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Thoughts on the 12th Life! Theatre Awards

March 19, 2012

[Full list of winners here.]

A Farewell To The Doyen

A number of possible headlines seem to jump out at you, not least of which was the fact that the 12th Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards was held at the tuckshop of an arts school, but ultimately, the main story of today’s Life! Theatre Awards has to be that Dr K K Seet, Singapore’s most beloved and respected theatre doyen, bids a warm adieu to the local theatre scene.

The sheer number of established theatre professionals who came up to Dr Seet today to offer their heartfelt gratitude and well wishes is a testament to the impact which the man has had on Singapore’s theatre scene the past two decades.

If last weekend’s “The Velveteen Rabbit” (staged by NUS Theatre Studies and produced by Dr Seet as his swan song) was a precursor to his retirement, then today was more or less an affirmation.

Dr Seet officially ends his tenure as long-serving Life! Theatre Awards judge, and will be retiring from his position in NUS in a few month’s time.

Few people realise that Dr Seet represents possibly the only precious link we have left between Singapore theatre’s first generation of practitioners such as Chandran Lingam and Kuo Pao Kun, and the newer generation such as Haresh Sharma and Ong Keng Sen.

Unfortunately, I was not one of the many students who had studied in NUS Theatre Studies under Dr Seet, and neither do I have any formal background in theatre whatsoever, both academically or professionally.

However, I have had the immense good fortune of knowing Dr Seet on a personal level the past few years, and have found him to be exceedingly warm, kind, generous, and loyal.

The local theatre scene would have been a very different place today had it not been for Dr Seet’s many acts of kindness and generosity to those who managed to further their professional careers as a result of them.

Perhaps the most overt manifestation of Dr Seet’s lasting legacy on local theatre this afternoon was the fact that Chong Tze Chien – one of Dr Seet’s many established ex-students – emerged the big winner of the day by bagging both Best Director and Production of the Year awards, and deservedly so.

Tze Chien picks up where he left off last year, when he won Best Original Script for “Charged”.

Further proof, that Chong Tze Chien remains Singapore’s most talented young playwright/director today.

I was pleased that Huzir Sulaiman won Best Original Script for “The Weight of Silk on Skin”, which was a personal favourite of mine last year, not least due to the strength of the script.

The talented Eucien Chia (whom I had the good fortune of meeting for the first time today) sets himself up for a rare hat-trick after winning Best Set Design for “Dealer’s Choice”, following up from last year’s “December Rains” win.

I personally also enjoyed seeing Tube Gallery win Best Costume Design for “881”, because when I watched the musical last year, I was so impressed with the costumes that I immediately decreed that Tube Gallery win Best Costume Design at the next Life! Theatre Awards.

Lastly, I wonder what happened to the new category introduced last year called “Best Original Score”?

Was it because there were not enough new musicals this year to compile a decent list of nominees?

All in all, it was a wonderful Life! Theatre Awards this afternoon, and though the thought of going from holding it at the St Regis last year to an arts school tuckshop this year might be slightly disconcerting, I guess the bigger concern would be how long local theatre would take to get over the gaping hole left by Dr Seet’s departure, if it ever learns to get over it at all.

Thank you Dr Seet, for all that you’ve given to Singapore theatre.

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