The Vault 1.1 – Nineteen Sixty-Four

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Nineteen Sixty-Four, a Centre 42 Vault project that revisits When Smiles Are Done and A White Rose at Midnight.

Masthead Image

Nineteen Sixty-Four, a Centre 42 Vault project that revisits When Smiles Are Done and A White Rose at Midnight.

22 September 2014 | 8:00pm
Black Box, Centre 42

Admission is FREE



1964 – Singapore was part of Malaysia.
1964 – The year of racial riots between ethnic Chinese and Malays.
1964 – The year when two pioneering Singaporean dramatists wrote English-language plays in response to the lack of local plays that reflected recognisable themes, characters and speech. Prior to 1964, Lim Chor Pee’s Mimi Fan (1962) stood alone in the scene. In 1964, Goh Poh Seng wrote his first play and then, there were two.

2014 – We respond to these two writers’ sophomore creations respectively and collectively. We remember the plays while we refresh our perspectives on them – and retell the stories we see in them. Nora Samosir, Serene Chen, Casey Lim and Robin Loon investigates the texts of When Smiles are Done (Goh Poh Seng) and A White Rose at Midnight (Lim Chor Pee). They will suggest critical relationships between the present and the past while ruminating on their own connections with the texts, Singapore and Singapore theatre.

For one evening only, we invite you to share in these artists’ personal responses in an intimate lecture-performance. 

Video Documentation

Robin, Casey, Nora and Serene introduce The Vault programme and its tenets, and explain what iteration 1.1 will cover. Robin then talks about the year 1964, specifically the significant events within the year, both in and outside of Singapore, as well as touches upon writing for the English-language stage in 1960s Singapore.

The Plays

  • Advertisement for When Smiles Are Done (18 Dec 1965) View
    “See Local Comedy When Smiles Are Done By Goh Poh Seng, Presented by Centre 64. At Cultural Centre, Fort Canning, S’pore Tonight – 8.30 p.m. Tickets at $2, 3, 4.”
  • Report on When Smiles Are Done (8 Dec 1965) View
    “A play about family life in Queenstown When Smiles Are Done, written by Dr. Goh Poh Seng, will be staged at the New Town Secondary School at 8.30 p.m. on Friday… On Dec. 16 at 8.30 p.m. the Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Inche Yusof bin Iskhak, will attend the play at the Cultural Centre.”
  • Review of When Smiles Are Done (2 January 1966) View
    “Dr. Goh Poh Seng, the President [of Centre 65], may be an amateur playwright who has still a lot to learn about the construction of a play, but this did not mar my enjoyment of When Smiles Are Done, which this enthusiastic group presented recently at the Cultural Centre Theatre.
    “The theme was not original, but the play was interesting throughout, well acted and maintained a brisk pace. Above all, it was audible.”
  • Report on a well-known soprano singing in A White Rose at Midnight (9 June 1964) View
    “Miss Joanna Woo, the business manager, said: “This is an ‘angry young man’ type of comedy which should appeal to the theatre enthusiasts who have been complaining about the lack of Malaysian drama.”


Lecture-Performance Handout #1

Prior to the event, the “Insider’s Guide to Enjoying Nineteen Sixty-Four” was emailed to participants who had registered to attend the Lecture-Performance. The guide contains quick tips and explanations on what to expect at our ‘Lecture-Performance’ and who our artist-collaborators are.

Lecture-Performance Handout #2

The “Participant”s Notes on Nineteen Sixty-Four” was a handout given to all who turned up at the Lecture-Performance. The content within was designed to guide the participant to follow the Lecture-Performance, if required, and provided insight into the working relationship of the artist-collaborators.


Nora Samosir
Serene Chen
Casey Lim
Robin Loon


A tense 1964
1964 was a significant milestone in Singapore’s history, a period of tension amidst the uncertainty and hope of forging a new identity.
Daniel Teo
Published: 22 September 2014
What’s on? The (unofficial) theatre guide in 1964
Here’s a sampling of what a theatre-goer could possibly watch back in 1964:
Daniel Teo
Published: 13 September 2014
The desire and impetus for local theatre
In the early to mid-sixties, there was a brewing sentiment for the need to forge a local identity in English-language (or English-speaking) theatre. We list a few extracts from some key commentaries reflecting on the theatre scene and its challenges in the ’60s:
Daniel Teo
Published: 15 September 2014
The exchange: “Let local clubs not be too proud to learn from expatriate clubs.”
The following provides a snapshot of the exchanges between Lim Chor Pee and M.E. Constant (member of Stage Club), sparked off from a Radio Forum in 1964 about amateur theatre in Singapore:
Daniel Teo
Published: 16 September 2014
The local ‘Mad Men’ era
We gleaned an insight into the design aesthetics and advertising sensibilities of the 1960s in Singapore, from the programme books of the staged productions of When Smiles Are Done and A White Rose At Midnight. Many of the advertisers and perhaps sponsors’ of the staged plays were automobile brands, beauty/cosmetics brands, electrical appliances companies and banks. Take a look at some of these brand and product advertisements of that ‘Mad Men’ era:
Daniel Teo
Published: 17 September 2014
Cabaret Girls in the limelight
There were the three “Worlds” which lit up Singapore’s nightlife in the ’50s and ’60s - the New World, Gay World, and Great World amusement parks.
Daniel Teo
Published: 18 September 2014
The golden age of Singapore music
Plug in to this short 1964 playlist of music tracks by some of the many popular local bands in the ’60s:
Daniel Teo
Published: 19 September 2014