The Necessary Stage

The Necessary Stage

The Necessary Stage is a non-profit theatre company with charity status in Singapore. Formed in 1987 by current Artistic Director Alvin Tan, The Necessary Stage has been identified as one of six Major Arts Companies by the National Arts Council. The company is also the organiser and curator of the annual M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. It is currently located at the Marine Parade Community Building.

Main Season

For its main season, The Necessary Stage produces an average of four plays a year at its Black Box and at other venues. These include plays for the Singapore Arts Festival. The plays are original, mostly devised pieces created in a collaborative process that is based on research, improvisation before scripting, and input from all members of the production. This process has produced many important works which were not only popular successes but also critically acclaimed, including:

* "Boxing Day: The Tsunami Project" (2005),
* "Top Or Bottom" (2004),
* "Sing Song" (2004),
* "koan" (2003),
* "BOTE: The Beginning Of the End" (2002),
* "godeatgod" (2002 & 2004),
* "Close – in my face" (2002),
* "ABUSE SUXXX!!!" (2001),
* "Completely With/Out Character" (1999),
* "Pillars" (1998),
* "Rosnah" (1995, 1996, 1997 & 2006),
* "Off Centre" (1994 & 2007)
* "Fundamentally Happy" (2006 & 2007),
* "Still Building" (1993).

The Necessary Stage's international collaboration, "Separation 40", was produced with Malaysian theatre company Dramalab, and was staged at the Esplanade as part of its Theatre Studio Season, and at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

In June 2006, The Necessary Stage presented "Mobile", a creative collaboration involving talents from Japan, The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. "Mobile" also toured to Kuala Lumpur following its world premiere in Singapore for a 3-day run at The Actors Studio in Bangsar, as well at to Setagaya Public Theatres in Tokyo in March 2007.

2007 sees The Necessary Stage celebrating its 20th anniversary. As part of its celebration, the company will be staging two works - one, a seminal piece first staged in 1993 and reprised in 2007; and another, a brand new work to be premiered in November at The Necessary Stage Black Box.

The Necessary Stage's most recent production, "Off Centre" was presented at Esplanade Theatre Studio as part of The Studios Season in May 2007 and received accolades and warm responses from the audience and press. The play has been selected by the Ministry of Education (Singapore) as part of the GCE 'O' and 'N' level literature syllabus from 2007 onwards.

In November 2007, The Necessary Stage presented another a brand new play that dealt with the issue of living, dying and the pain in between. "Good People" looks at the relationship between 3 people - Miguel, the new Medical Director trying to run a tight ship; Yati, a jaded nurse making the best of a ‘dead-end’ job; and Radha, the terminally-ill patient addicted to marijuana to relieve her pain. Moving, humorous and evocative, "Good People" looks at urgent contemporary issues through the test of personal relationships. The play received critical acclaim and popular acclaim in Singapore, and will be travelling to Kuala Lumpur in May 2008.

International work

The Necessary Stage is committed to international exchange and networking between Singapore and other countries. Such exchange is done through staging the company's plays abroad, inviting foreign works to be presented by the company in Singapore, as well as through dialogues, workshops and training opportunities. To date, the company has performed in Berlin, Birmingham, Busan, Cairo, Dublin, Glasgow, Kuala Lumpur, London, Macau, Melbourne, New Delhi, Seoul, Sibiu, Sziget, Taipei and Tokyo. Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma also participated in a collaboration among Southeast Asian theatres, spearheaded by Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, which culminated in a production in 2005.

The Necessary Stage's Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma was one of four international playwrights commissioned by the Glasgow-based 7:84 Theatre Company to write a play on the theme of Separation and Reconciliation (as part of the celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the Act of Union between Scotland and England and the Scottish Elections).

Sharma's play, "Eclipse", is about the Indian/Pakistan partition as told by a young Singaporean man who is making a trip to his father’s homeland in Pakistan. The play saw its world premiere on 11 April 2007, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, and subsequently toured to various theatres in Scotland, including the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. "Eclipse" made its way back to Singapore for its Asian premiere as a full-length play as part of the 2008 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.

The Virgin Labfest in Manila is a festival of new plays by emerging and well-known playwrights, directors and actors. It held its third edition from 28 June to 8 July 2007 at the Cultural Centre of the Philippines, and featured Haresh Sharma's "Lizard" as part of its International Night line-up, alongside a triple-bill featuring two other plays by Thai and Japanese playwrights. "Lizard", originally presented by The Necessary Stage in 1996, tells the story of a dysfunctional family involving a mother, son and maid. For the Manila staging, it was directed by Nicolas Pichay, and showcased a surreal and inertly violent depiction of a Singaporean household whose scheming, double-dealing, and at times cruel transactions negotiated with each other makes for a rather intense sala-set drama.

The theatre company's most recent main season production, "Good People", will also be touring to Kuala Lumpur come May 2008.

