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Winners of the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition 2010

On 16th October 2010, TheatreWorks and South East CDC announced the winners of this year’s 24-Hour Playwriting Competition.

The 13th edition of the competition was held at at the SAF Yacht Club in Changi over one weekend.  In a scenic room overlooking the Straits of Singapore, 60 participants across walks of life pitted their creativity against one another in friendly jostling of the written word. While a few participants were occupationally involved in the arts, others comprised an eclectic mix of participants from all walks of life: including students, office executives, bus officer and retirees.  Many have not written plays before.

Mr. Matthias Yao Chih, Mayor of South East District, was  the Guest-of-Honour. He said, “South East CDC is happy to work with TheatreWorks in engaging our aspiring local writers and giving them valuable space to showcase their works. At the same time, the 24-hour playwriting competition allows self-expression, bonding among participants, and a better appreciation of one another’s uniqueness as well as shared experiences living and growing up in Singapore.

Excerpts from the prize-winning scripts were also read. They were directed by Associate Director Robin Loon, and performed by Serene Chen, Nora Samosir and Gerald Chew.

The winners are as follows :


1st Prize winner
Ahmad Musta’ain Bin Khamis with SERUNDING
Age 23, an undergrad at NIE.
He is a first-time winner, and second-time participant when he participated in 2008.

This winning play will be presented in the South East District as TheatreWorks’ community outreach programme. The dramatised reading of this play will be performed by Alin Mosbit and directed by Lim Yu Beng. The intention is to develop the work dramaturgically with inputs by professional theatre practitioners and to develop the skills of the writer. It will be presented in different venues in South East District over six weekends.

2nd Prize Winner
Age 36, Lawyer
A regular in the competition. He previously won a Special Mention award in the 2009 competition. Tan’s works have been staged previously, the most current was SOMEDAY, SAMSARA, that was staged in the Arts House.

3rd Prize Winner
Age: 40s/ Works in Marketing
A regular in the competition. He has won previously: 2nd Prize of 24h 2007, Merit Prize of 24h 2008 & 2nd Prize 24h 2009.

Merit Prize Winners

Age 28, Postgrad student at NUS
A regular participant in the competition, he won the first prize in the 2007 competition and in 2004 won the first prize in the TheatreWorks-organised Singapore Young Dramatist Awards.  One of his works, MA GOES HOME, is currently being staged by Action Theatre.

Nurudin Bin Sadali with RED OZ
Age 22, Undergrad at NUS

Special Mention

Othman Bin Ibrahim / Untitled
Age 59, Bus Driver
First time participant and is the only participant to write in long-hand. No laptop and typewriter.


No first, second or third prizes were awarded.  Only two merit prizes were awarded to:

Richard Neo with COMING HOME
Age 17, Student at Raffles Institution Junior College

Shriram Jayakumar with BRECHTIAN COMEDIES
Age 17, Student at Anglo-Chinese Junior College

The three judges were Academic and Founder of NUS Theatre Studies Programme Dr. K K Seet, playwrights Desmond Sim and Ovidia Yu.

Dr Seet said : “I am particularly gratified when the winners are a mixed bag of veterans and first-timers. On the one hand, the veterans remind us that their craft, which they continue to hone through the rigor of such playwriting competitions, is part and parcel of accumulated experience. On the other hand, the first-time winners inspire us with their freshness of perspective and innovative templates, as well as reassuring us that new, untapped talent is in constant supply.”

Robin Loon, who has been the Associate Director for the Writers’ Lab added, “This year’s Open category winners exhibit a maturity and confidence, the likes of which the 24-hour Playwriting Competition has not seen in a while.  The genres range from broad ensemble comedy, to sensitive & candid monologues, to intimate & intense two-handers.  These winning entries are very encouraging and will inject great excitement into the local play-writing scene. I do hope that the writers will continue to develop their writing.”

The 2010 24-Hour Playwriting Competition was supported by: South East CDC, Community ArtReach by People’s Association, National Arts Council and the SAF Yacht Club.


24H2010 Recap!

See more photos on Facebook!

2010 Venue Preview: SAF Yacht Club

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Flashback 2003: Singapore Turf Club

Prize Giving 2009

Big Thank You to South East CDC, PUB, judges, all staff and everybody else that helped in one way or another to make this happen!

