~ By Chow Zhi Ying ~
TOC caught up with Derrick Chew, the director of 'TRAINSTOPPING: The Year in Revue 2011', to learn about his inspiration to put up this production for the community.
TRAINSTOPPING: The year in Revue 2011 is your professional stage directorial debut - can you give our readers an overview of what we can expect in this production?
TRAINSTOPPING: The year in Revue 2011 is a musical revue consisting of small segments of events in year 2011 with the overarching theme being train stoppages. The events are very familiar to Singaporeans - the flash floods, A&F models, 2011 elections, and so on - all portrayed in a different, humorous light to the audience, allowing them to view these events in a way they have never thought of before.
How did you come up with this inspiration? Were you trapped in a train yourself?
No.*sniggers* The inspiration came more as a different approach of presenting Singaporean issues in a different light; the aim is not to preach or tell Singaporeans what they already know nor sensationalise or politicise issues, but to reflect, laugh and learn from things that have already happened. It is more a personal response, a social commentary from the view of a Singaporean that grew up in Singapore that uses theatre as a voice to effect change.
The inspiration is everywhere. A lot of people say Singapore is very boring, but in fact, there are many interesting things happening in Singapore, you just need to step outside and take a look for yourself. For instance, an actress from my cast, Celine, lived in Scotland for 2 years and the train breaks down every other day there, but because in Singapore we are so pampered and used to such efficiency, when the MRT breaks down we are so flustered and there’s so much commotion which can be rather funny if you look at it this way.
It is somewhat about presenting matters in a different light that helps people see these issues in a novel way and to take things light, to let go, watch the show and release all that frustration.
In all honesty, we don’t really watch theatre because we don’t know where to start, so this seems like a really great opportunity for us to do so. We understand that your aim is to make art accessible to the general public, so we feel that this is going in the right direction.
That is true. The art scene is growing in Singapore and the audience base has grown at a very good rate. Still, many Singaporeans have the idea that art is for the rich and famous, very avant-garde, very foreign. At Sight Line productions, we aim to produce work that has quality and artistic value but yet still relevant to the masses. Here, we aim to make a connection with the audience.
In theatre, 'sight line' is actually a technical term which means an uninterrupted line of vision between stage and audience. Our vision is to bridge this gap, hopefully nurturing and breeding the mindset that theatre is not all that bizarre and help people be appreciative of the arts in the process.
What is it about this production that you feel will call forth Singaporeans to watch?
To me, 2011 was a special year because Singaporeans became so vocal and politically charged after being ‘bochap’ for so long. Never have I seen Singaporeans making their voices heard this much. Perhaps because before this, there was no outlet to do so but last year, Singaporeans had the chance to vote, even twice - not to mention, the growth of social media. I am quite happy that Singaporeans are starting to voice out instead of having the mentality of “If I say this, what will happen to me…” because art is all about voicing out opinions.
If you are a Singaporean, you can relate to it because the issues are close to the heart. You don’t need to have any background knowledge or do any pre-reading before coming to watch this show because this production draws upon what we have all experienced. It is a production to look forward to, different from other comedy shows because it is very relevant to our everyday lives, very current. It is something nobody else has done, addressing something that has not been talked about before. Even foreigners living in Singapore will be able to understand and find it funny.
The production looks really light-hearted and funny, and the issues are really close to the hearts of Singaporean. Well, this seems like a very fun production, so was there any comical moments that your team had during the rehearsals or writing process?
Everyday is a comedy in this production! The cast is really good and well-trained, and they are comedians in their own right, constantly improvising their act. Since December, the writer, Jeremy, and I thought of all the topics that could be acted out, and now he goes back and writes every little sketch with input from the cast. There is a sense of belonging to the cast as they have an ownership in this production, so they don’t see it as work but as something they enjoy.
Is there any message that you and your production team aim to bring across with this production?
It is not about telling or preaching to the audience a message because I feel that would not be art. Rather, it is more to create discussion, a discourse amongst the audience. It is to present the topic and celebrate the uniqueness of being Singaporean, to talk and laugh about it together and realise that we ought to be proud of ourselves for all our quirkiness because if we as Singaporeans cannot do so, then who will?
How do you hope TRAINSTOPPING will inspire and challenge the perspectives of Singaporeans?
I hope people will be more open minded, come and watch this production and be more appreciative of this land of ours. Actually it’s not that bad - I mean bad things happen, but sometimes we are also very quick to judge and can be quite pampered. We should learn to take things in our stride and maybe Singapore will be a slightly better place.
TRAINSTOPPING: The Year in Revue 2011 will be held at CHAMBER @ THE ARTS HOUSE from 26 April – 3 May 2012. Tickets priced at $48 (plus a $2 ticket-handling fee) are available at www.bytes.sg or at The Arts House Box Office located at 1 Old Parliament Lane.
Visit www.sightlines.com.sg to learn more about Sight Lines Production