Overview; > Introduction
Singapore is proud to be the home of a mix of four distinct cultures, which are Chinese, Malay, Indian and European. While a distinct Singaporean identity has been actively promoted and instilled in Singaporeans, the rich cultures and traditions which the people had brought along with them are still manifested in many aspects of life. This can be seen through the arts scene in Singapore.
The arts scene is a platform for events and performances ranging from classical to more modern works. Art enthusiasts can always choose from classical music concerts by famous local soloists, plays or outdoor performances like the Singapore Dance Theatre's "Ballet Under the Stars".
In recent years, numerous multilingual theatre companies have sprouted up in Singapore. Arts groups like The Necessary Stage, TheatreWorks and Action Theatre put on productions in English, Theatre Kami in Malay, The Theatre Practice in Mandarin and Agni Kootthu in Tamil and English.
Today, more than 130 theatre companies and groups are practising a range of traditional and modern theatre. An assortment of assistance and resources are on hand to develop the local theatre industry at all levels.
Avid theatre lovers in Singapore enjoy a variety of traditional ethnic theatre such as Chinese opera and Malay bangsawan (which took root in Singapore in the 19th and 20th century respectively), as well as contemporary theatre, which appeared in 1950s and 60s with the founding of mainly amateur groups.
English-language theatre rose in importance in the 1980s along with the shift in the educational policies that established English as the main language of instruction in schools in Singapore. In the next decade of economic growth and social stability, theatre groups started edging towards professional and semi-professional status. They developed artistically in different directions, from tradition to the more cutting-edge as well as the commercial and the popular.
Singapore theatre is also distinctive from others for its bilingual theatre groups and its exploration of cross-linguistic and cross-cultural theatre because of its multicultural society and bilingual education system. Toy Factory Theatre Ensemble has produced several notable bilingual works; TheatreWorks's inventive performance of King Lear integrated multiple cultures including Japanese noh, Beijing opera, Thai dance, Indonesian gamelan and bersilat.
The pictures above show Malay bangsawan, Chinese opera/street wayang, Japanese noh, Thai dance, Indonesian gamelan and bersilat in order from left to right.
Other leading theatre companies in Singapore are Drama Box, The Necessary Stage, Teater Ekamatra, The Singapore Repertory Theatre, Action Theatre, The Finger Players, Wild Rice and The Theatre Practice.