Why is there growing concern about Singapore’s class divide? What is the face of inequality in our society today, and whose responsibility is it to address this issue?
Local theatre companies Drama Box and The Necessary Stage (TNS), who had last collaborated in 2016 on their groundbreaking production Manifesto, reunite in 2018 to present Underclass, a brand new multilingual work delving into the pressing topics of poverty, inequality and human dignity in Singapore.
“This is an urgent topic to write about because as Singapore gets more affluent, we should pause to think more deeply about those who are not sharing the wealth, and why that is so,” explains TNS’ Resident Playwright and Cultural Medallion recipient, Haresh Sharma.
Written by Sharma, Underclass tells the story of Xinyi, a senior citizen who loses her means of livelihood first, and then her flat, as a result of her illness. When she moves into a rental unit, she forges an unexpected friendship with her new neighbour Johari. Both characters seek to rise above their predicament, and in the process, meet various people who try to offer them different forms of support.
“The stories in the play look at people from both ends of this spectrum—their resilience and resignation, their entitlement and empathy,” Sharma elaborated.
TNS’ Artistic Director and Cultural Medallion recipient, Alvin Tan and Drama Box’s Artistic Director, Young Artist Award and Outstanding Young Person (Culture) recipient, Kok Heng Leun will both don their directing hats once again for Underclass.
On their co-directorship, Tan shares, “I have always felt enriched working with Heng Leun. His generosity and unique perspectives lift the veil of my blind spots. I feel accompanied and in a collaborative mode which pushes me to grow in my practice. Kok agrees and adds, “It is always a joy to work with Alvin. His wisdom always provides much food for thought on the work, which stimulates even more experimentation and discovery.”
Underclass also features award-winning veteran and young artists, some of whom were previously from the Manifesto creative team: actors Brendon Fernandez, Goh Guat Kian, Siti Khalijah Zainal, Yang Shi Bin and Yazid Jalil; sound artist Bani Haykal, costume designers MAX.TAN, lighting designer, Petrina Dawn Tan, and set designer Vincent Lim.
Underclass will be staged at The Necessary Stage Black Box from 16 May to 3 June 2018. Ticket sales for the production will launch on 19 February, 2018. The SISTIC link and the Facebook event page can be found here and here.