This June, W!LD RICE explores the history and heritage of Singapore and Malaysia in Another Country, a funny, poignant and insightful look at life on both sides of the Causeway.
The production is part of W!LD RICE’s year-long imagiNATION season, which marks the company’s 15th anniversary and coincides with Singapore’s own jubilee celebrations.
Each imagiNATION production takes inspiration from the five stars of the Singapore flag. Another Country examines the ‘Peace’ – or lack thereof – shared by two countries that were torn asunder in 1965.
“The 50th year of Singapore’s independence also marks the separation of Singapore from our nearest and dearest neighbour,” says Ivan Heng, Artistic Director of W!LD RICE. “Sometimes, that separation feels illusive, even fictional, especially when we travel to each other’s countries, and realise how much culture, history and food we still share. In a year all about embracing our nationhood and sovereignty, we thought it was also important to celebrate what we have in common with Malaysia.”
A truly collaborative, cross-cultural project, Another Country challenges Heng and his Singaporean cast to understand, embrace and perform texts by some of Malaysia’s finest writers. At the same time, Malaysian director Jo Kukathas and her cast will dig into an eclectic array of Singapore literature, unearthing what remains beneath the politics and posturing that have often complicated relations between the two nations.
“Often, we think of a country or a nation as a political entity, made not by people but by politics and policies. To look at a country through literature, not politics – to see a nation through poets, not politicians – is to open up new landscapes,” Kukathas explains.
The texts from both countries have been curated by Alfian Sa’at, W!LD RICE’s Resident Playwright; and renowned Malaysian playwright Leow Puay Tin, who also selected the Malaysian texts used in Second Link, an earlier incarnation of this bilateral project.
Second Link, an explosive showcase of more than 50 celebrated and banned texts, was a hit with audiences and critics in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore, and was the rousing finale of the Singapore Theatre Festival in 2006.
“I am so pleased to be taking part in another ‘text exchange’ between Singapore and Malaysia,” enthuses Leow. “It gives me the chance to review the ostensibly ‘Malaysian’ texts, which reminds me again of just how much these words and ideas are related to ‘Singapore’. This can’t be helped, given our shared histories and the cultural kinships that have continued to thrive to this day.”
The goal of Another Country is to really look beyond the media and the politicians to find the common ground that exists between the people of both countries.“Once you look at the literature, a more nuanced portrait emerges,” notes Alfian. “The relationship between the two countries can no longer be described by the rather technical term ‘bilateral’; it is also mutual, reciprocal, co-dependent, love-hate, can’t-live-with/can’t-live without. I think more than ever we need to tell these stories, which speak of ties that are not just historical but also very much of the present: personal, cultural, visceral, umbilical. “I think of Another Country as a project in which audiences will see themselves reflected not only in the texts of their ‘homegrown’ writers, but also in those of ‘the other country’.”
Another Country’s multi-racial, multi-talented cast will feature ten of the finest acting talents on both sides of the Causeway, including Singapore’s Lim Yu-Beng and Siti Khalijah Zainal and Malaysia’s Ghafir Akbar and Sharifah Amani. The production will run from 4 to 14 June 2015 at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in KL, before crossing the Causeway to play at Singapore’s Drama Centre Theatre from 25 June to 11 July 2015.
Previews 25 & 26 June 8pm $40 – $65
Tue, Wed, Thu 8pm and Sat & Sun 3pm $45 – $70
Fri & Sat 8pm $50 – $75
Prices exclude $4 SISTIC handling fee
About Another Country
50 years ago, Singapore and Malaysia divorced after a brief marriage of two years. But, doomed lovers that we are, we just can’t stay away from each other, no matter how often we squabble over water, airspace, and food. We toil in each other’s cities, relax on each other’s islands, and get fined on each other’s roads. We laugh at each other’s laws but envy each other’s liberties; separated by history, we are united by our dreams for a better home. Directed by Singapore’s Ivan Heng and Malaysia’s Jo Kukathas, Another Country takes us on a trip through our shared memories and divergent dreams with the most provocative, humorous and unlikely texts, curated by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at and Malaysian playwright Leow Puay Tin.
From Singapore, we have texts taken from a Catherine Lim short story, a Michael Chiang play, the Singapore Ministry of Culture’s anthem to our glorious but short-lived union in 1963 and more, all to be delivered by a cast of Malaysia’s most acclaimed actors.
Meanwhile, five of Singapore’s finest actors boldly tackle the Malaysian texts, which include excerpts from a Jit Murad play, Mark Teh’s salutation and Tunku Abdul Rahman’s recounting of his dream before the race riots of 13 May 1969.
Will we find more similarities, or more things to squabble over? Will we recognise our homes in each other’s stories? To whom do these stories belong? And, most important of all… to whom does Hainanese chicken rice really belong?