Flashback 1997: Zoo (Winner’s Version)

1997’s winner Bryan Tan reflects on his experiences of 12 years ago.


1997: that was the year when the Zoo animals decided that they’d had enough of our two-legged tyranny, and staged their revolution. For us, the participants of the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition held in the Zoo that year, we were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. We had only meant to be neutral observers, but the beasts couldn’t tolerate the indignity of being scrutinised by, of all things, playwrights. Tourists good, dramatists bad. It was the straw that broke the camels’ backs.

As we wrote our plays in the confines of the Zoo, little did we know that we were the trapped ones. At midnight, all the animals lit their torches, raised paws against their sea of troubles, and broke free. They roared and chirped their demands: freedom from the social constructs of their habitats, liberation from enhanced performances during show-times, and escape from the theatrical gaze.

In the wee hours of the night, as we lay in the Zoo’s pavilion, still high on the stir-fried mushrooms in oyster sauce that we had been served for dinner, the animals came. They were led by the sloth bears, who were loudly bemoaning their profound humiliation: they’d been reduced to a playwriting stimulus by Robin Loon. He was the first to go (Dog rest his soul).

By daybreak, it was done. Caught unawares, our blunt ballpoints had been useless against them. Apart from myself, all of the other playwrights had been ravaged, some even ravished (and possibly in that order). I’d only managed to survive by collaborating with the animals, and giving them the intelligence that they wanted. I’d told myself then: Darwin would’ve done the same.

As you all know, the Zoo subsequently declared its secession from Singapore, and became an independent state. Last year, Zoologica’s GDP overtook ours. There have been murmurs in the international community of imposing sanctions on them for their increasing methane emissions and virulent flu bugs, but world leaders are ultimately at a loss as to how to deal with these beasts. After all, animal power is the rising superpower of this millennium. We are, all of us, living in the zoogeist.

For myself, I’ve had much time to reflect during these past 12 years of house arrest. Now in 2009, one zodiac cycle later (blessed is the Sacred Cow), I can only pray that these secretly-recorded memoirs of mine will one day reach all of you. Let History (Its-story?) judge me fairly, just like a play written in a day.

Bryan Tan


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