Monday, December 31, 2007

Run for Cover

Enoch wants to reprint my poetry collection, last boy. Enoch wants a new image for the cover.

Preferably I'd like to use an image by a Singapore artist - the last image was by Brian Gothong Tan, a reworking of this graphic:

I could use one of his works again, but it'd be cooler to find a new image... the themes of the book are youth and a multicultural/homosexual coming of age...

Any suggestions?

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Queer Singapore Literature Talk with Writers Johann S. Lee + Me


An Afternoon with Johann S Lee
(Author of 'Peculiar Chris' and 'To Know Where I'm Coming From')
& Ng Yi-Sheng
(Poet and playwright, also known for his documentary book, 'SQ21: Singapore Queers in the 21st Century')

Saturday, 29 December 2007
Pelangi Pride Centre @ Bianco (21 Tanjong Pagar Rd, Level 4)

Pelangi Pride Centre is proud to present a special event on the last
Saturday of 2007 - an afternoon with author, Johann S Lee, and
Ng Yi-Sheng, poet and playwright.

Many of us will remember with great nostalgia, the feeling of reading
Singapore's first gay novel, 'Peculiar Chris' when it was released in 1992.
Relive your first furtive glances at Singaporean gay literature in this
afternoon with the author.

Also get a chance to quiz Johann about the motivations in writing his second
novel 'To Know Where I'm Coming From'. Why did he take so long before
penning this second book?

Yi-Sheng (who majored in Comparative Literature & Writing at Columbia
University USA and curated IndigNation), together with Johann, will
facilitate a discussion around the relevance of Singapore gay fiction.

Join us on Saturday, 29 December at Pelangi Pride Centre,
for an informal and interactive afternoon.

About Johann's Latest Book: 'To Know Where I'm Coming From'

"A gripping story of love, caught between the gay worlds of London and
Singapore, unashamedly describing queer life as it is today: sexy and
sordid, romantic and political, frustrated and ecstatic."
- Ng Yi-Sheng, poet and playwright

"Hauntedly captivating and quietly powerful. Set against a diorama of
nostalgia and irresistible change, Lee observantly explores the ache of
falling in love and falling apart. For a Singapore which has evolved since
Peculiar Chris, Lee's assured second novel revisits the notions of choice
and choosing in a manner which, to his readers, has become not just
necessary, but imperative."
- Daren Shiau, author

"Read his novel... for its sheer honesty and at times heart wrenching
moments... Its importance in staking a claim in the territory of the
narrative of the overseas gay Singaporean male as well as the matured
Singaporean gay male experience, is not to be underestimated."

"To read this book is not just to know where the author is coming from, but
to recognise, as gay people in a postmodern Asia, ourselves. How we love,
where we hope to go. Who we are."

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I Am a Face to Watch

We've all had a good laugh about this article - it describes me as "a writer with a finger in every pie", and god knows that's the truth - and they haven't even documented my theatre review work, my performance poetry, my experimental poetry and my multimedia collaborations with VISTA Lab. (Coincidentally, Torrance Goh, our VISTA set designer, got named as a face to watch in this week's design and fashion segment. Woot, but by the time the papers recognise it, it's already old news.)

It's very good company to be in - choreographer/dancer/artist/interdisciplinarian/JC teacher Daniel K, curators Low Sze Wee, Matthew Ngui and Joselina Cruz, and actress Mindee Ong of 881 - who, incidentally, is described at being best at playing "women who are down but not out". Giggle giggle.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Reading in Kuala Lumpur

I'll be having a reading tomorrow (Sunday 9 December) in KL:

“Wayang Kata V”

Poetry performance at night with Charlie Dark (UK), Chris Mooney-Singh, Pooja Nansi, Ng Yi-Sheng and Bani Haykal (Singapore) and Priya Kulasagaran, Liyana Yusof, Divya Jiwa and Jerome Kugan (Malaysia). Presented by British Council and the Troubagangers.

Sunday 9 December

No Black Tie
17 Jalan Mesui
Off Jalan Nagasari, Tel: 2142 3737).

Presented by TheatreWorks
A Process-Presentation by
Choy Ka Fai
In collaboration with
_Joavien Ng _ Mohd Fared Jainal,
_Patricia Toh _Ling Hock Siang
_Ng Yi-Sheng _Zulkifle Mahmod,
_Khoo Eng Tat _GraceTan/kwodrent,
_Lim Woan Wen _Torrance Goh/FARMWORK.

Date : 14-15 Dec 2007
Time : 8pm
Venue: 72-13
Admission: $5

For Reservations ring 6737 7213 or email :
**There will be a Q & A session after the presentations.

INTERFERENCE is about unwanted signals that disrupt or construct movements of nature. It is about the interventions of patterns in history, time, signal and noise.

INTERFERENCE explores the concept of listening to the noise of history: moments which are insignificant in our collective memory. This presentation researches our techniques of remembering and the recollections of irrelevant episodes of unrecorded history.

INTERFERENCE is a space as well as an organism. This mediated space functions as an interactive installation and a performance environment where moving bodies, electronic sounds, visual documents and light are interwoven into a constantly changing artefact of unhistorical events.

If history is signal, then time itself must be recognized as noise: an infinitely complex mess of data that resists interpretation.
Our project is therefore to listen to the noise of history, moments, which yield no discernible signal: the insignificant events.
Herein lies a paradox. As artists, as humans, we have a natural impulse to transmute chaos into art.
Is our goal then to reclaim the forgotten into the field of recorded time?
Or should we resist, in our representations of insignificant events, our instinct to render them significant?