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Open Category (19 years and above)
2nd: Chye Shing Jye Jacke – The CheongSam Mafia
2nd: Fok Jian Liang Christopher – Walitha’walitha
3rd: Alexander Ian Mitchell – Remembering
3rd: Ong Yi Ling – Synaesthesia

There is no 1st Prize for Open Category

Youth Category (13 – 18 years)
1st: Lim Ting Wen Thomas – Eulogy
2nd: Ho Mun Ci Angelica – Unknown
3rd: Chew Wei Shan – I Eat You You Eat Me
Merit: Aruna Narandran – The Only Constant

Special Mention: Tan Kuan Ho Bryan – DykeBorn

Best Blog Entry: Ng Yi-Sheng (Read entry here)


Comments from the Judging Panel
(Prepared by Dr KK Seet – Resident & Chief Judge, together with Ovidia Yu and Tan Tarn How)

Unlike the previous year, where the Peranakan precinct of Joo Chiat left an indelible stamp on participants and resulted in a surfeit of entries exploring cultural heritage issues, this year’s site of the Marina Barrage, with its vast vistas and extensive landscapes, provoked a corresponding expansion of creative imagination. The judges encountered so much variety in theme and descant that it was impossible to pigeonhole entries into particular categories. A reassuring note is the relatively fewer number of screenplays using the vocabulary of film. Our exhortation to participants year after year to be mindful of stage conventions and to see theatrical devices as distinct from cinematic montage obviously bore fruit.

In general, the final shortlist of the Youth Category is stronger than that of the Open Category. There is, in each of the four prize-winning plays, some highly original sleight of hand that dazzled and inspired us, whether thematically, structurally or performatively. At this juncture, I hesitate in giving away the ranking too soon, and so my brief appraisal of each play in the final shortlist is in no meritorious order. The entry, “The Only Constant” personifies change as the only constant, and juxtaposes frenetic crowd scenes emblematic of teeming, evolving life with the intimate tableaux of change as this impacts on one family. The entry “I Eat You, You Eat Me” is founded on an interesting premise, where a child’s mindset, as it copes with a tragedy that it cannot fully comprehend, effects a seismic shift on the perspective of the adult world, in the vein of receiving wisdom from the mouth of babes. To understand death as re-absorption into one large food chain, where source in one instance is regenerated as product in another, also aligns with forms of pantheistic philosophy where the spirit resides in all nature. The entry, “Unknown”, befitting its enigmatic title, plays with the meta-narrative of performativity. A dark, almost Pinteresque fable of mind games interjected by pregnant pauses, black humor, ellipsis and counter-turns, this deliberately ambivalent tale of a man held hostage amid suggestions of suburban dyfunctionality, toys with notions of truth, fiction and what our minds can be seduced into believing. Finally, the entry “Eulogy” takes us on a lyrical yet emotive journey, as a son grapples with the memories of what his late father represented. “Eulogy” in particular employs a potent yet minimalist mise-en-scene. An ensemble functions in multiple roles and the late father is resurrected by different members of the chorus to demonstrate his multi-faceted character as well as the son’s increasing understanding. The trajectory, tracing the passage from doubt and cynicism to total acceptance, is wrought with admirable finesse and psychological credibility. The cherry in the cake has to be the fine distinction it draws between concepts of happiness and a child-like joy.

