chapter  3
18 Pages

The Singapore theatre field: “a different world … unique” but not completely so

There is an anecdote that Alvin Tan, artistic director of The Necessary Stage (TNS), tells young practitioners seeking his advice on making a living with theatre in Singapore. There was a time in 1994 when he and Haresh Sharma, TNS’s resident playwright, were genuinely concerned for their artistic future when they were accused by a Straits Times “expose” of practicing “Marxist-inspired” Forum Theatre.1 With the specter of the 1987 “Marxist conspiracy” still looming, Tan spent many sleepless nights worrying about how this accusation would affect TNS’s state funding until the then chairman of the National Arts Council (NAC) Professor Tommy Koh publicly reiterated the council’s support for the theatre group. Not too long after, TNS was granted theatre space at the Marine Parade Community Center under the NAC’s arts housing scheme. That Marine Parade was the constituency of then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong was an irony not lost on Tan. “I guess we were considered by the state to be rehabilitated enough to be safe for public funds. But not so much that we lose our artistic edge.”2