Conceived and created by Choy Ka Fai, V.I.S.T.A Lab is a series of presentations
resulting from workshop and experiments with the 10 Singapore-based artist/designer across the wide spectrum of artistic discipline. This project is based on the central theme of re-looking at historical events that escapes our people’s memories, seemingly deemed insignificant in our invention of a vibrant, global city. We are interested in the lapses of our recent histories and the understanding of the past to imagine the future.

INTERFERENCE is the second of three presentations of V.I.S.T.A Lab Cycle 1; the third presentations will be held in February 2008.

**For more informations please visit

Supported by
National Arts Council, Lee Foundation, Hong Leong Foundation,
72-13, Web-vision and Power98

With additional support by
Mixed Reality Lab, NUS

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Launch of OVER THERE: Poems from Singapore and Australia

Yeah, I'm awful. Forgot to tell people about this. Well, might as well blog it so it looks like I'm professional enough to inform my adoring fans.

(Incidentally, why did they have to use they nekkid photo of me in the papers today? I mean, seriously?)
6 Dec 2007 (TODAY!!!)
The Arts House (Earshot).

Edited by John Kinsella and Alvin Pang, the volume features over 150 pages of poetry from each territory, including new and recent material from some of the most prominent living poets in Singapore and Australia. We are especially pleased to be able to include new work from Lee Tzu Pheng, Madeleine Lee, Ng Yi-Sheng, Enoch Ng Kwang Cheng, Teng QianXi, Kirpal Singh, Edwin Thumboo, Toh Hsien Min, Cyril Wong, Robert Yeo and a host of others.

Australian editor John Kinsella has flown in just for the launch -- and we hope to see all of you there in support of what we believe will be another groundbreaking anthology.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Singapore Writers Festival + A Curious Stranger

Next few days I'll be ankle-deep in the:

Not that I'm an invited writer, but Chris Mooney-Singh's roped me in to help out with the poetry slam activities. Will be slamming alongside him, Bani Haykal and Charlie Dark of the UK, plus hopefully Sharanya Maivannan of Malaysia and some Taipei poets. Now if only I really had a repertoire of slam, that'd be nice.

Oh, I'm a fraud of a poet, I am. But that doesn't mean that odd little incidences don't happen as a result.

Meet Jens Grunwald, f'rinstance. He e-mailed me a coupla days ago saying he was a fan of mine who'd tried to buy last boy in Singapore last time he'd come, but hadn't succeeded. I arranged to meet him in BooksActually on their 2nd birthday to push my favourite indie bookstore onto a 1st world economy bibliophile; we met up and he told me the whole story: he'd been fired from his old job, gone moping off to Singapore, wandered into Borders because he just luvs being surrounded by books, picked up last boy by chance, loved one particular Wilfred Owen line I used in my cento, then found out at the cash register that the sonofabitches at his company had cancelled his credit card, null and void; he had to bum a ride off a friend to get back to the airport, he was that cashless.

And thus he vowed that he would, some day, return to Singapore and contact the author of last boy and tell him of that black day when he was reduced to abject poverty in Orchard Road. Crikey.

Anyway, now he's salesman for some MNC that peddles paraphernalia to Central Asia and Europe and Chile and now wow Singapore, so he took a break from the Singapore Design Festival setup to eat muffins and tea with me at 125A Telok Ayer Street, where I was sure to push as many Cyril Wong books on him as poss (as well as peddling a copy of SQ21). Everyone was there, so it was pretty chummy:

From left to right: me, Jason Wee, Jens and Michelle Quah, who proudly told Jens that she was one of the named few I dedicated last boy to in the first place. I drew Jens a smiley-sun on the title page with a doggie and pussycat bearing flowers in their teeth. He'll be back again. Incidentally, he's the spitting image of a blond version of my friend Dylan Stillwood from New York.

Anyhoo, on Sat 1 December I'll be hosting a Poetry Slam at 1pm at the National Museum, then attending a poetry workshop from 4-5pm, after which I'll attend the Word Forward book launch and rush off for Eeshaun's wedding and hop over for Rojak 10. On Sun 2 December a 1-5pm workshop at the British Council; then on Monday night 7pm a slam at the Arts House, then on Sunday 9 Dec I'll be in KL doing an international slam, wah lau.

Plus I have the ACS commemorative book to brush up and a semi-pornographic AIDS awareness pamphlet to copywrite. In addition, I am growing a moustache. More on that later.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

ROJAK 10: The Collaborative Edition

My art collective VISTA Lab is gonna be featured in the next edition of ROJAK this Saturday night:

Dear friends,

Welcome to ROJAK 10: The Collaborative Edition! (in conjunction with the Singapore Design Festival 2007 and the inaugural ArchiFest 2007)

Head down to the historic City Hall Building (Level 3: Chamber) this coming Saturday, 1 December at 8pm. The venue is kindly hosted by Singapore Institute of Architects.

This special edition of ROJAK will feature 5 works of a collaborative nature spanning the fields of architecture, product design, film, theatre, performance art and multimedia.

And they are Magical Spaces: Adib J, Yeo Jia-Jun, Rofan Teo, outofstock: Wendy Chua & Gabriel Tan, V.I.S.T.A. Lab: Ka Fai with various artists, Loo Zihan & Ruby Pan and syntfarm: Vladimir Todorovic & Andreas Schlegel.

The uber-cool invite artwork is by JUN from UFHO.

