SINGAPORE - Theatre students at the National University of Singapore, Intercultural Theatre Institute and Lasalle College of the Arts are putting up a series of graduation performances, both edgy and boundary-breaking, with the help of local theatre professionals.
The Lasalle production will reimagine World War II by splicing Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's downfall with the classic tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, while the institute will blend Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince Of Tyre with the style of Chinese opera.
The production by NUS' theatre studies undergraduates, titled We, The Inhabitants, will remix six of Singapore playwright Haresh Sharma's plays.
There is a hint of the rare in each of these showcases.
Starring Hitler As Jekyll & Hyde marks the first time that award-winning Singapore playwright Chong Tze Chien will premiere a play in an arts school, rather than with a team of familiar actors under the umbrella of a theatre company.
But this does not mean he will have to compromise in terms of quality.
Chong, 38, says: "Sometimes, when you're working with students, you may have to teach them how to perform, how to be confident and comfortable on stage and to enunciate. I didn't have to do that. I could just go straight into character work and improvisation, like how I work with professional actors."
The allegorical play within a play is narrated by Eva Braun, Hitler's wife. She explains Hitler's horrific deeds in the form of a parable, making use of the classic tale of the mild-mannered Dr Jekyll and the monstrous Mr Hyde: two sides of the same person.
Chong was fascinated by how Hitler was trying to be an artist even when he was a politician, and this element will be woven into the play. He was also piqued by the issues of xenophobia and nationalism around the world and the "uncanny similarities" between these hot-button topics and Hitler's vitriolic speeches against assimilation. "It cuts very close to the bone," says Chong.
The work will be performed by the 13 final-year students in Lasalle's Bachelor of Arts (Honours) acting programme and will run from April 9 to 12.
The NUS show, which runs on April 9 and 10, brings together excerpts and characters from plays by Sharma which may not be as well known to a younger generation of theatregoers.
These include Lizard (1996), an absurdist drama about a mother-son pair who abuse each other and their maid. The works are set against three more prominent works from Sharma: the award-winning Off Centre (1993), now an O-level literature text; the post-
Sept 11 experimental outing godeatgod (2002), which has been revived several times; and What Big Bombs You Have!!! (2005), a twist on Little Red Riding Hood.
They were selected by Natalie Hennedige, 39, founder of Cake Theatrical Productions, who is helming the NUS show.