Grandmother Tongue was easily the hottest ticket at last year’s Singapore Theatre Festival. Even after an additional performance was added to the run, all available tickets were snapped up weeks before the show opened.
This tough, tender play about family, language and identity was also a hit with critics. Grandmother Tongue was nominated in four categories at the 2017 Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards – Production of the Year, Best Original Script, Best Actress (Jalyn Han) and Best Supporting Actor (Rei Poh).
Formerly a drama educator, Thomas Lim made his professional debut as a playwright and director with Grandmother Tongue. He is thrilled to have the opportunity to re-visit the play and bring it to more audiences.
“Grandmother Tongue is a reminder of how difficult it is to reduce our complex linguistic, racial and cultural identities to the monolithic race and ‘mother tongue’ classifications we often use in Singapore,” explains Lim, who is currently an Artist-in-Residence with W!LD RICE. “Such complexity and differences should be celebrated, not regulated.”
As part of W!LD RICE’s mission to make art that is accessible to as diverse a range of audiences as possible, the company will be staging its first sign-language interpreted performance with Grandmother Tongue. This special performance will take place on 14 October 2017 (Saturday) at 8pm.
Working with the interpreters from the Singapore Association for the Deaf has been an enlightening experience for the Grandmother Tongue team.
“One of the most intriguing things I’ve learnt is that the issues of communication in Grandmother Tongue also occur in sign language, where there are differences in the systems used by different generations,” Lim observes.
Anchored on the relationship between an 84-year-old Teochew-speaking grandmother and her grandson, the story of Grandmother Tongue will be familiar to audiences of all ages. However, it’s a story that seldom plays out on stage.
“W!LD RICE’s goal has always been to tell the tales of people from all walks of life in Singapore – including the ones who fall by the wayside as the country barrels ever onward,” says Ivan Heng, Artistic Director of W!LD RICE. “But, while the language at the heart of Grandmother Tongue is Teochew, its message about love and communication across generation gaps is universal.”
Tickets to Grandmother Tongue go on sale via SISTIC today.
Grandmother Tongue, the sold-out smash hit of the 2016 Singapore Theatre Festival, returns for a limited season!
In a Singapore where dialects have been losing relevance for generations, Grandmother Tongue traces a young man’s struggle to connect with his 84-year-old Teochew- speaking grandmother. He teaches her to use a mobile phone. He helps her buy her favourite brand of soya sauce. He visits her in hospital after a fall. Along the way, he begins to understand just what it means to spend decades in linguistic and cultural exile.
Inspired by Kuo Pao Kun’s seminal Mama Looking For Her Cat, Thomas Lim’s funny, insightful play examines the social costs of our mother-tongue language policy and the erasure of dialects in today’s Singapore. In ways both humorous and heartbreaking, Grandmother Tongue explores how our identities are bound up with the languages that we use and the ones that we lose.
Performed in Teochew and English, with English subtitles.
“…the regular sniffles from the audience meant that the play struck a close chord with many… captures many facets of what it means to be a senior citizen in Singapore today – painting a very vivid picture of an 84-year-old woman getting alienated from a rapidly changing Singapore… Actors… are simply excellent… a play which does more showing than telling – but speaks volumes nonetheless.”
– The Business Times
“The sold-out success of the play is based on its content and cast… Rei Poh is brilliant in multiple turns… Tan Shou Chen is strong in his low-key role as the grandson… a foil to Jalyn Han’s superb enactment of the grandmother.”
– The Straits Times
“…an eloquent evocation of the linguistic, cultural and emotional ghetto of an elderly woman who is cut off from a society which regards her native tongue as substandard… Grandmother Tongue captures this ambiguity well, the sense that many of us are stranded in a linguistic no man’s land, able to speak a coloniser’s language well, but unable to communicate in, literally, our grandmothers’ tongues.”
-Ong Sor Fern
-联合早报 Lian He Zao Bao