Like always, please bring drinks to share for the ROJAK dingy and spread the ROJAK sharing spirit :)

See you there! :)

Thanks for reading :)

FARM is a nonprofit Singapore society
that grows systems for the Singaporean creative community.
Visit FARM today!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Flying Circus Project 2007: TRAVELOGUE

I'm a professional blogger too, now! I'm the official textual documenter of this event for Theatreworks, and I'll be mingling and interviewing the artists throughout the festival in both Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City over the next week and a half. Keep updated about me at

The list of events is as follows. To attend, call +65-67377213 or to get your name on the guest list. Also buzz them if you want to do interviews with participants or for observership.

31 Oct, 8 pm
Opening Exhibition of two video installations,
Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Towards the Complex - For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards (2001) and Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas: Battle of Easel Point - Memorial Project Okinawa (2003) by Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba

Performance by Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky

At 72-13.

02 Nov, 7 pm

Artist Presentations under the moonlight on Pulau Ubin

** For events on Pulau Ubin, the public is advised to be at the Pulau Ubin Jetty 30 minutes before the start of the event. Audiences will be ferried to the respective venue on the island.

03 Nov, 11am - 04 Nov, 1am

Superintense is a marathon of personal strategies of creativity in the urban context, in our worlds. From one morning to the next, all the FCP artists will have an hour each to present their work, their practice to themselves and a public audience. A table, a projector, a microphone, an audience; which can all be recontructed into an open space – the same conditions are given to each artist. They are invited to share their practice with the audience; past work, present work, future work. It can take the form of a talk, a lecture demonstration, a performance, slides, a video, a dj session, a workshop, a discussion. Without a break, all the artists relentlessly articulate their practice, communicating an insight to the myriad ways of inhabiting, dissolving, thinking, making, living, destroying, rejuvenating. An actor, an audience, a shared space. Take a cigarette pause on the run.

At 72-13.

Monday, October 29, 2007

¿Y sí olvidaras suicidarte a mitad de la historia?

¡Caramba! ¡I’ve been translated into Spanish!

My poem "Ne Zha", to be precise, by the blogger No Plaztik Mach!n, who seems to dig Asian culture in general - I don't think I know the guy, and I don't know where he got the poem from, but I'm immensely flattered.

(Incidentally, my publisher Enoch says he's translated me into Chinese too, but he never gets round to uploading those pieces. Puta de madre.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

VISTA LAB 1.0: IMPETUS on Youtube!

Our first workshop presentation, caught in rapid-succession photo stills. That's me in the weird Chinese opera-cum-Rafflesian schoolboy outfit.

Friday, September 21, 2007

TheatreWorks presents:
V.I.S.T.A Lab 1.0: IMPETUS
By Choy Ka Fai, Zulkifle Mahmod, Ng Yi-Sheng, Torrance Goh/FARMWORK, Patricia Toh and Joavien Ng (feat graphic design by Fared Jainal)

UPDATE: We has a BLOG!

Several historical events escaped people’s memories, seemingly deemed insignificant in our invention of a vibrant, global city. With the aid of self-made and customised audio-visual devices, this multi-disciplinary presentation explores how these occurrences could be recorded, forgotten and fabricated, focusing on the moments and impulses before they transpired.

The collaborating creatives are Zulkifie Mahmod (Sound Artist), Ng Yi-Sheng (Writer), Torrance Goh/FARMWORK (Space Maker), Patricia Toh (Actress/Performer), Joavien Ng (Choreographer/Performer), Mohd Fared Jainal (Graphic Designer/Performer), Khoo Eng Tat (Interaction Engineer/Designer), Lim Hock Siang (Musician), Grace Tan/Kwodrent (Clothing Designer) and Andy Lim (Lighting Designer).

Conceived and created by Ka Fai, V.I.S.T.A Lab is a series of workshops that encourage interaction among the collaborating artists, who each produces unconventional works in their respective fields. Besides IMPETUS, two other productions under V.I.S.T.A Lab will be staged in December 2007 and February 2008.

Date : 21, 22 September 2007
Time : 8pm
Venue : 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Rd (located next to The Pier) Singapore 239007
Admission: $5

To book seats, ring: 6737 7213 or email :

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

VISTA kena censored!

MDA contacted Theatreworks and asked for us to remove one line of my Confucian timeline poem/monologue from our "Impetus" performance. (Ka Fai says he's never had any problems before with his performances... but this time the MDA specifically requested a copy of the script. Am I officially known as a troublemaker already? :/ Mixed feelings.)

The line cryptically referenced the 1982 death of Wong Ming Yang - Lee Hsien Loong's first wife, who had a fatal heart attack 3 weeks after giving birth to their albino son Lee Yi Peng.

Have to change the line to maintain its rhythmic value. Some loss of semiotic impact inevitable. Sigh.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Like I said on my personal blog, Torrance and Willie from invited me to design the invite for the quarterly artists' and designers' forum Rojak 09. And here it is:

The design's based on Chua Mia Tee's "National Language Class", of course. The event'll be held at the Central Green Patch of the new LaSalle campus, with socialising from 8pm and presentations from 9pm till late. Bring drinks!

And since we're at it, I'll show you some of the other pastiche designs they turned down:

Based on Raphael's "The School of Athens" (with Leonardo and Diogenes as our interlocutors).

Based on Rembrandt's "The Anatomy Lesson of Nicholaes Van Tulp". I liked this one best, personally. Let the dead work speak for itself.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Let's talk about love
The third ContraDiction event will focus on lesser-known poets and musicians.

