Once in awhile, I visit the place in Singapore where i was born and raised. (Not the one mentioned in the following article) I grew up there all my teenage years and into my early 20s. But things change so fast here in Singapore that I don’t recognise the place anymore. Yes its development and the scarcity of land and all that stuff but does almost everything have to make way to modernisation. All that is left are memories but memories are a fragile thing too as we grow older. Makes me extremely sad.
The play Anak Bulan di Kampong Wa’ Hassan is a reminder to audiences of what development can do to their beloved kampungs, writes FARIDUL ANWAR FARINORDIN.
STARTING tonight, theatre goes to the kampung.
A play about heritage, loss and modernisation, Anak Bulan di Kampong Wa’ Hassan is a snapshot of a kampung life in Singapore — with its colourful characters and fascinating tales or lore — before it was demolished to give way to urban development.
Written by Singaporean playwright Alfian Sa’at (who grew up in a kampung in Pasir Panjang, which is no longer there), it is directed by Gene Sha Rudyn who also acts in the one-man play. The show was first performed in KL in 2001 and was re-staged last year.
“The play is about lost kampungs in Singapore. It has been our intention since the first time to take it to real kampungs here and remind the audiences that what has happened to Kampung Wa’ Hassan can also happen to their kampungs,” Gene said. “In Singapore, it is already too late for us to do anything. But here, the people can still do something about it,” Gene said in an interview recently.
Produced by the Actors Studio with the support of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry, the show will be staged in outdoor venues in six kampungs, “including school padangs and residents’ “lawn” around the country, from Penang to Johor.
It opens tonight at Kampung Sungai Berang in Tanjong Malim, Perak and will move to Anjung Seni amphitheatre in Balik Bulau, Penang (June 9). It will then travel to Kampung Jawa in Klang, Selangor (June 13), Kampung Sungai Karang Darat, Beserah in Kuantan, Pahang (June 16), Kampung Bukit Cina in Malacca (June 20) and Kampung Parit Haji Ali in Batu Pahat, Johor (June 23).
Gene’s biggest concern with the project is “adapting theatre to a simpler, stripped-down setting.”
“I don’t like the idea of bringing a big crew for the touring kampung show. It should be easily packaged, transported and presented. As long as people can gather around me and watch the performance, that’s good enough.”
As such, text references that only work in the theatre “such as asking the stage manager to bring up the house lights”, will be taken away.
Although a number of the show’s would-be audience, undoubtedly, will be watching a theatre for the first time in their lives, Gene is confident that they will be able to enjoy the stories and relate to the characters’ experiences.
“Theatre is a form of story-telling and it has been part of our culture in other traditional forms of performing arts. My challenge is really the way I relate to the audience by giving them different points of entry into the story so that they can be with me in this journey.”
In Singapore, Gene had performed in school halls for several touring productions since 1994.
“It is common for theatre groups to perform in schools there. Sometimes, a tour can stretch for the entire year. Necessarily, we have to rely on basic technical facilities, something that I will revisit with this project.”
The touring kampung production of Anak Bulan di Kampong Wa’ Hassan comprises five crew members, including the actor, with two people for lighting and sound, one stage manager and one videographer “to document the whole experience”.
Gene has been involved professionally in the theatre scene as an actor and director for more than a decade in theatre productions in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
He was recently featured in Singapore Repertory Theatre production’s of Shakespeare’s popular comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, held in an open-air setting at the Fort Canning Park.
The rehearsals so far, he said, has been focusing on “preparing me for any kind of eventualities,” he said with a laugh.
“In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my character Puck (the fairy King Oberon’s messenger) ran around on the open field doing all sorts of things with other characters. There’s a lot of energy going around and the pace is frenetic.
“This time, I have to pull my audience towards my role as the actor and storyteller, instead of going out to grab them. It’s the opposite of what I did as Puck,” he said.
His upcoming project is “to collaborate and work more with KL-based actors” in facilitating a workshop-based ensemble work called Cinta Ibu, which is about teen pregnancy.
“I am working on my first solo album, featuring self-composed folk-rock English songs,” said the former member of the Singapore Youth Orchestra, whose first passion is music.