Interview: Faith Ng on being 'Normal'

Back to the old school

Photo: Joel Lim / Calibre pictures

‘There should be ways to define who we are other than how we do in exams’

‘I had a silly fight with my husband a while ago. He made an offhand remark like, “Why are you so stupid?” and I totally snapped. After I calmed down I thought about why I was so angry, and it occurred to me that I was carrying a lot of baggage from my past,’ confesses Faith Ng.

And then, all the unfortunate memories of the time she spent as a Normal (Academic) student came flooding out – like having a teacher lambast her for being ‘stupid’. But rather than let the unhappy thoughts eat her up, she channelled her angst into a play, simply titled Normal. Following two Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) students, Normal is an examination of those who have fallen through the cracks. And yes, it does get personal. She interviewed old classmates and former teachers, and about half of the work is based on actual events.

‘I’m usually quite fast at finishing the draft for a play, but this one took me two years to rework, and I had so many breakdowns!’ says Ng. But seeing it brought to life by the cast under Checkpoint Theatre’s co-artistic director, Claire Wong, made it all worth it. ‘[The way it looks on stage] wasn’t like what I had imagined at all. It’s so much better!’ she smiles.

And while she admits that she didn’t like school, little moments of compassion pulled her through. ‘My twin sister, who was in the Express stream, would slip me notes during breaks with messages like, “I hope you’re doing okay today!”’ Ng recalls. ‘There should be ways to define who we are other than how we do in exams.’