chief Artistic Director Goh amassing his own collection of credits, including the very first VISA International Arts Scholarship, the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award and countless prizes for writing, stage design and directing work, cementing his status as a theatrical Teck-of-all-trades.

Goh is known for not shying away from unlikely genres, topics and talents. Back in the ’90s, Toy presented Singapore premieres of the homosexuality/oppression-themed Shopping and F*cking and Bent, plays still considered audacious today. He produced an original Shakespeare/musical theatre fusion in Romeo and Juliet last year. He also directed Titoudao, about the traditional art of Hokkien opera, in such a sufficiently surreal way, it was invited to the Cairo International Festival of Experimental Theatre.

“If I could sum up Toy in one word, it would be… freestyle?” Goh laughs. “But yes, we do have a clear direction, it’s not to play safe or lock ourselves down. As time passes, beliefs and aesthetics evolve. Toy’s art creation aims to move in parallel with time, even ahead of it. That goes with showcasing new talents too. When I first started, lots of people in TTP helped me out, and we have to do the same for newcomers so our scene continues to grow.”

Cannonading into uncharted waters does come with risks. While some Toy experiments are successful, others like Romeo and Juliet have been panned by critics. Goh takes all in his stride.

“Creation takes up so much time that sometimes I wonder, am I on the same page as current audiences? I think it’s easy to focus on one recipe for success, but I like to keep a space available for craziness. We don’t aim to be No. 1 in popularity, but to keep our creative energy ongoing, constantly changing. I don’t ever want to be sick of making art.”

Titoudao plays from 5-14 Mar at the Drama Centre. If you want tickets to catch this performance, head on over to our contest page now!

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