Singapore On Stage

Lamenting the loss of a vibrant theatre culture, Robert Yeo says that just like other art forms, local playwrights too should be given a fillip 

1/31/2017 3:27:00 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

Almost 24 years after having written ‘The Eye Of History’, Epigram Books published this play by Singapore’s veteran playwright Robert Yeo. But what makes him even happier is the fact that it has been revived and will be performed in May this year.

The two-act play features an interesting conversation between Sir Stamford Raffles and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Istana on many pertinent issues regarding Singapore, which are at times both heated and humourous. And the presence of Munshi Abdullah (author of the Hikayat Abdullah) provides a fascinating backdrop for the investigation of historical authority and grand narratives. 

Though Yeo is considered to be a stalwart in Singapore’s literary scene, he feels that drama has not been receiving the support it deserves. His biggest regret is that he did not form a theatre company that would keep his plays alive.

“Plays can be easily forgotten especially if you do not have a theatre company for if you have one you can perform it again and again. Stella Kon and I don’t have drama companies so though we have written iconic plays, we don’t get performed except Emily of Emerald Hill. Playwrights like me have interrupted lives,” said Yeo.

“People say I am a veteran, one of the three pioneer playwrights, but this doesn’t matter. Stage me. I’m 77 and I’m around, but what will happen when I’m not…who will remember me,” he laments adding that most of the people involved in theatre now are single men with fewer responsibilities, so they can channel their energy into theatre. 

Yeo had written to the National Arts Council suggesting the setting up of a national theatre to rise above partisan interests. This theatre could perform old plays and commission new ones too. He feels that some of his plays are not being staged as his Singapore trilogy is political and still problematic.

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