Ftw! Stephanie Yap actually managed to get ContraDiction 3 advertised in the Sunday Times! 12 August 2007, L25. Sappy headline, but that's ST branding apparently. :P

Love will take centrestage at poetry and music event ContraDiction – including its myriad joys and heartbreaks.

Now in its third year, the annual event celebrating gender and sexuality will be held at arts venue 72-13 this Sunday.

Curating the event this year is poet and playwright Ng Yi-sheng, whose recently staged works include the musical Georgette and the play 251.

Ng, 27, who participated as a reader in previous years, says that this year's event differs from past ones due to its even gender distribution.

While five women and five men will be performing on Sunday, including STOMP star blogger Maia Lee, Ng says the event was testosterone-driven in previous years.

"There are more published writers and poets who are male than female, so I'm glad we've got more women readers this time," says Ng, himself a published writer who will read from his debut poetry collection, Last Boy.

Another change this year is the absence of established writers like Cyril Wong and Alfiaan Sa'at, who both participated in previous readings.

Says Ng: "I want the focus to be on lesser-known artists, as well as people not traditionally considered writers."

Thus, he has rounded up budding poets like Foyle Young Poet Teng Qianxi, musicians like singer-songwriter Iris Judotter, and even bloggers like Maia Lee and Lee Gwo Yinn.

Another participant is civil servant Chan Sze Wei, who works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chan, 27, will be reading "two little love poems" – one about falling
in love and the other about breaking up.

An extract from a play she wrote last year with the Singapore Repertory Theatre Young Company, about teenage depression, will also be performed.

She hopes the audience will be touched by the stories they hear: "I hope that for each audience member, there will be something in the stories and ideas that will resonate with them, something that they'll take away with them as a new gift."

ContraDiction is on this Sunday at 7:30pm at TheatreWorks, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. Admission is free. Rated R-18.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ContraDiction 3: A Queer Literary Evening

An evening of queer writing - including poetry, drama, blog entries and songs. Readers will include myself, Teng Qian Xi, Chan Sze-Wei, Zhuang Yisa and Maia Lee. Also featured will be original music composed and performed by Iris Judotter and Yak Aik Wee.

Licence from MDA approved. Rated R18.

Date: Sunday, 12 August 2007
Time: 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Venue: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

Thursday, August 02, 2007


For the short story that MDA banned, please click here - Alex Au's posted it on Yawning Bread.

I wrote it for the "Tall Tales and Short Stories" event on Sunday. I won't be able to read it at this point, but come anyway - Ovidia Yu will be reading from her story "Pierced Years" and I'll be giving a talk, because indoor talks do not require a licence.

"Tall Tales and Short Stories"
Organised by
Sunday, 5 August

72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road

Below is the rejection letter we received:

CC: Amy TSANG <>, Liane LOO <>,
Norsabariah TUBI <>
Subject: Arts Entertainment licence - "Tall Tales and Short Stories"
From: Veronica Vivien LOOI <>
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 14:25:02 +0800

Dear Ms Chong

Your application for a story reading session, entitled "Tall Tales and Short Stories", has been approved on condition that the reading of Lee Low Tar is taken out

The content of Lee Low Tar has been disallowed as it had gone beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers.



There's a small parallel case here of Tan Tarn How's play "The Lady of Soul and the Ultimate S-Machine", which was not permitted to be staged for some time because (among various reasons) its main character was a male civil servant who was having an affair with a male Minister-of-State.

But it's a different Singapore now. The arts scene has progressed to an extent where people (including journalists) are interested in the cases of censored work, and the Internet's technologies allow banned texts to be distributed freely (go watch Royston Tan's "Cut" on, or Martyn See's "Zahari's 17 Years" on googlevideo, or Tan Pin Pin's "Lurve Me Now" on her university's site).

And while a filmmaker or stage director will suffer large financial setbacks if his/her work is banned for screening/performance - a writer loses very little. Isn't that odd? (Authorities may now try and prove me wrong by making it difficult for me to have future works staged - maybe they'll claim "Georgette" espouses Marxist values?)

This being said, "Lee Low Tar" is an amateur piece of writing - I am not an experienced short story author, after all. And the entire setup is, on a certain level, a wanky artistic gesture, an attention-getting device (compare with the works of Lim Tzay Chuen). And it may hurt the gay movement or the socially-engaged arts community in the long run. I don't know.

But I do like how it works in testing the bureaucratic systems of censorship we have in this country - they are such strange, antiquated, self-sabotaging entities, like warthogs on Pulau Tekong, that it seems to be vital to engage with them before they go extinct (which they will, dear children, they will - someday they'll set up the artist-run system of self-appraisal based on ratings systems rather than muzzling, just like FOCAS suggested).

You see, yes, censorship is violent and stupid.

But it is possible to dance with violent and stupid people.

I gave MDA a test, and they failed it. I'm not the victim. They are.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

INDIGNATION 2007 (update! My story kena banned!)

Heya! I'm involved in two events for IndigNation, our Queer Pride Festival- doing a short story reading with Ovidia Yu on Sunday 5th August and organising/curating ContraDiction, a poetry/literary/music performance on Sunday 12 August, both at 7:30pm at 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road.

MDA licences pending. And really, we can't take anything for granted - they just banned Alex Au's Kissing Project photo display, according to the calendar. Not unexpected - the point for us is to keep on pushing the limits, to keep on challenging the unjustified rules until they change.

