English-language accessible theatre in Singapore is currently a solo act—namely, the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT). This state of affairs may change, as there is coursework being taught on the subject at the National University of Singapore and there are several books by Singaporean authors; but for now, the only game in town is SRT.
Theatre lovers needn’t despair, however, because the program at the Rep is much more than a consolation prize.
Founded in 1993, the company’s expressed mission statement is to offer a balanced combination of Broadway, the West End and traditional Singaporean culture. Unlike many English-language theatres abroad, SRT is not an expatriate enclave, but a legitimate, locally-based arts organization. Over the years, the company has mounted productions of: The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, Hamlet, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Little Shop of Horrors, Rent, Avenue Q, M Butterfly, and many, many others, all starring Asian performers.
SRT’s claim to be “Asia’s leading English-language theatre” is not without merit. Since 2009, the company has played host to productions sponsored by none other than director Sam Mendes (Academy Award-winning director of American Beauty (1999)), including the only Asian stop on a tour of The Winter’s Tale starring Ethan Hawke, and Richard III starring Kevin Spacey. SRT has also hosted the only Asian stop on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2007 tour of The Seagull starring Sir Ian McKellen.
Another admirable aspect of SRT’s annual program is the seasonal appearance each spring of open-air productions of the Bard at Fort Canning Park. The 2012 series will trot out a new production of Twelfth Night (April 25-May 20).