Love in Singapore: Then and now

Published on 24 August 2018

By Huang Lijie

Photo credit: The Second Breakfast Company | Actors Kenneth Chia and Hasyimah Hassan will be performing an excerpt of Mimi Fan (1962) for Lovebites.

Love – finding it, keeping it, kissing it goodbye – can be a baffling process. Many of us are often searching for tips and answers on how to love and be loved, as a partner, friend and family member.

So too The Second Breakfast Company, a youth-initiated theatre group in Singapore, whose presentation of plays on Saturday at Centre 42 in Waterloo Street explores how expressions of love in Singapore has changed over the years.

The show, Lovebites, comprises four sets of Singapore plays that explore permutations of love – in friendship, romance and the family. Each set is a pair of excerpts – one written in or before the 1990s, and the other, in the last three years.

The plays include the Singapore classic, Mimi Fan (1962) by Lim Chor Pee, about the eponymous bar girl who crosses paths with an English-educated overseas Singaporean, and Normal (2015) by Faith Ng, about two Secondary 5 Normal Academic students who are friends.

The group’s second artistic director, Mark Benedict Cheong, 26, says: “Embarking on this ambitious journey to discover how love has changed over the years is something we have always wanted to do.

“Looking back at older plays, we often uncover things that are still relevant today – characters whom we can relate to, relationships that we identify with. And we also see what has changed – the language, pop culture references, and how certain themes are being discussed.”

One such example is the seeming ease with which people who were once in love part ways, says the group’s first artistic director, Adeeb Fazah, 26. For him, this idea is succinctly captured in a line from Mosaic (2015) by Joel Tan, which the group is presenting.

The play’s protagonist, Sharon, is a young activist who has organised an all-night protest against the demolition of a mosaic-tiled playground. Against this setting, the romance between Sharon and her boyfriend unravels. At one point, she says to him: “When I think of you, I don’t see you anymore. What does that mean?”

This poignant line points to “love being a choice people make”, says Adeeb. “Maybe people find it easier to part and say goodbye to what we once had in the name of progress.”

Yet he is nonetheless hopeful that viewers of Lovebites will leave the show inspired and determined to “yearn, fight for, rekindle and cherish the everyday moments of love”.

You be the judge.

Lovebites is part of Late-Night Texting, a free, two-night presentation of more than 30 short plays by home-grown theatre groups. The event is organised by Centre 42, which promotes the creation and documentation of plays. For more information, click here.

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