Staging Nation

English Language Theatre in Malaysia and Singapore


Jacqueline Lo

ISBN : 978-962-209-687-5

Film, Media, Fine Arts

September 2004

240 pages, 6″ x 9″

  • HK$295.00

Staging Nation examines the complex relationship between the theatrical stage and the wider stage of nation building in postcolonial Malaysia and Singapore. In less than fifty years, locally written and produced English language theatre has managed to shrug off its colonial shackles to become an important site of community expression. This groundbreaking comparative study discusses the role of creative writing and the act of performance as actual political acts and as interventions in national self-constructions. It argues that certain forms of theatre can be read as emerging oppositional cultures that contribute towards the deepening of democracy by offering contending narratives of the nation.

Jacqueline Lo is Senior Lecturer at the School of Humanities, Australian National University. She has published widely on postcolonial theory, performance studies and Asian-Australian cultural politics. She is the editor of Theatre in Southeast Asia and co-editor of Diaspora: Negotiating Asian-Australia.

“Focused and meticulously researched, Staging Nation provides fresh insights into the larger field of English language theatre in Malaysia and Singapore through a detailed and exhaustive examination of four particularly significant plays. By focusing on the performance texts and their unique political and social contexts, the analysis shows us how even in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia where theatre is subject to many formal and informal constraints, theatre practitioners have found ways to move beyond the ‘post’ in postcolonial, and challenge rigid political and social structures.” —William Peterson, author of Theatre and the Politics of Culture in Contemporary Singapore

Staging Nation brings together different aspects of the socio-political contexts in which these plays were staged, placing the range of views of theatre critics and practitioners against the postcolonial histories and the language and cultural policies of these countries. It is a significant contribution to the study of postcolonial theatre and the shaping of national identities in Malaysia and Singapore through the use of English.” —Yong Li Lan, Theatre Studies Programme, Department of English Language & Literature, National University of Singapore

Staging Nation explicates creative writing and performance as actual political acts in their own right, and as important interventions in national self-constructions. Its originality lies in the unravelling of the intimate and pressured interrelation of performance as cultural production in Malaysia and Singapore with other forms of social meanings and disciplinary institutions in these societies.” —Veronica Kelly, School of English, Media Studies & Art History, University of Queensland