UPDATE (31/7.07): Jean Ng of Sayoni got a call from Veronica Looi at MDA saying that my short story was not approved for licensing. (Poor Veronica, she's only an Admin Assistant but she has to deliver the dirty news with all her bosses - she's been involved in several bans for IndigNation over the years. How can she live with herself? Especially when she never even gets to read the things she bans.) We might have a mass reading of the short story, though.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Love Slave Slam!

I'm hosting a poetry slam at Zouk tonight! Will be dressed in accordance with the theme.

Please come and join us for The Love-Slam Slam, a celebration of love and eros - poetry that stirs the passions. Who is a slave to love, who is your love-slave? Bring your special friends and meet new one in this special edition of the Singapore Poetry Slam™ this Tues, 7.30pm. Full details below.

Slam Host: Ng Yi Sheng
Singer-songwriter Anjana Vasan
The Lady and the Vamp,' A short film by Shaun Koh
Share your poems originals and covers
Chris Mooney Singh, Programme Director
Word Forward

The Love-Slave Slam
Tues 31 July 07
Velvet Underground, Zouk
7,30-10pm, Smart Casual
A Non-Smoking Event
$10, drinks 1+1
(Under 18s must register at the Slam Desk)
Slammers and open mic readers must register at the Slam Desk

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Photos by Yish

Until my 2-month iWeb trial offer runs out, I've got my weirdo conceptual photos up at Do check it out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Peculiar Inspirations

Oh dear... My appearance at the Arts and Life Forum for Asian Boys Volume 3 kena clash with my SDEA play. :( I'll be speaking with a few other guests, including poet Teng Qian Xi...

Sunday 29 July 5.30pm
PECULIAR INSPIRATIONS: The Muse - Of Sirens And Tyrants
Many of our artists have been greatly influenced by other Singaporean artists. From actual mentors to literary forebears, the creative process often involves a dialogue with the past. But how do we engage with traditions without inheriting its baggage? Do we climb on the shoulders of giants, or find our dwarfed selves obscured by their long shadows?

We round up a group of artists--poets, playwrights and filmmakers, to discuss the book, the play, or the film, that first made then want to embark on their artistic careers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

"Frostbite" to be performed on Sunday 29 July as part of SDEA's "Celebrate Drama"

"Frostbite", the suicidal 10-minute play I wrote in college and submitted for Short and Sweet, is going up at the Arts House next Sunday. It's directed by Andrew Lua, as part of an event organised by Singapore Drama Educators' Association - further details of the lineup here.

Sunday 29 July @ 5pm, Arts House

*ACJC - Bang Bang You're Dead by William Mastrosimone ( Produced with licensed permission from the author)

Bang Bang You're Dead is a thoughtful and provocative examination of the inner world of a young killer in the wake of a horrific school shooting. The motivations are twisted and obfuscated and the intent behind the deed remains shrouded by ego as well as despair. ACSian theatre invites the audience to unravel the mystery of teenage angst and malcontent and why it erupts into murderous rampage and soul destroying alienation. Bang Bang Your'e Dead was written in 1999 in memorial to the various teenage dead of school killings in the United States. It remains a painfully relevant piece of work in the light of the death at Virginia Tech, USA, in 2007.

*Two ten-minuters: Fat and Frostbite

Fat, written by Dew M. Chaiyanara, was first performed at Short & Sweet Festival 2007 in its Top 20 category. The play won the hearts of the audience with its honest yet funny tale of a girl’s struggle with being fat in a “perfectly thin” society. Meanwhile, Frostbite, also shown at the Short & Sweet Festival Top 20 category, takes a dark and ironic look at those seemingly unstoppable voices in our heads. What happens when these voices become too much to endure? Can we turn them off, distract them by conjuring tricks and chastise them with our screams? How do we make them stop? Frostbite is written by Ng Yi-Sheng. His plays Hungry and Serve were staged in Celebrate Drama 2005 and 2006 respectively

Friday, June 29, 2007

World Interplay!

Just so people don't call my phone: from 3 to 17 July, I'll be at World Interplay, the world's biggest international festival /workshop for young playwrights.

I was picked by Ivan Heng as a delegate (yes they seriously call us that) to represent Singapore, together with Cheryl Lee of Buds Youth Theatre and Laremy Lee. (I got review Cheryl's play "Size00" for Straits Times before, as part of the triplebill "From Scratch"! I hope she has the clipping!)

More info about the event here. It's reserved for playwrights aged 18-26, so I *just* qualify as young enough to go.

It's also a biannual event, so hopefully there's an opportunity in the future for other young deserving writers in their early 20's to go. I mean, how come I got picked but not Zizi Abdul Majid or Jocelyn Chua, both of whom are far more immersed in the theatre world than I am? (And who've written plays *far* more polished than 251, may I add.)

I'll be workshopping "The Final Temptation of Stamford Raffles". My workshop tutors are from the UK, Australia and Turkey. Hopefully, I'll have time to blog.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Train
Cho-In Theatre
Esplanade Theatre Studio
Saturday [23 June 2007]
Ng Yi-Sheng

This review was first published in the Straits Times Life! Section circa Tuesday 26 June 2007.

Back in 1998, director Park Chung-euy began to develop a new style of drama, drawing from both Korean traditions of masked dance and modern Western techniques of physical theatre. The Train was his first production using this new dramatic language, and it remains effective after nine years: a bittersweet tale of hope and desperation, told through mime and music.

