Small Talk

Theatre com­pany Pangde­mo­nium’s res­i­dent play­wright, Stephanie Street, ex­plores the mean­ing of home in her brand-new play

Singapore Tatler - - CONTENTS -

Pangde­mo­nium’s res­i­dent play­wright, Stephanie Street, ex­plores the mean­ing of home in her new play

rom cli­mate change pos­ing a threat to our planet and Brexit caus­ing chaos all over Europe, to the re­lent­less ter­ror­ist at­tacks by rad­i­cal ex­trem­ists around the globe, the world is fac­ing tur­bu­lent times. How­ever, amid the crises and con­flicts, we need to find rea­son for hope. This is ex­plored in Pangde­mo­nium’s new, orig­i­nal play, Dragon­flies, writ­ten by Sin­ga­pore-born and Uk-based Stephanie Street, the theatre com­pany’s res­i­dent play­wright. Set in 2021 in a post-brexit world, Dragon­flies tells the story of a Uk-based Sin­ga­porean deal­ing with the fall­out of tighter im­mi­gra­tion laws, and forced to leave his home in Eng­land and re­turn to his birth­place—a coun­try dif­fer­ent from the one he knew as a child. Street, who has had a 16-year ca­reer in the UK work­ing in theatre and tele­vi­sion, ex­plains, “The play poses the ques­tions: what is home? How do we find a home in a cli­mate where ev­ery­body seems to be clos­ing bor­ders? And with tighter con­trols, who be­longs where?” Pre­sented from Au­gust 24 to 26, at the Vic­to­ria Theatre, as part of this year’s Sin­ga­pore In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val of Arts (sifa.sg), Dragon­flies is di­rected by Tra­cie Pang and stars Adrian Pang. From stag­ing pop­u­lar con­tem­po­rary clas­sics, Pangde­mo­nium is now de­vel­op­ing a slate of new, orig­i­nal works—the first was home­grown play­wright Joel Tan’s Tango in May. An arts di­ver­sity ad­vo­cate who co-founded Act for Change in the UK to cam­paign for rep­re­sen­ta­tive di­ver­sity in live and recorded arts, Street is also helm­ing Pangde­mo­nium’s play­writ­ing men­tor­ship pro­gramme, where she men­tors an as­pir­ing writer over the pe­riod of one year for the de­vel­op­ment of a full-length play.

How is Dragon­flies per­sonal to you?

Through­out my adult life, I’ve had this de­bate about where I be­long, and I don’t have an an­swer. Peo­ple who have been given the free­dom of move­ment, who had the op­tion to seek liveli­hood, love or hap­pi­ness else­where, other than where they were born, are now hav­ing those things taken away from them. This play is as much about me think­ing about what the fu­ture holds for me in the UK, and what it doesn’t for my kids.

In a world in­creas­ingly in­tol­er­ant of dif­fer­ences, how can theatre help ad­dress such is­sues?

There’s some­thing about the “present tense­ness” of theatre—the present mo­ment of watch­ing live theatre to­gether with oth­ers—that forces you to think in a way that not many other me­dia do. The best theatre is writ­ten on cul­tural his­tory, and rooted in words, ideas and de­bate.

What con­ver­sa­tions do you hope to spark with this play?

I would love for us in Sin­ga­pore to talk about our po­si­tion in the world. We are priv­i­leged in terms of our stan­dard of liv­ing, and the fact that change can be im­ple­mented fairly quickly due to our small size. A lot of peo­ple in the world look to Sin­ga­pore as a sort of flag­ship for the way things could be done as well as for its mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. You want ev­ery­one to be able to live by their prin­ci­ples and be­liefs hap­pily along­side one an­other. I would like for us to think about how we can do bet­ter and treat peo­ple who come here seek­ing bet­ter­ment in the same way that our grand­par­ents or our great-grand­par­ents did from wher­ever they came from. Why should any­body else be de­nied the same as­pi­ra­tions for their fam­i­lies?

As Pangde­mo­nium’s res­i­dent play­wright, what kind of sto­ries do you want to tell?

The only type of work I’ve done as an ac­tress and a play­wright is con­tem­po­rary plays that are po­lit­i­cal—not party pol­i­tics but hu­man sto­ries that deal with the un­der­cur­rents of so­ci­ety.

What are the learn­ing points you can share from Act for Change when it comes to changing mind­sets?

There’s so much un­con­scious bias. We tend to take com­fort in the things we’re fa­mil­iar with, but once we start to find out about the un­known, it be­comes less in­tim­i­dat­ing. For change to take place, we need to start talk­ing about it. One thing we’ve learnt from our ap­proach is that we’ve got to be con­sul­ta­tive, en­gag­ing peo­ple in di­a­logue.

CROSSING BOR­DERS Play­wright Stephanie Street’s (far left) Dragon­flies is a story of a fam­ily fight­ing for sur­vival in a hos­tile world

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