17 September 2007

不知岛的名字 by Dramabox

At first, people had to go to the arts. Then, they brought the arts to the people. Now, the arts bring the people to places.

不知岛的名字 literally has the audience hop on a tour bus along with a 'tour guides' explaining the snippets of the locations we pass by and the destinations we will arrive at. Pretty quirky that a local is being brought around Singapore like a tour. But Dramabox did a great job presenting their research findings through an outdoor play that brought us to Labrador Park and the original NTU gate, the minimal set up felt really like last time the ah gong tell story.

First Stop: Labrador Park

Dramabox traced the history of Singapore's name with a light-hearted theatre that questions if Sang Nila Utama really did see a lion. Because according to historical records, lions never existed in the region. So how in the world did Temasek become Singapura? Did Sang Nila Utama see wrongly? Or was he mis-educated to identify a tiger for lion? Can you imagine country being named Harimaupura?

Also discussed was Dragon Teeth Gate a.k.a. Batu Berlayer a.k.a. Lot's Wife. This rock formation was a guiding landmark for incoming boats but also posed a threat as it was a perfect hiding place for pirates to ambush. Eventually, it was blown up for the safety of sea-farers.

The multiple names came about from different perspectives. Particularly, Lot's Wife was aptly named after the character in the bible who did not take heed and looked back to Sodom was turned to stone. The parallel of Sodom? It was Pulau Belakang Mati where the inhabitants were wiped out by Malaria. In order not to bring up the sorrows of the deaths, the island was renamed to Sentosa.

Since we were on the topic of Sentosa (and the Integrated Resort), Lot's Wife and Sodom (where all the vices congregated), how about putting Lot's Wife in the gambling den? Keep that to your imagination as we moved on to our second stop.

Second Stop: The Original NTU Gate

I think this is one of the most historically significant of establishments from the time under British colonial rule. Chinese immigrants set up Nanyang University to as a beacon of hope. The university embodied the belief that a better education would bring about a better life.

Our ancestors always thought about their descendants' future. So when the idea of a local University was brought up, the piece of land was given and everybody did what they could to contribute to the building fund. Many professions dedicated a day's earnings to the fund, even the prostitutes were no exception (historically true).

But it wasn't smooth sailing for university. The students were persecuted on many occasions and no recognition was given to their certificate. While NTU is well-recognized today, the alumni from long ago still contest for the name of their university to be restored even till this day.


It was definitely an enjoyable experience and an eye-opener to many unseen facets of our local history which were never taught in the classroom during my time. Kudos to Dramabox for their diligent research on the topic, their innovation to bring their audience out to places for theatre, and the quality performance that teaches and entertains at the same time.

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