Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context
Issue 15, May 2007

Theatre Works, Education & Outreach Singapore

Writer: Duncan Sarkies; Director: Jeffrey Tan
Cast: Chu Enlai, Brendan Fernandez, Rajesh Krishnamuti, Ravi Raoj Marimootoo, Janice Koh, Chermaine Ang, Denise Tan, Annie Lee.

reviewed by Jyh Wee Sew

  1. TheatreWorks (Singapore) Ltd., an international performance company established in 1985, is Singapore's pioneer for professional English theatre production. Lovepuke is a production from the Education and Outreach of TheatreWorks programme in the Singapore Arts Festival's Flipside performance series. The cast of eight local talents, under the direction of Jeffrey Tan, the Associate Artistic Director of TheatreWorks, put up a raunchy but intelligent performance.
  2. Lovepuke showed the love(-hate) relationships of four couples in metropolitan Singapore who fell in and out of love due to sexual excitement, fantasy and hedonism. The nature of the show, rated RA., meant that the audience was restricted to viewers 21 years and older. The production, which was performed at the Esplanade's Theatre studio, on 12 June 2005, to a packed house, re-examined the notion of love.
  3. This performance was given in a Brechtian style with projections on a screen indicating the sequential-thematic division of the performance as well as placards used by the actors at the beginning and the end of each scene of the performance. Couples flashed cards in various sequences surrounding the key words Sex, Argument, Break-up and Make-up before the first scene. At the end of each scene were moans of sexual elation or frustration followed by the display of a cards with First, Second, Not Participating or Unfinished.
  4. One can visualise the development of the scene prior to the various combinations of these cards. Couples flashing cards with First and Second represented an I-win-you-lose situation, whereas couples flashing cards with First and Unfinished represented a lack of parity in terms of sexual satisfaction. Couples flashing Not Participating and Unfinished cards represented a situation of mutual sexual malaise for reasons like discontentment with or disillusionment in an uncommitted partner.
  5. The performance was a quite hilarious exhibit of different characteristics of lovers going through a process of discovering their partner and themselves. There was the sex was never enough caricature, the low self-esteem caricature, the am I gay? self-questioning character, the she looked like my ex-girl friend character, the need for him to look good in front of my ex-lover character and other such relationship stereotypes.
  6. These various roles were enough to keep the audience laughing as the actors cried and empathetic when the actors laughed.[2] Lovepuke depicted a typology of relationships in a post-modern middle-class Asian society that seemed to be typical of those shown in the mass media of popular media across South and East Asia. There seemed to be little room for simple family-oriented love as the foundation of social relations in the world of this particular social class and very little concern for the communal good. Although there was a card written with the phrase Having Children, the card was not the theme of the scene but rather a by-product of the sexual preoccupation of those particular characters. The card in question was preceded by many cards with key words such as Sex and Minor Squabble.
  7. The major theme in Lovepuke concerns narcissistic relationships between individuals who required a second party to confirm, affirm and re-affirm their sense of self-worth as well as their desire to be loved. While in the first scene, the dialogue of the actors might sound like love to many people, Tan managed to use Brechtian alienation effect and epic style to show the selfish desire of each character through the actor's commentary. These commentaries offered a subplot that engaged the audience in an intelligent and critical way to view Lovepuke as a social critique of contemporary society in a post-modern macrocosm.


    [1] For Lee Jun Wei, who shouldn't have listened to my grouses.

    [2] Bertolt Brecht, 'Theatre for Learning,' trans. Edith Anderson, in Brecht Sourcebook, ed. Carol Martin & Henry Bial, 2000, New York: Routledge, pp. 23-30, p. 26.


This paper was originally published in Intersections: Gender, History and Culture in the Asian Context, with the assistance of Murdoch University.

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