Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Bakchormeeboy Review: Who's Next Door?

Thank you BakChorMeeBoy for the review!

Review: Who’s Next Door? by Tapestry Playback Theatre (presented by Singapore Kindness Movement)

This week, in an effort to encourage increased interaction between neighbours in the hope of a better neighbourhood and society, The Singapore Kindness Movement presents Who’s Next Door? – a playback theatre piece encouraging audience members to speak share their own stories and experiences growing up in their respective neighbourhoods.
Playing at the Centre 42 Black Box to the public on 24th October, while reaching out to various school students for its other shows, Who’s Next Door? utilises a form of improvisation known as playback theatre to create conversations. Playback theatre is unique in that it requires audiences to be a key part of the theatremaking process, where audience members tell personal stories from their lives and watch them enacted on the spot, and different from forum theatre in that there are no fictitious scenarios for discussion here, only real, heartfelt truths being brought to life.

At the premiere performance that we watched, Sengkang Secondary School and Yuan Ching Secondary School students were in attendance, with about 70 students present. Facilitating the performance was Tapestry Playback Theatre, a fifteen year old theatre company with over 30 public productions to their name. This time around, the company collaborated with the Singapore Kindness Movement to share more about one of their key themes: neighbourliness.
Tapestry Playback Theatre began with an interactive activity, as students got up and began to shake each other’s hands and introduce themselves to each other, in an attempt to get to know each other just a little before the performance began proper. Hosted by Michael Cheng, the company explained the concept of playback theatre quickly and effectively to the students before demonstrating with short, personal stories of their own. Each short skit was brief and abstract in its portrayal of the story it took inspiration from, offering a quick dramatization to better visualize how the experience might have been for the person who offered the story.

With the demonstration out of the way, students began to slowly ease into sharing their own stories, starting with sharing stories that were similar to those the cast had shared at first, before moving on to much longer and more personal stories that similarly were acted out in even more detail. Even though some of them started off shy, with a little encouragement from their friends, they plucked up their courage and were brave enough to share their deeply personal stories in the safe space created. Interestingly, many of the stories took a shift towards experiences of discrimination, racism and prejudice, surprisingly mature topics for what initially felt like a simple exercise. At one point, a student even became so overcome with emotion in telling her story, she choked back tears at the memory of being teased for her physical appearances.
The cast consisting of Renee Chua, Evelyn Chye and Ghazali Muzakir were quick thinking, and in performing these stories, made them entertaining while remaining relatable. Particularly in the second half of the performance, students were asked to choose one of the actors to play them in each skit, which gave each story an immediate, stronger connection to these students and their friends, and much more personal. In addition, cast member Anne Chua also created unique soundscapes to each story using a plethora of unusual musical instruments, from a multicoloured xylophone, to a recorder, a harmonica, and even a squeaky hammer, in addition to improvising tunes on the spot.
At times over the top but always keeping it real, these stories transformed from simple recounts into a tapestry of tales that formed an idea of the shared experiences of this generation of students. This was literalized by Visual Practitioner Wendy Wong, who spent the entire 90 minutes of the performance at the back of the space illustrating and compiling the stories told into a beautiful, easy to understand mindmap summarizing the entire performance. Although Tapestry Playback Theatre never suggests any hard and fast solutions to the various problems and experiences the audience experiences, what the performance does do is evoke familiar memories and encourage sharing in a safe, non-judgmental environment. It was evident by the end of the show that these students had thoroughly enjoyed the fun performances, while also deeply moved by some of their schoolmates’ stories, and hopefully as they left the theatre, went away with a little more empathy and goodwill in their hearts.

Whether you have a bone to pick with a neighbour who’s cooking a pot of curry, or endless praise for your childhood friends who’ve grown up with you, come on down to Who’s Next Door? to share the stories of your estate, and together, find out how we  encourage one another to take an interest in, care for, and support the people around us, and find out precisely who is living next door.
Performance attended 23/10/17, 2.30pm
Who’s Next Door? plays at the Centre 42 Black Box on 24th October (5pm). Tickets available from Peatix

Review of "Does It Matter?"

Big thanks to Cordelia Lee and Centre 42's Citizen Reviews.

Does It Matter? Yes, It Does.

