Tapping theatre’s ‘magic’ to discuss racial issues

"Earlier this month, Without Reason by young playwright Sim Yan Ying was staged at the M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival 2017 and tackled inter-racial relationships.

The play portrayed challenges couples face, such as the prejudices of their family members and peers and also their own hidden biases.

Sim, 21, wrote the play to explore issues that arise from living in a multiracial society, which she felt she had not really grappled with while growing up in Special Assistance Plan schools.

“I graduated having no friends of other races besides the acquaintances I made in primary school, and I wasn’t aware of how problematic that was, until I met people of various ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds in the theatre industry. I realised then, how much I didn’t know about people of other ethnicities even though they live in such close proximity to me.

“Hence, I wrote Without Reason as a way for me to explore this problem, to get to know another race better, and to understand my racial privilege,” she said.

Exploring these multiracial themes in theatre also addresses issues that may provoke a deeper thinking and discussion.

“Racial harmony goes beyond producing a National Day music video painting a utopic version of ethnically diverse Singapore, nor should it be simply gauged by the fact that we’ve never had racial riots since the 1960s,” Sim said. “The underlying racial tensions are present in Singapore — we see them erupt on social media sometimes — and just because they don’t manifest themselves in violent ways doesn’t mean that they aren’t as insidious or harmful. Even after we learn how to accept and understand each other — how do we then go beyond merely co-existing, to integrate without losing our sense of individuality?”

Sim wrote Without Reason to join the conversation about these issues."

Reena Devi


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