Next London Theatre Seminar 15 October 2015: Postgraduate Panel with Ying Cheng and Adelina Ong

London Theatre Seminar’s 2015-16 series kicks off on 15 October, 6:30 – 8:30 PM, with a postgraduate panel featuring Ying Cheng (SOAS) and Adelina Ong (RCSSD).
Seminars take place in the University of London Senate House.  They begin at 6.30pm and close at 8.30pm, and then often reconvene in a local pub.  All are welcome, and there is no need to book.
We hope to see you there!
Ying Cheng: SOAS, University of London
“Is Theatre Dying in Nigeria?”: “Recycling” Popular Theatre in Metropolitan Lagos
My research focuses on Crown Troupe of Africa, a youth theatre troupe made up of a group of jobless young people based in an inner-city slum of Bariga in Lagos, Nigeria. The troupe was established by the current director Segun Adefila in 1996, during a period when almost all of the one hundred Yoruba travelling theatres “disappeared”. Is the theatre dying in Nigeria, as one of the most distinguished Nigerian playwrights Femi Osofisan asked in 2004? I am interested in how the once extremely vibrant popular theatre tradition is “resurrected” and “reinvented” by a younger generation of theatre practitioners. I examine how a guerrilla theatre troupe functions as an informal way of organizing and “mobilizing” the urban youth to engage with the public, and how the urban space they live shapes the way they understand art, livelihood and politics. By addressing these questions, the project situates itself in the current discussions and theorizations of informal urbanism, civic agency and popular culture in Africa. In the presentation, I focus on the troupe’s rehearsal space named “The Lab”, and explore how the frenetic “recycling” culture in Lagos could be understood as a metaphor/parallel to interpret the generation of works inside “The Lab”: the young ghetto performers recollect their everyday experiences, objects and urban spaces, and collectively transform them into dramatic works to be shared with a wider audience.

Adelina Ong, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, University of London

Battling Fears: a sea monster and a friend

Can education exacerbate precarity?

In a hypercompetitive society like Singapore, where education has been described as an ‘arms race’, there are indications that the popularity of private tuition and enrichment class  might significantly disadvantage young people from low-income families who already struggle with school-related costs (Gee 2012: 5).

Being Normal is associated with being ‘below average’ in Singapore. At twelve, young people who do not excel academically are segregated from their peers and placed into the Normal stream, which can be further differentiated into Normal Academic or Normal Technical (Ministry of Education 2015). Singaporean playwright Faith Ng, who was a Normal Academic student herself, said, ‘I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was called ‘slow’, stupid, lazy or defiant, to the point where I started to believe in those labels. Even now, I still wrestle with a lot of self-doubt’ (Ng in Anjum 2015). In this presentation, I will argue that students identified as Normal experience greater exposure to suffering and that this precarity is exacerbated by an instrumentalist approach to education where future leaders are identified and nurtured through Singapore’s education system, and on the other hand a paternalistically prescribed role for those who are not identified as talents.

This presentation will also reflect on a Breakin’ (breakdance) x Applied Theatre workshop that I co-facilitated for the young people of Lakeside Family Service Centre in Singapore. In analysing the participants’ response, I will tease out some responses to fear as experienced by young people in Singapore and offer some thoughts towards battling these fears.


Gee, C. (2012) ‘The Educational ‘arms Race’: All For One, Loss For All’, IPS Working Papers, Singapore, Institute of Policy Studies, 9.12. (accessed 12.9.15).

Ministry of Education ‘Singapore: Education System: Secondary Education: Normal Course Curriculum’, Ministry of Education, 2015, (accessed 5.9.15).

Anjum, Z. (2015) An accidental playwright: Interview with Faith Ng, kitaab, (accessed 12.9.15).