In comparison, the winners of the Open Category, while still highly commendable, are often flawed by one or two devices in their scripts. Once again, my observations are no indication of the final ranking, because I want to keep all of you on tenterhooks for a while longer. The entry “Cheongsam Mafia” falls under the genre of entertaining chick-lit as a localised cross between the Cashmere Mafia and the Gossip Girls, with its know-it-all nod at Singapore high society. It’s alarmingly well made, with the denouement already hinted at in the expositional opening scene, and the various stimuli ingeniously incorporated. But it also risks being rather pedestrian and formulaic, like a homespun Noel Coward soiree, by merely delivering what it sets out to do and not aiming very high. The entry “Walitha’walitha” is an odd excrescence in a Singapore-based playwriting competition as it evokes the era of the Maccassan infiltration into the Antipodies. One wonders if the contestant has just been studying anthropology or conducting research into Australian history and fauna, with this piece as an intellectual exercise of sorts. Despite token references to Singapore and a smatter of local patois, this is essentially a landscape inhabited by aboriginal deities like Walitha’walitha, or tribal spirits like Wurrumu. It is provocative in its own way, with its post-colonial narrative, its advancement of the idea that sacrifices have to be made in the name of progress, its stand on wildlife conservation. And it also devotes much thought to theatricality, with its melange of life-sized talking animals that range from a possum to a koala. Yet the periodic intrusion of the Didgeridoo only serves to remind us that the realms it conjures are wondrous but far-flung from Singapore and her concerns. The entry “Remembering” competently yokes together two forms of remembering: remembering significant events in our lives as filtered through trying to remember where our car was parked, by using the stimulus of the haze as a conceit for the element of doubt that can obscure our vision yet ironically clarify it by acknowledging the innate slipperiness of all recollection. It dissects the central relationship and the jockeying for power between the two protagonists convincingly, while suggesting that a major agenda behind the struggle is a desperate grasp at some measure of certainty or control over our lives. However, the introduction of a talking cat Watanabe brings in an obtrusive element of the surreal that dissipates the pivotal dynamics between the man and the woman. Last but not least, “Synaesthesia” is a script infused with an artist’s sensibility that delights in the modalities of sensory perception. The language and imagery, in particular the use of colours and the multivalent signs, are undoubtedly engaging, but the configuration on stage is primarily static, with much talk and little action. There is also insufficient exploitation of a fractured chronology for potential connections, parallels or reversals. In the end, everything develops in a piecemeal manner.

Before we announce the pecking order of the winning scripts, I would like to give a special mention to one of the entries. A contestant was inspired by the stimuli to write a prose poem instead of a play. In this case, the stimuli were very organically integrated. the lines passionate and compelling, and the final product reduced more than one judge to tears. While we recognise the prevailing rules of this competition, we also applaud this contestant’s bravado in not letting his creativity be confined or encumbered by prescriptions. While it is not ultimately a play per se, it qualifies as a piece that can be enacted or dramatised as performance art. For these considerations alone and in view of the eloquence of the writing, we shall award it a special literary prize, not cash but a literary text.

To conclude, I wish to thank my fellow judges Ovidia Yu and Tan Tarn How for their discerning selection. I also wish to thank every participant for his or her enthusiasm and most of all, stamina. And to the deserving winners one and all, may this spur you to even greater heights of literary achievement!

Thank you.



It’s been a while…

Hope all of you are very well 🙂

Yes, after some months of waiting, we have finally completed the judging for the 24-Hour Playwriting Competition 2009 and are ready to announce the results!

We are please to invite you and guest to the prize presentation ceremony

On: Sat, 10 Oct 09
At: 3 pm
At: TheatreWorks / 72-13, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road

The programme (may be subject to change) for the ceremony is as follows:

2.30pm Arrival of guests
3.00pm Arrival of GOH
3.05pm Opening address and judges’ comments
3.15pm Reading of excerpts of winning scripts
4.00pm Prize-giving ceremony
4.15pm Reception
5.00pm End of event

The Guest-of-Honour (GOH) is Mr Matthias Yao Chih, Mayor South East District.

Please RSVP by Fri, 25 Sep 09 to Soo Mei | | +65 6737 7213

See you at 72-13!

Things I’ve Learnt in the 24 Hour Playwriting Competition

1. Don’t put so many things in your bag. You think you superman, can carry so many things ah? In the end spare clothes also never use, what. Then bag so heavy only got one jacket – how to survive aircon?

2. Go with buddy. Even if you got no friend right, find friends to go enter with you. Must make sure they are siao siao like you, so can give each other tips and inspiration.

3. Make friends. You think you got only one friend very tuah is it? Want to form gang must have at least 10 people lor. Aiya, other people also can support and encourage you what, but must make sure they slaughter chicken and perform the brotherly rites first.

4. No need to go supermarket and buy snacks. Got people like Soo Mei (thank you ah), confirm get free food one. Even if the place ulu ulu you also won’t starve one, because got organizer look after you mah. Then again hor, you pay $35 must be worth it lah.

5. Take pictures! Walk around and see everything, don’t recluse. Later got inspiration one. I confirm chop guarantee you.