The play is set in a train station during wartime. An old magician and his wife arrive in tattered hanboks, eager to flee the surroundings, but they find they have lost their tickets and must beg alongside the two orphan children who live there.

Although the narrative is slow up to this point, it picks up as the train unloads its passengers and the four characters compete as beggars – the mad scramble for tricks to hold the attention of the different passers-by allows the accomplished cast of seven to excel at their feats of acrobatics and clowning, amusing child and adult alike in the audience.

But The Train – despite its billing as a mime performance – is not a work of children’s theatre. Darker elements are present: the train passengers include lecherous sailors, corrupt colonels, even a terrorist holding a bomb in the shape of the Earth. Suffering is evident in the quiet agony of the old magician as he slowly, painstakingly stands on his head to earn a spectator’s coin. Even prostitution is hinted at, as the females try to pretty themselves up for the passers-by. Most nightmarish is the figure of the pimp - a woman in boots, cracking a whip, who extorts the children’s money and physically abuses them. Poverty is not merely material for laughter here; it is genuinely frightening.

There is thus a darkness that suffuses this play, as the beggars wait in despair as the trains, with all their promise of escape, enter and leave the station, attended by sinister, faceless conductors. Yet there is also a great spirit of hope and redemption, as the magicians use music to revive the abused children, and demonstrate forgiveness to even the pimp.

Cho-In Theatre has achieved a strangely beautiful fusion of several things in this piece: here is the subtlety and intelligence of social realism blended with the untempered joy and terror of pantomime; the grand scope of epic theatre beside the gentle goofiness of slapstick. Certainly, Park’s new theatrical style has the power to move.

Monday, June 18, 2007

ContraDiction 3

Hey All,

I'm curating an event for IndigNation: a queer literary night, where we'll be reading bits of poems, plays, songs, stories and blog entries by and/or about queer people in Singapore. It'll be held on the night of Sunday, 12 August, 2007, at 72-13 home of Theatreworks.

Anyone who wants to be involved, please e-mail me entries and enquiries by next Saturday, 23 June 2007.

You don't have to be queer to read, but we are specifically hoping to give exposure to overlooked voices in the community - very interested in the writings of queer women and non-Chinese writers in Singapore, for example, as well as hoping to portray a variety of generations and genres.

A bit of background: the first year, ContraDiction was held at Utterly Art, and the second year it was held at Mox. Both events commanded a large turnout, and featured readings by mostly emerging queer poets (the only published ones have been myself, Cyril Wong and Alfian Sa'at).

There's more info on previous ContraDiction events here:

Hope to hear from ya!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ST Life!, Tuesday 12 June 2007

This Georgette is witty

This musical about the life of art pioneer Georgette Chen says much with little
Stephanie Yap

There's just something about a woman looking enigmatically out of a painting that seems to fire the imaginations of storytellers from print to screen.

Georgette, about the life of art pioneer Georgette Chen before she came to Singapore in her late 40s, is an exquisite work of theatrical art that mixes whimsy with wit and a sizeable dose of pathos.

Opening with the ensemble contemplating the "woman on the wall" – a slide projection of Chen's iconic self-portrait – we are soon brought to the gay Paris of the late 1920s, where a young Chen (Seong Hui Xuan) has arrived to become an artist, though her fat-cat parents are on hand to cramp her style.

There, the rebellious young woman falls in love with the Chinese foreign minister Eugene Chen, beginning a partnership that was ended by the ravages of World War II.

This no-frills staging had a cast of 11 accompanied by music director Chris Nolan on piano, in a manner charmingly reminiscent of café theatre.

Local composer Clement Yang's melodies are lush, haunting and emotionally varied, from the Caribbean-flavoured Islands In The Sun to the sweet and simple love song Always Together and the gorgeous anthem to art, Bowl of Fruit.

Meanwhile, playwright Ng Yi-Sheng must be lauded for his economy. His scenes never go on for too long, and he supplies the sharpest lines that establish his characters' personalities quickly while entertaining the audience.

"I'm not beautiful," sings Eugene self-effacingly during their courtship. "But that's modern art," retorts Georgette.

The omniscient narrator (Lina Lim) is useful at the start as she helps with the introductions, but peters into insignificance as the show runs its course.

As for Chen, she is portrayed as both plucky and lucky, a sympathetic yet initially self-centred character whose motivations, both artistic and personal, warrant more examination than was given.

To the creative team's credit, they dared to poke fun at their heroine, such as in a hilarious moment when she flounces out of her parents' house denouncing them as outmoded aristocrats – even as she ignores the rows of servants who obligingly back out of her way.

Seong, with her almond-shaped eyes and delicate features, looks astounding like Chen's self-portrait. The actress also has a compelling, self-possessed presence and a lovely contralto voice, and it is a great pity that she gets anything close to a show-stopping solo only in the second half of the show.

Eu Jin Hwang as Eugene Chen impressed with a chocolately tenor and effortless gravitas, while as Chen's parents, C.C. Leong's woundrously large head and Joyce Liang's tai-tai look were perfect physical manifestations of their character's personalities, though one feels that the duo could have hammed it up even more. Indeed, it seemed at times as if the entire cast, directed by Lee Yew Moon, was only singing and acting at half-power.

Still, this elegant musical, saying much with little, is a breath of fresh air in Singapore's musical theatre scene.

Today, Tuesday June 12, 2007

Short, but sweet
Musical on Georgette Chen packs in the laughs, while it lasts
by Juliana June Rasul

Going by the young Georgette Chen's early declaration that she wants to be an artist who "sets fire to cathedrals ... and dies of opium poisoning", laughs are the last thing you'd expect from a production of her life story.

