one-woman show, Emily of Emerald Hill. Emily of Emerald Hill follows Emily, a traditional Peranakan matriarch who runs the very affluent Gan family’s mansion on Emerald Hill (somewhere in the hip areas of Newton and Orchard today). The play takes us back to a time in Singapore not too long ago, when towkays lived in huge, multi-generational mansions in the city centre — Emily herself has to keep an eye on her children, sisters-in-law, and her many servants. The play serves as an interesting insight into the lives of the super-rich.
Emily is an especially compelling character because she is so kiasu in an uniquely Singaporean way. We see her rise from being an abandoned 14 year-old with nowhere else to go to as the lady of the house, presiding over lavish dinner parties and a massive household. We also see her heartbreak as her children leave the nest, and Singapore as she knows it begins to change. The writing itself in this play is unique and very clever, as it has to bring us across several periods in time, using only a beautiful set and Emily’s own actions.
Overall, this piece is the perfect one to launch Wild Rice’s new theatre. Not only is Emily of Emerald Hill the piece that Ivan Heng launched Wild Rice with, it also makes perfect use of the new theatre’s design itself. The theatre is 3 storeys high but every seat is stacked, allowing each viewer to get a good view of the stage. This makes the play an intimate experience, allowing us to feel as if we’ve been invited into Emily’s mansion to hear from Emily herself.