Theatre: Fear Of Writing

Written by Tan Tarn How, directed by Ong Keng Sen

How does one write a political play in Singapore? 
Can a play about the politics of making a political play be un-political? 

Tan Tarn How’s return to the local theatre scene after a decade has resulted in a wry, poignant and stimulating work depicting a playwright’s angst on the subjects of writing, politics and theatre production. In a place where public debate is muted or contained, and where laws curtailing particular forms of creative expression make for torturous reading (one can only begin to imagine the experience of writing them), it almost seems unsurprisingly ‘uniquely Singaporean’ that freedom is broached with fear. 

Caught up with economic ambition, the plight of the creative individual is rarely a teatime topic for the man on the street (who, as the play reminds us, now constitutes a potential assembly). With the good intentions of improving the quality and quantity of cultural expression and its experience, as efforts by government agencies and the development of nationally supported art venues would seem to attest to, why would one fear? Perhaps something else is the proverbial wrench in the works? 

The subject of the play is the writing of a political play, and the play’s playwright struggles privately and publicly (with the producer character) with the task of writing, appearing to just fall short of achieving success, raising the question of the purpose of art, if art cannot reflect life with fearless honesty and vigour. But yet it does. The play, Fear of Writing, does, that is. It takes the bold step, presenting a dramatisation of what can happen when art making becomes fraught with fear, a fear that translates into censorship, by the self, by another, rationalised and put into policy. With an honesty uncharacteristic of politics, Fear of Writing speaks up unafraid, reminding us how important it is that we do too.

(Review by June Yap)

A False Awakening - Straits Times (Download attachment below)
Fear of Writing - Find It, Find Out
Fear of Writing: A commentary on political art and censorship - The Online Citizen

Arts Engage,
Dec 22, 2016, 10:58 PM