Though only a few major theatre companies seem to get consistent media attention, the theatre scene in Singapore is actually flourishing with plenty of other companies developing their own share of good work. Hatch Theatrics is one such company. Aiming to revitalise and reinvent Malay theatre in Singapore, Hatch Theatrics crafts original work and seeks to collaborate with new artistes every now and then. Currently, they are a part of the Malay Heritage Centre Residency.
Their next work, Lanang, is developed as part of the residency and will be showing the first week of April. An exploration about relationships and death, Hatch Theatrics does not shy away from taboo topics. I fondly remember another of their work Hawa, a performance about a recent convert to Islam having to be in charge of her firned’s funeral. That particular show left a very strong impression on me, and touched my heart.
Popspoken sits down with the founding member Faizal, and members since 2014 Hafidz and Khai to learn more about the company and the work that they do.
Popspoken: What makes the work produced by Hatch different from other companies out there?
Faizal: Hatch started because the founding members felt that the opportunities and space to create new Malay works was decreasing. We also felt that we wanted to create new artistic opportunities for us.
I feel like we represent the younger, voice of the Singaporean Malay person. A Malay person who is as Singaporean as the next person. A Malay person who is proud to be Singaporean and also proud to be Malay.
PS: Talk me through some of the topics or themes Hatch is interested in and why.
Faizal: Strangely enough we seem to deal with death and mortality a lot in our plays. Maybe that says something about the members in Hatch.
We also talk about the Malay/ Muslim identity in Singapore and I think that simple topic alone branches out into many exciting sub-topics.
But most of all, we try to talk about Singaporean issues from the Malay perspective.
PS: How did the residency with Malay Heritage Centre come about?
Faizal: One of our core beliefs is to always stage original, honest Singaporean works. And we believe in always telling a good story first and foremost. And to not be afraid to tell that story if we deem it worthy and important. We had a track record of doing that and I think those were the things that attracted the Malay Heritage Centre to offer us the residency.
PS: Generally, what is your process like for making a piece of work? Do all four members of the collective share the same process or do they differ?
Faizal: We always get together to plan for the year ahead. For the residency, we planned 2 years in advance. So we already knew what we were going to work on. Each member is different and has their own process(es). But we are always there to support and give our input. We all lean on each other quite a bit in the process of creating a work. It’s not just one person doing everything. Like they say, it takes a village to do a show. We are a small village of 5 people. And we often have migrants who come in to help us build the work. Just like Singapore.
Hafidz: We rotate amongst the members. One member comes up with an idea and script and then we work towards that, collectively. This is to go back to our vision of producing works and giving platform for various members to showcase a piece of writing/idea that they have.
PS: Do you think more efforts can be done to review and make the public aware of minority theatre collectives?
Faizal: I think anytime we can make minority theatre collectives more visible, that’ll be brilliant. But I think that after that initial visibility, that collective or artist has to prove that the recognition is merited. So it’s not just visibility for the sake of visibility. I don’t want to be recognised and acknowledged because I’m Malay. We want to be known as the collective that does good work first – and then – whose works happen to be telling Malay stories and in the Malay language.
Hafidz: I believe that quality supercedes visibility. With good quality work, it will be only natural that the awareness increases. We live in an age of social media so I don’t think there is any challenge for any company/collective to make themselves known. Whether or not they produce good work, that’s a different thing altogether.
PS: Is there a power struggle between marketing and producing work?
Faizal: Marketing is important. But not at the expense of how we produce the work. If I have to cancel a rehearsal to plug the work, I’d be quite upset. Especially if I feel like we need the rehearsal. I’d be happy to accede to any marketing requests as long I don’t have to sacrifice the time I’ve allocated to the process.
Hafidz: Marketing and producing goes hand in hand. I don’t think a lot of funds is needed in terms of marketing so much so that it becomes a struggle, at least not for Hatch.
Khai: It’s still a learning process for me as an ‘emerging’ producer if there’s a term. Of course there is a power struggle, and sometimes the roles gets blurred if you’re a producer. You want to be involved in everything. Not creatively but everything else. Like production, budget, marketing. But I place more funds on production rather than marketing. We live in the social media generation. It’s free, so use it wisely. Everything gets retweeted, reposted or snapshot and repost. So it’s a ripple effect. Putting up a good show gives me a high rather than buying ad spaces. (Perhaps because we can’t afford them yet.)
With most funds on production, you need to get creative in your marketing. You need to be your own Instagram Influencer.
PS: What would it take for a more collaborative culture to flourish in the Singapore Scene?
Faizal: I think we have to be more open to the other art forms. Sometimes we can be quite selective and inclusive in the things that we watch, participate in or are even aware of. I used to be like that. I think now I try to make a bigger effort to be aware of things that go beyond just theatre. My wife Khai works with artists from many different fields, so she is my go to person when I need to find out about artists or shows from other disciplines. And be open to communication. You might not agree on everything, but it’s important to communicate and respect the views of other people. Then I think we can create more space and opportunities for collaboration.
Hafidz: More Artists who want to collaborate. Simple.
Date: 5th – 7th April 2018
Venue: Malay Heritage Centre
Time: Thursday – Saturday, 8pm / Saturday, 3pm
Admission: $25 (Concessions available. Get your tickets here.)
Photo courtesy of Hatch Theatrics