Reviewer: Cordelia Lee
Performance: 16 September 2017
Almost two-thirds of the audience have their hands up as the cast from Tapestry Playback Theatre asks who among us hasn’t experienced playback before.
Chins tilt upwards and eyes dart frantically around the room.
Everyone’s surveying the percentage of rookies, who like themselves, have no idea what they’re in for.
“This is playback theatre – participate, or die.”
Fortunately, the cast dispel all irrational fears as they begin.
Taking the lead, each member introduces him/herself and shares a personal anecdote about claiming public spaces. Fluid sculptures, coupled with repetitive phrases and character expositions, subsequently translate verbal recounts into visual narratives on stage. The impossibility of littering in Japan’s spotless, bin-less streets materialises as the cast sulkily stuff trash into their pockets out of peer-pressure. Comically thought-provoking, the cast’s encounters successfully calm the nervous energy in the room. The storytelling then opens to the floor, and our stories proceed to dictate the line-up for the rest of the evening.
Focusing on the topic of civic-mindedness, Does It Matter? encourages open dialogue among strangers by creatively bringing their stories to life in a safe space. Aesthetics is secondary in this kind of theatre. Yet, Tapestry delivers a commendable level of artistic skill in their execution, presenting theatre as both an artform and a social service to the community.
Improvisations commence barely five seconds after each story is told. A cast member establishes the improvisational style and title of the piece, the audience yells “Let’s watch!”, and it begins. Facial expressions, precise physical actions, and tonal shifts clearly mark out new characters from previous ones. With a bit of imagination, the most unassuming objects transform into something else. A scarf is knotted and strewn like bagged rubbish, while a box placed over the head becomes a gas mask respirator – an essential headgear for surviving air-pollution. The actors think on their feet, but are never completely breaks away from the ensemble. The story weaves the enactments together, a stimulus triggering an instinctive, collective reaction. Transitions flow seamlessly without overt communication as they bounce off each other’s energies, and intuitively negotiate space.
I wonder if they’re psychic.
For the most part, Tapestry strives to preserve the crux of each story, responsibly representing the given stories as sensitively and accurately as possible. But at times, a host of exaggerated local stereotypes invade an enactment, distracting the audience with cheap laughs. Unapologetically incompetent GRC ministers, self-entitled MRT seat-hoarding aunties, and zombie-texting teenagers make their cameo throughout the evening. Granted, given the immediacy of improvisations, the use of easily accessible caricatures is unavoidable. Yet they often seem superfluous and fail to leave a meaningful impression.
Does It Matter? provides an unfiltered platform for opinions about the state of civic-mindedness in Singapore to be heard. Importantly, it empowers the average citizen to communicate them. By transforming personal stories into improvisational theatre, art enters the interactive social domain as a tool, unearthing different perspectives and fostering greater understanding through conversation.
Yes, civic-mindedness does matter, and playback theatre does a beautiful job of reminding us of that.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Photos from Who's Next Door?

In collaboration with Singapore Kindness Movement, we performed 6 shows at Centre 42.
This was a rich experience, painting a tapestry of tales over 3 days, listening and playing back stories of race and prejudice, of nostalgia, hope, and wistfulness, of neighbours wonderful and horrible, and of the kind of community we hope to build.
We also had a wonderful artist and Visual Practitioner Wendy Wong from Welenia Studios draw and record the themes and stories for each show.
Thank you to each and every one of you that shared this space with us.


Monday, October 09, 2017

Who's Next Door? A collaboraton with Singapore Kindness Movement

What kind of neighbourhood do we want to live in? What kind of neighbours do we become? What kind of society do we want to build? All these depend on you.
This year, we are using a form of unique improvisation called Playback Theatre, to help us create conversations around the issue of neighbourliness.
We want to hear your stories of ugly or wonderful neighbours. We want to know about the beautiful and unpleasant incidents that happened in your estate. We want to know what you feel about these incidents. And we want to learn from what you share.
What stories do you have to share about where you live? How can we encourage one another to take an interest in, care for, and support the people around us?
Who is next door? That is one of the key questions of community building. And the answer depends on you.
Produced By: Tapestry Playback Theatre
Presented By: Singapore Kindness Movement

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Does It Matter? (Sept 16 & 17, 2017)

So many special moments in this last show of 2017, our 15th year. Thank you to all our friends, families, and supporters who have walked with us thus far. Thank you for the stories. 

 A big thank you to our sign language interpreters and notetakers! We loved having you with us. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Photos from the Aug Open Rehearsal

The idea of open rehearsals has always been a platform for us to advocate for Playback Theatre, and to have a space for us to connect and play with people who have learnt Playback, but do not have a  group to practise with. 

Each and every time, we're touched by the generosity of people, and the oneness and feel of community that Playback can create. 

We truly hope this community grows. And more and more people will get to know this wonderful craft that can help make the world a better place. 

See you at our Open Rehearsals in 2018!

Coming together and connecting.

Learning about Corridors, a narrative short form used in Playback Theatre.

In an open rehearsal, anyone can take the stage and try out the different dramatic structures (forms) we use in Playback Theatre.

Thank you everyone for coming to our last OR of 2017. We're privileged to share this space with you, and to hear your stories. 

Thursday, August 03, 2017

August Open Rehearsal - last session in 2017

Hello people~!! This is our last Open Rehearsal of 2017!

We have a small active community that has come together to learn and experience this community theatre, and we welcome one and all to join us in our practice.

The first half consists of drama activities and learning a Playback form. In the second half, we will put everything together, share our stories, and give these stories artistic shape through improvisation.

This is a wonderful space to connect with one another, and to share our stories in this Theatre of Neighbours. Come and explore Playback Theatre, and have a chance to practise the different roles like the musician, the actor or the storyteller!

Join us at the Toa Payoh Central Community Club Dance Studio (Opposite the library @ 93 Toa Payoh Central Singapore 319194).

This event is free but please support our practice with a small donation.

Friends from the Deaf Community are welcome to join us. Please leave a comment on our Facebook page to tell us. Sign Language interpretation will be available.

Space is limited, so get your tickets now at Please remember to dress comfortably as we will be moving around.

Email us at if you have any questions!

Thank you and see you soon!


Playback Theatre. The power of stories. Any story. All stories. Someone shares a moment, and the performers will playback it back, with movement, sound, music, cloth and embodiment. Any life moment is played - happy or sad, hilarious or humdrum. It can produce change, new insights and feelings, and even transformation, through the atmosphere of affirmation, creativity and reflection.

This event is supported by Toa Payoh Central Community Club and PassionArts.