In the interest of saving words and time, we’ve referred to “The Moon is Less Bright” simply as “Moon” in this post. If you have been offended by our liberalist attitude then by all means, send us a strongly worded complaint at any of our social media platforms!
The Moon is Less Bright was literary pioneer Goh Poh Seng’s first foray into theatre. Written in 1963 and previously staged in both 1964 and 1990, our upcoming staging in 2018 will mark the third time Moon has been “brought back from the dead” so to speak, so you might be asking, why the need for all this necromancy?
Well, we’re glad you asked, so glad in fact that we have a whole blog post to answer your question. Not strictly necessary, but good to have, much like a second breakfast.
Moon was written with strongly nationalistic undertones and Anti-Japanese sentiments, Goh Poh Seng wrote with heavy sympathy for the working class and the common man, focusing on their daily struggles during WW2, a difficult time in Singapore’s history to say the least.
In a book simply titled “Theatre” published by the Straits Times, Dr Robin Loon described Theatre production in Singapore as a political activity, “Literary signposts for cultural-political development” he called it. We’re inclined to agree with the man; he is, after all, the expert.
So, lets see what these “signposts” reveal about the times they were put up in, shall we?
In 1964, Moon was originally staged by Lotus Club @ University of Singapore, King Edward VII Hall. It was likely meant for upper to middle class english-educated “elites”, being a play written and performed in English during a time where only a minority spoke the language. Dr Robin Loon described the 1964 staging as a “Marker of an aspiring post-colonial society’s awkward struggle with it’s colonial legacy.”
Moon was initially criticised for what seemed like a mismatch of characters to language, having rural Chinese farmers speak in a heightened almost poetic way. While the criticisms aren’t unfounded (Sometimes a bit weird la), it was intended as such, in an attempt to show the nobility of the common people. In fact if the audience takes the language to be directly translated from the Chinese dialects of the time, the result wouldn’t be too different from the heightened style of English in the text.
Moon in 1964 came at a time where classes were still very much divided, it came at a time of uncertainty and merger/separation. This was an appeal to the english-educated individuals of the time to bridge the class divide, stand together with their fellow countrymen and forge a nation, it was nationalistic and Anti-Jap at a time where it was necessary, using the fresh anger and memories of the war to stir up nationalistic pride and spur action; a call for the audience to have a stake in nation building.
The 1990 revival of Moon staged by TheatreWorks at The Black Box Theatre was a part of a Retrospective of Singapore Theatre. As such, it was faithful to the original text and setting as a historical piece of theatre. Meant as a look back at Singaporean theatre in the 60s, the production went as far as to fill the Black Box Theatre with actual soil to bring the audience that much closer to the setting!
Ong Keng Sen, director of Moon in that time wrote in his Director’s Notes of his faith in Singapore becoming a “classless society” in the 1990s, the direction of Moon in 1990 was as a “symbol” and “shining metaphor” for “hope and faith in mankind”. We felt that this message reflected the attitudes of society in the 90s as a time marked by optimism. The 90s was a time of immense hope, the rally cry of nation-building started in the 60s seemingly a roaring success. In a lay-man sense, the 1990 staging was meant as a “Look how far we’ve come from then.”
Now, Moon is being brought back for the 2nd time by us (The 2nd Breakfast Company) in 2018, in a time when the conversation about social class divide and inequality has re-emerged with a vengeance. Our staging of Moon seeks to adopt a different angle and entry point into the conversation of class differences, by examining how deeply embedded class differences have and continue to influence our social and familial relationships, our own outlook of our own prospects, before confronting us with our respective privileges and resentments. This staging of Moon will feature slight adaptations to the script of the original, to better suit our vision and direction of the play.
The 2nd Breakfast Company will be staging The Moon is Less Bright from the 31st of May to the 3rd of June @ Drama Centre Black Box, National Library, Singapore.