Singapore Arts Festival 2011: HERstory 她的故事

HERstory/ Black Peony
HERstory/ Black Peony

Yesterday noon, Rachel and I watched HERstory 她的故事, Dramabox’s latest theatre production, commissioned for Singapore Arts Festival 2011.

The Singapore Arts Festival 2011 theme this year is “I Want to Remember “. The festival seeks to reconnect with you through memories, histories and places long forgotten. Told through sights and sounds, I Want to Remember “engages in a past that redefines the way we look at the present even as we race toward the future”. More information and program line-ups are available on the official Singapore Arts Festival website.

Back to HERstory, both Rachel and I enjoyed the production very much. On the macro level, HERstory gives voice to the losing Barisan Socialist (社会主义阵线) faction during Singapore’s fight for independence from colonial rule in Malayan history. On the micro level, it is a moving story about a mother’s love and playwright Otto Fong‘s experience growing up as the son of Barisan Socialist member, Fong Swee Suan.

Rachel reading the production booklet
Rachel reading the production booklet
Quite a lot of people turned up for the show
Quite a lot of people turned up for the show

Synopsis:

While history often celebrates men, HERstory is a tribute to Singapore’s forgotten women in the 50s and 60s. Inspired by the women of that generation, Otto Fong tells the story of a tenacious woman with an unfulfilled dream. 

She was a young girl with a beautiful voice and a love for singing. Embroiled in the politics of that era, this young woman was forced to give up the chance to pursue her love in choral singing, while struggling to keep her family together during the years of turmoil. When the 21st century arrived and she thought she could finally lead a normal life, she found herself in the thick of a changing world, along with changing values, ethos and beliefs. 

HERstory is directed by Kok Heng Leun, Artistic Director of Drama Box, one of Singapore’s most prominent contemporary Mandarin theatre companies. Drama Box has a reputation of having an acutely sensitive understanding of social issues, while being committed to heightening civic responsibility and social awareness in a manner that is both entertaining and reflective. 

Expect an insightful and honest tribute to the unsung heroines of Singapore.

History is written by the victor in a war or political battle. The PAP won the political battle in post-independence Singapore and very much dictate the “official” version of Singapore’s history during our tumultuous years in the 50s and 60s.

There are limited historical records or literature of the losing Barisan Socialist faction. Who are these people? Why did  they enter politics? What were their lives like off the political stage?

A production like HERstory is important to help patch this gap. These discourses are part of Singapore’s history too and our future generations should keep an open mind to history, beyond just reading MM Lee’s multiple memoirs and books.

Key cast and crew of HERstory
Key cast and crew of HERstory

There’s another two screening today (29 May) at 3pm and 8pm. Do catch it if you are interested in an alternative history of Singapore. I am quite sure you will be able to take away something valuable after viewing HERstory, whether at the macro intellectual level or micro emotional heartstring level. I did. 🙂

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