Drama Box, a theatre group known for creating works that study the relationship people share with the place they live, introduces Chinatown Crossings – a unique promenade theatre that will take audiences on a journey of time through the streets of Kreta Ayer.
Directed by Koh Hui Ling, Associate Artistic Director of Drama Box, Chinatown Crossings is a theatrical experience that presents the historically and culturally rich precinct of Chinatown in its multi-faceted glory.
The promenade theatre traces the story of Kunalan, an Indian man who grew up in a Chinatown shophouse during the 1960s and 1970s, recounting his friendship with his Cantonese landlady’s feisty daughter, and his relationship with a ma jie* who became a surrogate mother to him during his growing up years.
“There is a lot more than meets the eye in Chinatown. There are so many hidden gems in here that people do not know about: the present, the past, and how the communities who made Chinatown their homes went about their lives,” says Hui Ling.
Unfolding the story through the memories of Kunalan, the audience will be led into the nooks and crannies of this neighbourhood to experience the insides of a shophouse; relive the echoes of living in old Singapore through a soundscape; and discover the many lost and forgotten practices of Chinatown’s vibrant community. It will also showcase the ethos of early immigrants such as the ma jie* whose industrious and resilient values remain role models for our society to learn from today.
“By immersing the audience in a roving theatre experience, we hope to surface some of these untold tales and practices of a place and people that are so important to Singapore’s heritage. We hope Chinatown Crossings will allow people to contemplate the area in a deeper way and start exploring it in a new light. This place has so much to offer to both tourists and locals,” Hui Ling adds.
A culmination of more than fourteen months of research and creative development, Chinatown Crossings is an original theatrical play supported by the Singapore Tourism Board’s Experience Step-Up Fund, Our Singapore Fund, and Arts Fund, with Singapore Heritage Society as its research partner. As part of the development process, the team from Chinatown Crossings has met people from all walks of life associated with Chinatown, engaging individuals, brands, and legacies, to distil from them the essence of this precinct’s spirit and heritage.
*Ma jie were a group of women who came to Singapore from Guangdong, China, in the early 20th century to be domestic helpers.