And yet Musical Theatre Limited's Georgette, which ran on Saturday and Sunday at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, packs laughs aplenty, albeit for some strange and possibly unintentional reasons.

At one point, to illustrate the pioneering Singapore artist's fight for her work while surrounded by art-shunning communists in China, the ensemble splits into two camps. One rattles off the names of artists like Van Gogh and Picasso, and the other battles back with names of celebrated Marxists like Sun Yat-Sen.

This had the strange effect of reminding this reviewer of the song We Didn't Start the Fire, Billy Joel's names-only rundown of key events of the 20th century.

Meant to be a condensed, no-frills version of what playwright Ng Yi-Sheng hopes to turn into a proper musical, Georgette's brevity leaves little room to explore anything at great length.

Even the romance between Chen (played by Seong Hui Xuan) and her husband Eugene (Eu Jin Hwang), which was meant to be the focus of the musical, gets short shrift.

However, Ng earns some rather well-deserved giggles for art-themed in-jokes such as: "I'm not beautiful ... but that's modern art".

The play's general naughtiness also comes through at times, especially when Chen's father, Mr Zhang (CC Leong), a businessman, proclaims his sense of nouveau riche elitism by rhyming "business class" with "peasants, you can kiss my ****".

Yet even these funny moments add to, rather than diminish, the audience's incredulity at a work that has Chen donning a straw hat and salsa her way through a song celebrating her husband's intriguing early life on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

Georgette: the Feedback

The musical's been absurdly well-received. Kenneth Lyen's provided a run-down of comments from the feedback forms:

"As the flood of congratulations kept on pouring in, the comments that kept on repeating themselves were, firstly, Seong Hui Xuan looked uncannily like Georgette, and secondly, this is one of the best, if not the best, Singapore musicals. Here are some quotations: "Ng Yi-Sheng's lyrics are multi-layered, intelligent, and captured the subtle shifts in emotions." "Clement Yang's music perfectly expressed the humor, the love, the pathos, the conflicts, and above all, the sadness." "I cried at the end of the first act, and again when the father sang the eulogy." "I wanted the musical to go on longer, I didn't want it to end." "Unquestionably, Georgette is a landmark Singapore musical." "This musical is part of National Education, and should be seen by all Singapore schools."

Ampulet's blog: "Later that day, J and I overcame our dislike of musicals and watched

Georgette, a musical by a young writer and a team of "volunteer"/amateur performers. It was surprisingly enjoyable - well-paced, clever funny lyrics, and a spirited performance by the cast."

Lecter's Blog: "A musical. An artist and her romance. A turbulent time and a bowl of fruit. A good performance, a good evening. Georgette worth its admission. Viva La Musical Theatre Limited!"

TimeMaker's Blog: "
The production team isn't exactly world famous. But what caught my attention is the subject of the musical. Georgette Chen is one of the pioneer artists of Singapore. If you didn't know that, then you are probably not in the fine arts circle. I think she was also one of my father's teachers at NAFA. Personally, I like her painting style. But that is no guarantee on the quality of the musical. The more adventurous can give this show a try. If not for anything else, at least you get to learn more about one of Singapore's important art personalities."

Even my friend who gave up watching part of the Federer-Nadal match in the French Open finals, admitted that he was glad he did not miss Georgette. Please allow me to congratulate everyone involved in this brilliant musical! Well done!!!!

Nice, huh? And we've got it in writing too, with a review in the Business Times:

Homegrown musical with great potential
by Charmian Kok
Business Times Monday June 11, 2007

Exploring the life and influences of one of Singapore's most established artists is never an easy task to being with. However, for a relatively small-scale, no-frills musical like Georgette the Musical , writer Ng Yi-Sheng managed to spin a story that is both entertaining and engaging.

Created as part of Musical Theatre Limited's Five Foot Broadway musical incubation programme, Georgette the Musical is based on the life of China-born artist Georgette Chen, and largely centres on the love story with her first husband Eugene Chen.

In the opening act, we are first introduced to Georgette as a Woman on the Wall -- a self-portrait displayed on stage, and also the musical's opening song. From this somewhat serious mood, the scene changes to that of a bustling modern Paris, where Georgette moves to pursue her studies in art. The ensemble cast delivers a playful song, Modern World which sets the light-hearted tone of the first half.

Composer Clement Yang and music director Chris Nolan both did a commendable job, creating a repertoire of songs that drives the plot and provides a window into the characters' world of cross-cultural clashes and modernisation -- especially in the first half of the musical.

The question of East vs West, for example, was explored in a memorable scene set in the house of Georgette's parents -- a privileged and wealthy couple -- over a traditional Chinese dinner. Don't cross your chopsticks , goes the song, describing a long list of Chinese etiquette, that ends with a heated argument between feisty, unconventional Georgette and her more traditional parents.

In the second half of the musical, the theme of clashing cultures was revisited but in a more serious setting -- the communist revolution in China. The romance between Georgette and Eugene also takes on a darker mood, as they get engulfed in the tragic events of the Japanese Occupation.

Seong Hui Xuan, who plays Georgette, brings a vivacious energy to the stage, drawing out the non-conformist aspects of the late artist with conviction. However, the love story between Georgette and Eugene, while touching at times, felt rather undeveloped and somewhat unconvincing. Still, if Seong's portrayal of the romantic side of Georgette lacked tenderness, she did compensate to an extent with some heartfelt singing.

