Welcome to Time Out Singapore's 52 Weeks of #ExcitingSG – our commitment to showing you the best of what's going on in the city this week. Every Monday, a guest writer who's "in" with the scene shares a recommendation on what to see, eat, do or buy in the city. This week, we go backstage with Michael Chiang, the veteran playwright behind side-splitting comedies Army Daze, Beauty World and Mortal Sins, who’s reviving a past production from his playbook, Private Parts. The radical 1992 hit follows a talk-show host and his unexpected rendezvous with three transsexuals. But before you catch it from November 2 to 18 at the Drama Centre, let the stage maestro tell you what he loves about Singapore and its theatre scene.
What gets you excited about Singapore?
Too many things! The food, the familiarity, the pace and how accessible everything is. Honestly, I never get bored. A lot of things excite me. What inspired you to pursue playwriting? I’ve always enjoyed going to the theatre, but it wasn’t until the opportunity came up that I actually entertained the idea of writing a play. It didn’t seem that formidable – I was young and smug – so I fearlessly took the plunge.
Thoughts on the performing arts scene here?
Compared to when I first started out over 30 years ago, the scene is in a different stratosphere now. There’s almost too much to choose from. It’s terrific that we can boast of a constant stream of original Singapore productions as well as a strong pool of onstage and backstage talents, but the audience base really isn’t huge. Theatre here can be a risky and expensive venture, so it’s still a struggle for many arts practitioners.
Tell us about the 2018 reboot of Private Parts and why everyone should see it.
Even though it’s a 26-year-old play, I believe it has a fresh resonance now. That’s why I wanted to keep the original setting (it’s based in the 90s) and lines. It’s a good way to see the play in context and reflect on how much we have progressed – or haven’t. This production is a lot edgier. From the moment the Dreamgirls open the show, it’s already sassier.
What’s your next play going to be about?
When I write, I usually start by observing what’s going on in Singapore, what intrigues (or irks) people and if there are any shifts in social norms. I just enjoy exploring the comedic potential. We all need to laugh at ourselves once in a while.