Wong Souk Yee and Chng Suan Tze, playwrights and directors of the defunct Third Stage, are back after more than 20 years’ absence from the Singapore theatre scene. They are bringing you Square Moon, a play about detention without trial, with which they had real-life close encounters.
The staging of Square Moon combines the artistry and commitment of award-winning director Peter Sau and theatre veterans like Lim Kay Siu and Neo Swee Lin as well as some of the most sassy actors and designers of Singapore theatre. Together, they infiltrate the underworld of forced confessions and power shifts.
All hell breaks loose when alleged terrorist, Golden Hartono, breaks out of prison. The Homeland Security Department and its henchmen must find a way to cover up their security blunder. And fast, for Hartono’s lawyer, Kristina Hu, is coming the next day to take instructions from her client to challenge the government for illegal detention. They had another detainee, River Yang, to do a little job for them.
When Kristina visits Hartono (unaware that he has already escaped), she herself is detained when she attempts to call the press over the torture of her client. In detention, Kristina writes statements which incriminate herself. How is she going to be freed?
Six months later, River Yang who is associated with the Liberal Socialist Party gains his freedom when his party wins the general election. He promises Kristina that he will “do his damnedest” to secure her release. Can he?
Of Human Bondage
Can theatre subvert society? This is not an academic question that drama students have to answer but was a George Orwell 1984 moment for me. Four friends and I in the theatre group, Third Stage, were detained in 1987 under the Internal Security Act for allegedly doing just that. During my 15 months of detention, I had plenty of time to ponder over the allegation that I had used Third Stage to “subvert the existing socio-political system” of Singapore. Not that the allegation, even if it were true, would justify my detention.
Fast forward 26 years. I’m testing the waters again. In our society, a fine line separates the oppressor and the victim. Does the oppressor have absolute power and is the victim completely powerless? You decide.
Wong Souk Yee