6. Treat the place like your home. Can wear slippers around or those very kiam chai short shorts nobody also care. As long as you not cold can already. Wear contact lens also no use because later very hard to take out then you take out also bang into wall. Wear nerdy thick thick specs la! Nobody say anything, what.

7. When you submit play ah, check if you follow the stimuli properly. Don’t geh kiang anyhow add things to save your play. You not Shakespeare, so don’t try to act smart. They give you stimuli for reason okay!

8. And at the end hor, if you think your play is like shit and the most salah one of all, is okay. Still got next year, what. Really. That guy queueing up behind you? His play very lousy one lah!. Anyway, at least you got try, better than never finish, what.

This entry is entitled, “Things I’ve Learnt in the 24 Hour Playwriting Comepetition,” ( to be read in the most Ah Beng/Ah Lian/Auntie  way possible.)

After entering the competition, I found that I was more Singaporean than I’d ever imagined. It highlights the little idiosyncrasies I possess, and how I am just a very Singlish Singaporean at the heart of it all. It chronicles what I experienced during the competition, and was inspired by my friend, Aik Wee. This note is also dedicated to Chris, who went with me and inspired me along the way.

– Shi Min

24hrs at Marina Barrage, playwriting, supposedly… quite randomly

Big Bag – Small Bag

I got there at around 3pm, joined the queue at registration. There was a young lady in front of me, filling in her particulars on the indemnity form, with only one little backpack next to her.

“But where are the rest of her things?”, I thought… and I laughed to myself, slightly embarrassed.

Yes, I was one of those who came lugging a huge bag, stuffed with items, many which remained unused, untouched even as I lugged it back home.

First Time?

I believe everyone would be asked at least once – “Is this your first time?”; “Have you done this before?”; “Which year? And where did you do it?”.

Asleep / Awake

2-6am. This was my favourite time.

Indoors, many were curled up on the carpeted floor, some in their sleeping bags, some in deep sleep, snoring. A few were still writing, sometimes rather furiously. Some slept, waking at random intervals to write, feverishly with eyes glazed, and then back to sleep again. The sound of typing never stopped.

Downstairs, some had red-bean soup (courtesy of Soo Mei). Outside, some were chit-chatting, joking, laughing, clapping at the mosquitoes. Further out, others were bonding over smoke breaks.

A few wandered alone, walking up the spiral park, expecting solitude, intruding into private moments of unsuspecting couples.

Still, there was space for all. The night breeze up there was sublime.

I was surprised to read (a few days later) what I wrote during that time-frame, and thought how bizarre it was what I was writing.


The bamboo-bow for our first kite broke, so we opened another pack, and had 2 rolls of kite string which we tied together to fly our kite twice as high as everyone else’s.

I shan’t wax lyrical here, but the experience was really memorable.

It did, however, because of our extra-length of string, take much longer for us to get our kite back. That wasn’t so fun.

But the weather was nice.

Final Stimulus

12pm. It gets exciting, you can hear the typing, like thin-plastic raindrops pitter-patter, in surround-sound, filling the room.

For some of us, fatigue suddenly set in, and in spite of the lessening time, crashed.

Submission – Reception

The result of 24 hours of thinking, plotting, vexing… a memento of completion, like a trophy in itself, a script in our hands.

And of course, the people, especially those we’d normally never expect to meet in our daily lives. That was a smashing bonus, and perhaps a great motivator for future participation.


And then we were home. Quite abruptly.

~AikWee, 23 July 2009

The 24 Hour Experience (Part II) by E.


She was stuck. She looked around her, taking in all the details. The white walls. The full length glass windows. The half-drawn curtains. The pale evening light, streaming in. Dust in the air, silver stars. Ten people. Six armchairs. One couch. The grey, grey carpet.

“What are you doing here?” It was a familiar voice. She looked up to see who it was. It was that boy she had met last week at group therapy. “Did you come alone? Come, come join me and my friends. We’re having a tea party!” He looked at her confidently, and had a glint of mischief in his eyes. She found herself following him. They walked quickly, past all the rooms. He stopped at the end of the long corridor, and kicked open the door to his room. He introduced her with a sense of propriety. He then sat down with his friends and beckoned her to do the same. There were four of them, and they were sitting in a circle, by the window. She recognized one of them. He raised his hand, and gave her a small wave. She had met him last week too. One of them was looking up at her, studying her with a child-like curiosity, it was rather touching. So young, she thought, and she stood there, smiling. The Pied Piper, and his children, she thought to herself.

