Restaging Past Perfect - An Interview with Casey Lim & Robin Loon


This October, The Vault: Past Perfect returns after its first run under the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) in May 2023. We say farewell to two of the original performers, while Nelson Chia, Oniatta Effendi, and Serene Chen gather once more to reflect on their journey through theatre in the 1990s. A new script brings us more tidbits and artefacts from the 90s - a decade of growth and experimentation in Singapore theatre - and expanded scenes! 

Three actors standing in a line on a white sheet, reading from music stands.

Nelson Chia, Oniatta Effendi and Serene Chen performing in the SIFA-X edition of The Vault: Past Perfect.

Find out more about the process of restaging The Vault: Past Perfect in this behind-the-scenes interview with conceptualisers Casey Lim and Robin Loon! 

Past Perfect: The Process

The Vault: Past Perfect begins with excerpts from Galileo [i feel the earth move] by Haresh Sharma and Three Fat Virgins Unassembled by Ovidia Yu. Why were these particular excerpts chosen to open the play?

Casey & Robin: The prologue of the play needs to provide context for present-day audiences in 2023, learning about theatre in the 90s. This assumes that the audience has little, or even no, knowledge or experience of theatre in those days, and it is up to the prologue to provide some of that knowledge. 

The excerpt from Galileo introduces a window into the socio-economic situation in the 90s, and provides a playful and ironic frame for the rest of the play. The next excerpt from Three Fat Virgins Unassembled introduces the idea of theatre-making and role-playing, which was one of the most prevalent ways that theatre in the 90s provided ironic commentary on Singapore society. 

Click below for more information about Galileo and Three Fat Virgins Unassembled!

For this restaging of The Vault: Past Perfect, you have chosen to include excerpts from three additional plays: Three Fat Virgins Unassembled by Ovidia Yu, Private Parts by Michael Chiang, and Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral by Kuo Pao Kun. Why were these three plays chosen? 

We chose to include an excerpt from Three Fat Virgins Unassembled as its form and genre were extremely innovative for the 90s - it was a breakthrough in the scene at that point. Private Parts, on the other hand, had a cleverly crafted text and gripping subtext and sense of humour. Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral featured a unique use of mythology and story-telling. All three excerpts represent something very unique about theatre in the 90s. They each demonstrate a clear and confident artistic voice through the choice of topics and form. They all deal with the challenging of social and cultural norms of the time, and feature a vision of the present and the future - a very hopeful future. 

Click below for more information about Private Parts and Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral!

Could you share more about the artistic decision to interweave the excerpts with the actors' personal recounts? 

The excerpts selected for The Vault: Past Perfect not only exhibit the various topics, themes and genres with which theatre practitioners in the 90s engaged. They are also meant to augment the actors' personal stories, and underscore their story-telling with representations of the larger implications of what it meant to create theatre in the 90s. They ensure this restaging does not become too personality-centred - after all, the intention is to explore the wider context of theatre and theatre-making in the 90s. 

The personal narratives told by the three actors are undoubtedly important, and we deeply value the stories they will tell. Providing historical context, however, will elevate these stories into explorations of our cultural narrative. The excerpts will help to frame the stories, and give audiences a fuller picture of Singapore theatre in the 90s. 

A male-presenting person presenting against a whiteboard, with another person watching him from a distance.

Casey and Robin conceptualising and discussing the script for first run of The Vault: Past Perfect.

Which play would you consider to be the most iconic or representative of the 90s, and why?

We'd say Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral - both the English and Chinese versions. Both iterations of the text broke taboos and limits of performance and theatre genres, to the point that many people have criticised Descendants for not being a play so much as a collection of vignettes. But its commentary and insight into Singapore, then and now, belies its fragmented structure. It is a prophetic and edifying play. 

What do you hope audiences of this restaging will take away about theatre-making in the 90s?

We will not be placing expectations on the audience - our only wish is for them to come and listen to the stories told by the actors, and remember them after they leave. What they take away from the production is up to them. 

The Vault: Past Perfect will run from 25 – 29 October 2023 at the Black Box, 42 Waterloo Street. Get your tickets here!

Published: 18 September 2023 

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The Vault: Past Perfect
The Vault: Past Perfect returns after its first run under the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) in May 2023. This time, expect more tidbits and artefacts from the 90s - a decade of growth and experimentation in Singapore theatre, and expanded scenes! 3 actors gather and they reflect on their journey through Theatre in the 1990s. With 20/20 hindsight, what did it mean to DO theatre in the 1990s? Why did they do what they do and more importantly, how? Without any rose-tinted glass, no mi
21 May 2024