The theatre scene in Singapore is on the rise. In recent years, many international productions have graced the stage, including The Lion King, Mamma Mia and The Phantom of the Opera! Meanwhile, Singapore’s home-grown theatre companies have also been making waves.
You’d be hard pressed to find a weekend in Singapore without a musical or play going on.
We spoke to actor, director, and Cultural Medallion recipient, Ivan Heng. Ivan is Founding Artistic Director at W!LD RICE. Recognised today as one of Singapore’s leading professional theatre companies, find out what you can expect at one of their productions, what you can look forward to and just a handful of the reputable companies Ivan recommends.
From exciting experimental works to blockbuster musicals, there are shows of all sizes and genres happening all over, and it’s thrilling to see.
From legalese to play scripts, Ivan Heng is one of Singapore’s best-known thespians today
Tell us about your journey into theatre. What drew you to it?
I started acting and directing plays with my friends, including Glen Goei – who’s now WILD RICE’s Associate Artistic Director. Directing enabled me to create entire worlds that came to life on stage.
While studying [law], I became involved with theatre in every possible capacity. It was only when I moved to another continent to study drama, that I truly began to understand what it means to be part of a professional scene. That gave me the resolve to come back to Singapore to help grow and professionalise our theatre industry.
What inspires you about theatre?
It brings people together. From the playwright and director, to the designers, performers and backstage crew, it takes a village working together to take a play from page to stage.
And, when the curtain goes up, another kind of magic happens. People from many different walks of life arrive at the theatre as strangers but, following the shared experience of theatre, they leave as an audience.
What does W!LD RICE stand for?
To be “wild” is to be natural, untamed and free.
Our name is actually our motto for the company! To be “wild” is to be natural, untamed and free. It’s the antithesis of how Singapore can sometimes feel quite structured, sterile and stifling. And “rice” is a local staple – unlike dessert, which is a nice-to-have.
Press Gang was staged at the 2018 Singapore Theatre Festival, where Ivan and playwright Alfian Sa’at were both the Festival Artistic Directors
What’s makes a production brilliant and deserving of a standing ovation?
When it really connects people: when, for a moment, the differences that we imagine exist between us melt away, and our shared humanity is all that matters.
How has Singapore’s theatre landscape evolved in recent times?
I’m really proud of how far Singapore’s theatre community has come. There weren’t that many opportunities out there for people who wanted to act or direct or just help make theatre off-stage. Today, our theatre scene is thriving. From exciting experimental works to blockbuster musicals, there are shows of all sizes and genres happening all over the country, every day, and it’s thrilling to see.
Ivan Heng and a star-studded cast in the W!LD RICE production of the critically acclaimed musical La Cage Aux Folles
Can you recommend a must-watch local production?
I’d urge everyone to check out the many options available from all the theatre companies in Singapore that are doing amazing work.
Families looking for a kid-friendly show
Singapore Repertory Theatre’s Little Company, put on great child-friendly shows in the daytime.
Friends looking for a good laugh
Dream Academy stages some excellent stand-up comedy shows (and we have a thriving comedy scene – check out the various comedy club events through the week!).
And, of course, WILD RICE’s diverse slate of shows, which run the gamut of audience interest: from bold original new works that hold up a mirror to the times we live in, to our blockbuster holiday musicals for all the family.
Pro Tip: Check Facebook pages for events and our local ticketing sites (like Peatix and Sistic).
When pressed with ‘what’s next for W!LD RICE?’, Ivan shared the exiting news of the opening of their very own theatre. Set to be an “iconic destination presenting the best of Singapore theatre”. Located at the Funan Mall. “Be sure to catch a sneak preview of what’s in store at our Housewarming Season”, Ivan and the W!LD RICE team would “love to see you there!”
Housewarming Season starts 4th July and shows until 18th August.
Why travel to Broadway or the West End when you’ve the finest right here in sunny Singapore? Singapore’s dynamic and vibrant theatre has lots to offer. There is something for everyone, from the young to the old. The next time you book flights to Singapore, be sure to mark your calendar for the next show on the theatre circuit.
If you’d like to explore more authentic Singaporean stories from our ‘Live Like a Local’ 5-part series, you can(!) – meet the man with the Dragon’s Beard, take a walk in the park with nature-lover Ivan Kwan, go food hunting in Singapore with a local foodie and discover what Peranakan heritage is from a true-blue Nyonya herself.
Your Now Boarding journey starts at Changi Airport.
We hope you enjoyed the series.
If you have a story you’d like to share, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org quoting ‘Now Boarding’ and tell us what visitors must-see and who we can interview to find out more!