Performing Grief: a panel discussion with artists and an art psychotherapist about putting sorrow on stage, as done in plays Berak and Poop!
Teater Ekamatra’s Berak, a play adapted from Chong Tze Chien’s award-winning Poop!, was originally slated to run more than two years ago, but was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Performing Grief: a panel discussion with artists and an art psychotherapist about putting sorrow on stage, as done in plays Berak and Poop!

Berak, a production about a family’s grief, love, and loss, completed its run at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay from 1 to 4 Sep. The play, presented by Malay theatre group Teater Ekamatra, is adapted from Chong Tze Chien’s award-winning Poop!.

Grief comes to all of us in our individual ways, just as it did in Berak when a loved one takes his life. In the play, the three female characters – one of them portrayed by artist Aidli Mosbit – express their grief differently, yet somewhat similarly.

The Berak cast, featuring Siti Khalijah Zainal, Fir Rahman, Siti Hajar Abdul Gani, and Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit, put on four sold-out shows at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.
The Berak cast, featuring Siti Khalijah Zainal, Fir Rahman, Siti Hajar Abdul Gani, and Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit, put on four sold-out shows at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.

In Performing Grief, Mosbit, Chong, and art psychotherapist Jolene Chiang take on the topic of grief and how it is performed and represented on stage in a panel discussion moderated by Singapore writer Jill J. Tan.

 Poop! was first performed in 2010, and had an encore performance in 2017 at the Victoria Theatre.
Poop! was first performed in 2010, and had an encore performance in 2017 at the Victoria Theatre.

Chong is an award-winning playwright and director, and a winner of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award in 2006. As someone who previously admitted that death is a “pet theme” in his work, Chong is well-placed to talk about the idea of grief and art. Many of his works, including Poop! (2009), have centred around death, or made the death of a character a pivotal plot in his plays.

In an interview with bakchormeeboy in 2017, Chong said that the vulnerability of grief turns to strength at some point. “An audience who watched the first staging wrote to us; she remarked how much she remembered her loved one from watching the play. For her, the play celebrates the bonds the living have with their loved ones, beyond mortality.”
In an interview with bakchormeeboy in 2017, Chong said that the vulnerability of grief turns to strength at some point. “An audience who watched the first staging wrote to us; she remarked how much she remembered her loved one from watching the play. For her, the play celebrates the bonds the living have with their loved ones, beyond mortality.”

Chiang is a registered art psychotherapist who focuses on mental health, trauma, loss, and grief. She has experience using art therapy to support people who are grieving. One of her projects was Tapestries of Grief: Witnessing through Art Therapy, a nationwide project that aimed to support bereaved people through creating art.

: Berak was directed by Mohd Fared Jainal, who used theatre and the play as a vehicle to open conversations about suicide, a topic commonly perceived as taboo.
Berak was directed by Mohd Fared Jainal, who used theatre and the play as a vehicle to open conversations about suicide, a topic commonly perceived as taboo.

Together, the quartet will take a deep dive into how grief is expressed, performed and presented on stage, as well as what performers consider when giving their own artistic treatments to portray similarities and differences in fiction and real life.

The panel discussion will take place on 10 Sep, 3pm at library@esplanade. Find out more here.

(Photos: Teater Ekamatra, The Finger Players)

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