Overall, the musical was more successful in its comical, light-hearted first half, and fell short of delivering the weightier issues of the second half.

Though musicals tend to be lighthearted, works like Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables show that the darker side of life can be explored successfully as well; in this respect, more could have been done to explore the tragedy of Georgette's romance and deeper aspects of her character.

Nevertheless, Georgette the Musical is a surprisingly enjoyable homegrown musical. This engaging Singapore story about a passionate woman and pioneering artist has great potential for further development.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Georgette: Behind the Scenes

The stage is set...

The boys are putting on their makeup...
...and so are the ladies.
Yikes! It's only 7pm, and there's already a queue!
...and the doors are open!
Front-of-house gets busy!
And after the show, people pose for photos. With the Yale Association Chairman, who knew Georgette Chen personally.
He liked it so much he asked to meet Seong Hui Xuan, who played Georgette, to congratulate her. From L to R: Hwang Eu Jin (Eugene Chen), Lina (Narratrix), Hui Xuan, the Chairman himself, me and Stella Kon (President of Musical Theatre Ltd).

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Georgette: the musical

Time to promote my upcoming musical, based on the life of pioneer Singapore artist Georgette Chen!

It was developed by Musical Theatre Ltd under their Five-Foot Broadway programme, scored by Clement Yang (with arrangements by Chris Nolan and Esther Yang), and is being directed by Lee Yew Moon. It was given a thumbs-up by a panel of theatre luminaries - see here.

Esplanade Recital Studio
7:30pm [corrected from 8pm! Matinees cancelled by Esp :( ]
Sat 9 and Sun 10 June 2007
For tickets, click here.

Of course, some of my avant-garde artsy friends have chided me for elevating such a conventional oil painter adverse to innovation, reliant on personal charm and connections for her success - but I like her paintings, dammit. And I'm a sucker for a strong woman.

Go watch; it's not groundbreaking, but it's quite nice.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Today, Friday June 8, 2007, p54

Despite what the paper suggests, the portrait on the left-hand side is not of Georgette Chen herself - it's her painting of some middle-class Chinese family in Singapore. I do like the fact that Today got that pic published tho - it's a terribly interesting case of family portraiture in which the wife takes centrestage as a powerful, intellectual figure and the husband's more of an adjunct to the scene (unless that guy's a really big son or her boy toy).

Am slightly bugged by the fact that the article seemed to concentrate on issues that weren't directly relevant to the production - SQ21 lah, 251 lah, The Final Temptation of Stamford Raffles lah, my pomo artists friends' reservations (which it doesn't elaborate on enough to be meaningful)... also it misquotes my language into gibberish ("I was gratified over all the hoopla over 251"... huh? I think I meant "after").

Also doesn't pay tribute to the other collaborators in the process: the composer Clement Yang, the cute (but alas straight) Australian arranger Chris Nolan, the Australian vocal arranger Nicole Stinton, the actors themselves... But journalism's a tough job to do within the bounds of a 400-word column. And it's a kickass headline! I kena reference James Joyce! Moocow! Baby tuckoo! Yes and yes.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Song for Georgette

Publicity article for "Georgette" in the Straits Times today (Wednesday, June 6, 2007) Life! p10. Plus a very decent photograph of myself and Lee Yew Moon. (Meh, allow me my moments of narcissicism.) Also a nice block of quotes from our lead actress Seong Hui Xuan (hope this'll lead to further roles for her; she's very professional for someone so young.) Huh. It turns out that composer Clement Yang is lead bassist for a band named "Ugly in the Morning". Who knew?

Friday, May 18, 2007

last boy @ the Singapore Book Club

I'm being presented at the Singapore Book Club soon! Kristina Tom is speaking and Robert Yeo is facilitating.

18 May 2007
Earshot Cafe @ The Arts House
1 Old Parliament Lane

Admission is free

I'll be getting some pre-event publicity on LIVE 93.8FM in an interview with deejay Mr Eugene Loh on Monday 14 May, 1:45-2pm. Tune in if you give a shit. :)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


This Saturday I'll be doing a reading of poems from "last boy" as well as my slam repertoire at the Singapore Art Cafe in Library@Esplanade. Of course, copies of the book will be on sale. Hope people can drop by!

Saturday May 5

Monday, April 23, 2007

Short and Sweet

My short ten-minute play "Frostbite" is going up this Wednesday as part of Short and Sweet Singapore, a festival of 10-minute plays. Andrew Lua's directing - he was one of the actors for the staged reading of "The Final Temptation of Stamford Raffles".

Week 2
25 April to 29 April 2007, 8pm
Studio Theatre, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts
Tickets here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


So it's finally the last day of our run for 251, the play I wrote for Toy Factory Theatrical Productions on the life of Annabel Chong that ran for 14 performances from 5 to 15 April at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. I've experienced the ups and downs of theatre and witnessed both the absurdity of commercial theatre hype (we sold out even before the first show!!!!) as well as the thick-headedness of censorship authorities in Singapore (sigh... click here).

Am I proud? Yes, I'm proud. It's a play with 101 flaws, but it's worked for a good proportion of the audience, many of whom are newcomers to theatre. And it's got me a name in the local scene and beyond which I'll be able to milk for a while (sigh... eventually you start thinking like the marketing people).

But for now, I'm skedaddling off to NYC for two weeks! From Sun 15 to Mon 30 April, DO NOT try to call my handphone. I'll be busy trying to peddle my books to the New York public. Wish me luck.