Theatre For Youth and Community

The Theatre for Youth branch was set up in 1992 and re-named Theatre For Youth and Community (TFYC) in 2001. TFYC's principal interest is in theatre work with and for young people and different communities in Singapore. This includes presenting short plays during school assemblies, interactive Theatre-In-Education programmes, workshops, and process-based drama programmes that focus on personal development. Since 1992, TFYC has performed to more than 800,000 students, piloted drama programmes for school curriculum, and worked with numerous non-governmental organisations and voluntary welfare organisations. It was also responsible for the successful Marine Parade Theatre Festival (2000), FamFest (2001), The Necessary Community Festival (2001), M1 Youth Connection (1997 – 2003) and M1 Theatre Connect (2004).

As part of its External Project, the Theatre for Youth branch of the company, in collaboration with Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and the National Arts Council Singapore presented "Let Me Go!" in September 2007, an interactive production geared towards students, which gave students a chance to help the protagonist, Kheng, through role-play of the characters with the actors, to discover ways to work through her frustrations, which might also be their own.

The production provided students with a fun, lively and refreshing experience of interactive theatre, where they can share their predicaments and build self-esteem. It also included other educational components such as a talk on the creative process of putting together a performance to provide students with a deeper understanding of theatre and playwriting; a discussion session with Alvin Tan, Artistic Director and Haresh Sharma, Resident Playwright of The Necessary Stage, and a backstage tour to show students the different processes that go on behind each production.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is an annual festival of theatre, installation, film, music and forum created and presented by Singaporean and international artists. Based on a different theme every year and curated by The Necessary Stage, the festival aims to bring the best of contemporary, cutting-edge and socially engaged works to the Singapore audience. Unique in Singapore, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is set to be a creative centre with a twin-purpose of innovation and discussion, a platform for meaningful and provocative art to engage our increasingly connected and complex world.

The theme for the inaugural M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2005 was Art and War, and the theme for M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2006 was Art and Healing, featuring a total of 51 works from 20 countries over a period of 12 days. In 2007, the Festival's theme was Art and Disability - 22 works from 12 countries were showcased over 13 days, and reached out to an audienceship of 153,000.

In 2008, the Festival's theme was Art and History, featuring 20 works from 13 countries from 16 - 27 January 2008, and reaching out to a total estimated audienceship of about 200,000 through free and ticketed performances, exhibitions and events.

Come 2009, the Festival will have the theme of Art and Family, and will take place from 7 - 18 January 2009.


The Necessary Stage has to date produced eight publications. "Still Building" (1994), published by EPB, is a compilation of three plays by the company’s Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma. Other published work by Haresh include "This Chord and Others" (1999) – a compilation of six plays published by Minerva, and "Off Centre" (2000), published by Ethos Books. The Necessary Stage also published "PIE to Spoilt" (2002), a maiden collection of plays by former Company Playwright Chong Tze Chien, who is now the Company Director of another theatre company in Singapore called The Finger Players. In 1997, the company published "9 Lives – 10 Years of Singapore Theatre", a landmark book and the first of its kind featuring essays on Singapore theatre, commissioned by The Necessary Stage. 2000 saw the company publish a report, "Development Through Drama: Towards Providing A Holistic Education for Singapore Schools", with support from the National Arts Council, documenting its pilot developmental drama programme conducted during curriculum time. "Ask Not: The Necessary Stage In Singapore Theatre", a collection of essays on examining the social, political, economic and artistic aspects of theatre-making in Singapore from the perspective of The Necessary Stage, was published by Times Editions in 2004. Recently, "Off Centre" has been selected by the Ministry of Education in Singapore as a literature text for the GCE 'O' and ‘N’ levels syllabi, and has been republished by the company.

In August 2007, a new volume of "Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature", was published with a focus on the works of Haresh Sharma. "Interlogue" is a series published by Ethos Books and edited by A/P Kirpal Singh that aims to bring critical focus on the works of Singapore writers in English. Previous editions of the series included one each on fiction, poetry, drama and interviews with local writers, as well as one dedicated volume on Singapore playwright Robert Yeo.

The publication, written by Prof David Birch and edited by A/P Kirpal Singh, was an extensive investigation into Sharma's development as a writer; the themes and issues he grapples with; as well as his vision and practice of theatre within and outside his work at The Necessary Stage. While "Interlogue" itself was not published by The Necessary Stage, the company assisted with the provision of archival material for Prof Birch's research.

The Triangle Project

The Triangle Project was started in 1992 with the aim of providing opportunities for the less privileged to watch theatre. The Necessary Stage matches donors and charities with the former buying tickets to our productions for the beneficiaries. This scheme has proven to be very successful and numerous beneficiaries of Voluntary Welfare Organisations have experienced theatre as a result.

External links

* [ The Necessary Stage]
* [ M1 Singapore Fringe Festival]

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