This was not your typical out of Singapore’s History textbook play. Merdeka/獨立/சுதந்திரம் by W!ld Rice offered a refreshing, passionate take on our colonial past, exceptionally timely for Singapore’s bicentennial year.
The newly launched column-free theatre at Funan Mall made the experience for all six of us an intimate affair since everyone was seated no further than a mere twelve metres away from the stage. My friends and I had our eyes glued to the stage the whole time; as part of our theatre module, we had to write a term essay. However, as we learned, Merdeka made time pass by pleasurably—one theatre principle adhered. We were left with more questions than answers but at the very least, Merdeka presented our history as an argument, not a narrative we were forced to regurgitate back then as secondary school students. Must Raffles fall for us to understand the impact of colonialism in terms of identity and race?
At the tip of the tongue, the Malay word ‘Merdeka’ must mean something to us, at least part of our ancestry and in our DNA. The characters tell untold stories together in our mother tongues: Malay, Mandarin and Tamil (don’t worry, with subtitles, of course). History comes to life with music and dance, backed by playwrights Alfian Sa’at and Neo Hai Bin’s thorough academic research. But this is not without its troubles and tension. Heck, what’s new with that? Aren’t Singaporeans familiar with project work and lately, the sensitive topic on race?
Merdeka tells us that this is the time of the (bicentennial) year for us to check on our roots for the sake of our fruits of labour, so as to achieve progress for our nation.
Merdeka runs until 2 November 2019. Get your tickets at SISTIC here today.