The Lesson | Dramabox 

I helped out for The Lesson on 6 and 7 July! Yup so as I said previously, I wanted to make a conscious effort in learning more about Dramabox and their working values. So I volunteered to help out for this moving forum theatre performance cum discussion.

The Lesson is part of Dramabox’s initiative called “Goli”, a reference to the marbles children used to play during the kampong times. Goli is a inflatable moving theatre, this time moving across areas from Bugis, Hougang and Toa Payoh. These are heartland places, where a mixture of “artsy” and “not so artsy” residents live, young and old. As such, the show was targeted at these residents, to engage them in topics that we wish to discuss and think about using the arts as a platform.

This version of Goli, we gave the imagined situation that an MRT station (a subway, metro station, train station) was to be built at this particular venue we are situated at. Participants are all watching 11 “residents” of the area debate and discuss which landmark/space to evict such that the MRT can be built in its place. Amongst these locations were: The Marsh, Halfway House, Rental Flats, Flea Market, Wet Market, Cinema and Columbarium. These “residents” are actually participants (open to anyone via registration online) who attended briefings before the show by organizers such that they understand better what they wish to represent and fight for. Every night, different participants and representatives attend the forum. At the end of the night, a majority consensus must be achieved by the residents or the public to evict one location, if not the decision goes back to the government.

What caught my attention was that Dramabox served tea to everyone, participating or not, for free. This was in line with the Chinese mentality of inviting and welcoming guests to your house, which I thought set the cordial tone and was interesting. This tea was created especially for Goli events so you can’t purchase it elsewhere and prepackaged tea were given out to donors to thank them, making it a memorable experience.

Other than that of course, was the show itself. I do believe that this is amongst the few non-Government organized shows held in an open area where people can walk in on the spot if there is still seats and onlookers are free to come and observe. Everybody were entitled to their own opinions, make a statement by representing what they wanted to protect and discuss openly why another should be demolished. My observation is that in Singapore, a lot of times we end up having one sided conversations online being keyboard warriors, afraid of head on confrontations or perhaps being vulnerable. This space was given then, for all of us to come together and speak up for something we stand for and confront the other party if you have disagreements. In the end, all participants do take away the knowledge and understanding that we all do have some form of authority and voice. But when we as citizens of Singapore are unable to settle upon an opinion, the government will then have to step in and make decisions for us. This is what the generation before mine fears, and what my generation is used to (this is my observation from the two shows I attended).

This topic also reveals the notions of sentimentality, progress and sacrifice in Singapore. Being a small country with very little space, the government is constantly demolishing and rebuilding. The concern of what we can destroy or what we must keep will always be a pressing and real issue. All of us will agree that it does not fall upon one man to make the decision, and yet we can’t come to consensus as a large group either. How can we go about progressing as a nation, as community, a neighbourhood or being an active citizen? How far does conversations and discussions help if there are no solutions or clear agreements?

Goli is free for all to participate and there were shows in Chinese and English. I do believe that it is really an arts-for-all initiative that is friendly and thought provoking and recommend you guys to attend the next Goli if you are available!