The Pied Piper cleared his throat, and began to give a speech: “Welcome to our world! We’re all mad here. Let’s celebrate! I propose a toast to self-control! (singing) Let the children use it, let the children lose it, let all the children boogie…” They were laughing heartily and a conversation had begun to take off. One line after another, in different tones, distinct voices created a sense of life; against the cold white walls and the echo of silence from outside. Their words, like colourful balloons, bounced off the floor, some rested themselves against the ceiling, some floated in mid-air, while some were tumbling across the floor. She observed them, allowing herself to fade. Time passed. Seconds, and minutes.

It was time for the second dose of the day. The party was over. They had to separate, and return to their rooms.

Solitary. She sat down, and began to feel claustrophobic. She began to notice something, which she couldn’t put into words. The view from inside her room, through the glass window. Something was wrong. What was it? It’s all so exhausting, she thought. She remained in the silence, in absence, dwelling in her own history, searching within herself, for something, for someone. She looked up.

There were kites. Kites, bits and dots of colour, flying high in the vast expanse of the sky.

There were people outside, walking towards the rooftop, enjoying the simple things in life – the setting sun, the blue skies, and the sea breeze. There had been talk of the haze returning to their shores, but for now, the skies were clear. If there was any pollution at all, it was generated by the sprawling city itself. Just next to the asylum was the large construction site for one of the most expensive casinos in the world. It was a time of possibilities. It was all about to change.

“Are you ok?” The Pied Piper had popped his head round the door to check on her. He looked at her and asked, “Why are you so quiet?”

She couldn’t answer him. She wanted to cry.

The 24 Hour Experience (Part I) by E.


To be stuck in a room with glass windows, for 24 hours, at the Marina Barrage.

You really don’t remember, do you? … I don’t. Do I? I don’t remember. “Could it be denial?” the therapist had asked. She couldn’t get over it. It kept repeating itself. Her thoughts often did that, and so did her speech, and her actions. Stop. Rewind. Play. Pause. It was “maybe”. That was her reply. Maybe. What does that mean?

She had come alone. She had been wandering around. She found herself in the hallway, with residents sitting around, some were sitting by the glass windows. She had been looking for a good spot to place herself in. What am I doing here? She asked herself. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I wanted to be a writer. I just wanted to write. That’s all. She looked around her and she couldn’t take it anymore. She felt suffocated. It was as if someone was choking her.

“Excuse me, do you know what’s going on? It’s my first time here. I have no idea what’s going on.” From behind his glasses, he was judging her, she knew it. He had given her a once-over, and he was deciding whether or not she was pretty, whether she was too fat or too flat, whether or not she was worth being nice to. He was wearing a red sweater, and she liked the colour red. “Oh they’ve just given us the first dose for the day. It’s my first time here too. Why? Do I look like I’ve been here many times?” He asked, jokingly. She noticed his shaven head, which made him seem rebellious. She liked rebels. “Have you taken the first dose? You can go get it now from the doctor.” He gestured, lazily. “Oh, ok. … Is there anyone sitting here?” She asks, and she thought to herself, how alone I must seem. “Yeah, you can sit here. We can share this couch.” He replied politely, and he made space for her. “Thank you,” she said. She sat down, relieved.

There was another man sitting on one of the six dark-grey armchairs which were randomly placed along each side of the hallway. He was seated just adjacent to them. “Is this your first time here?” She repeats herself. “Yes it’s my first time,” he replied quickly, smiling self-consciously. He didn’t want to talk to her, she knew that. They remained in a comfortable silence.

At that moment, she could hear them, she could hear people, from where she was sitting. Thinking to themselves. Those in their rooms, those solitary, sitting, silent. They owned themselves. Eccentric by choice, in absolute solitude, in the flight of the mind.

The asylum stood at the edge of the island, just down the southern tip of the mainland; and they existed from a distance, away from civilisation, in a thumping, roaring silence.

(To be continued)