Author: Bryan Chua

War(e)ming Hearts: Heartware 2014

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Written by Joyce Er (15A01A), Marcus Tan (15A01A), Christine Saw (15A01A) and Martin Lim (15A13A)
Additional Photos by Hugo Tay (15A01A) and Raffles Community Advocates heartware 1 From the 15-17th of April, Raffles Community Advocates (CA) rolled out the inaugural Heartware, in their bid to raise awareness on the serious issue of poverty in our society and around the world. Instead of merely having No Shoes Day as per tradition, this year the graduating batch of CA decided to address the issue of poverty more holistically, starting with the individual before branching out to the community and to the world. With the aim of cultivating empathy and inspiring Rafflesians to reflect on the privileged lives we take for granted, the Organising Team organised a series of events from the 15-17 of April, in the hopes that students could experience poverty for themselves.

Day 1: Try It! The $3 Challenge

Heartware 2014 commenced with Try It!: $3 Food Challenge. Participants were encouraged to limit their food spending money for the day to $3, an initiative which bore similarities to the ‘$5 challenge’ that gained popularity and attention in Singapore late last year. In the $5 challenge, Singaporeans pledged to cap their spending on food and transportation to a mere $5 a day so as to be able to better empathise with Singaporeans who face such impediments living on a $1500 income. Similarly, the $3 challenge aimed to encourage fellow Rafflesians to get a taste of the constraints and discomforts of food poverty.

heartware 2
The $3 Challenge pledge board featuring pictures of students holding up placards

When asked about the purpose of the challenge, Daniel Hakim (14S06F), the head of the Organising Team for Heartware 2014 remarked, “It’s not about going hungry […] it’s about appreciating the value of $3 such that you will be able to spend wisely on your food.” Students were encouraged to pledge their commitment to the challenge by writing their reasons for doing so on placards. Pictures of students holding up the placards were displayed on a board along the canteen walkway and featured in a video screened in the canteen.

One of our writers decided to take part in the challenge as well.
One of our writers decided to take part in the challenge as well.

Many students took part in this event with enthusiasm, citing reasons such as wanting to empathise with those who regularly face financial constraints, and recognising that we should not take our food for granted. Students felt that even though the challenge was on too small a scale to really feel the experience of being impoverished, it still helped to make the student population more sensitive to the plight of the less privileged. Eugene Lee from 15S07D commented, “I think that it’s important to know that we are in a very comfortable and blessed environment, and we shouldn’t take what we have now for granted… $3 may seem small to us but in other people’s eyes, its a lot of money…I did it because I wanted to empathize with others from all around the world and to just keep in mind that we have a lot in our current age, and we shouldn’t take all these privileges for granted by being spendthrift and spending excessively.”

The challenge was labelled by many as a difficult one. While many students excitedly pledged to commit to the challenge, a number found themselves unable to complete it and eventually succumbed to the persistent growls of their stomachs. Not only did students find it tough to last the day on the significantly smaller amount of food that $3 could get them, they also faced the inconvenience of having to consider the value of food items down to the very cent.

Phionna Teo from 15A01A said, “I found it rather difficult because I’m not the type to consider the food I want to buy by its price, but more of how it would satisfy me. Putting a monetary limit to the food I could buy was thus a great stretch for me and I eventually gave in. I think the challenge is really a sacrifice that makes you take a step back and consider the plight of the less fortunate.”

However, some students refrained from taking part in the challenge entirely. Reasons for desisting included having a long day in school or failing to see the value in such an initiative. This was especially so for those who had to stay back that day and needed their money to cover the cost of more than one meal. The more common replies when interviewed were “I’m staying in school till ____/ I have CCA and I need energy” or “I’ll probably exceed it anyway”. When asked why she thought this was the case, a CA member who declined to be named replied, “I think many people don’t really take events like these seriously and simply dismiss it because they already feel that they have the sort of awareness the event aims to promote. Taking part in this challenges don’t seem to be able to improve the lives of the less fortunate in any way. But what many people fail to realise is the challenge is meant to be a starting point for fostering greater empathy which will hopefully translate into greater action taken.”

What also possibly limited the success of the event was the fact that some brought home cooked food to school in order to remain below the $3 budget, which many claimed defeated the purpose of feeling the discomfort and curtailment of $3 in the first place. On the other hand, many other students found meaning in the challenge and persisted in completing it despite the long school hours. When asked why she still participated in the challenge despite having to stay back till 5pm, Liu Lijia from 15A01A quipped, “Well, poor people don’t have a choice.”

Day 2: See It! Behind Closed Doors One-Room-Flat Exhibition heartware 4 Heartware continued on the second day with “See It! Behind Closed Doors”, where a one-room flat exhibition was conspicuously set up in the canteen walkway. The intention was to bring the struggles of the poor right to our doorstep, while concurrently publicising REACH Singapore’s home refurbishment volunteer activities. Singapore’s shiny facade belies its income inequality, currently the highest amongst OEDCs, such that, as Daniel Hakim explained, “poverty in Singapore may not be obviously seen”. Although it was not to scale, the exhibition clearly demonstrated the cramped living conditions which the underprivileged have to face on a daily basis, even in a country at the pinnacle of economic prosperity.

  A table displaying an assortment of cheap but unhealthy foodstuffs, which can typically be found in a one-room flat.

A table displaying an assortment of cheap but unhealthy foodstuffs, which can typically be found in a one-room flat.

The not-to-scale mini-exhibition served its function by creating an illusory sense of claustrophobia even in the wide canteen walkway, which undoubtedly proved to be a novel experience for Rafflesians. A table piled with cheap foodstuffs like milo packets and biscuits took up about a third of the space. In addition to this table, the tiny space was further crammed with a study desk and a blanket meant to indicate a sleeping area.

Photos of one-room flats which CA helped to clean up were displayed on the walls to show visitors the reality of living in such flats in Singapore, and students who wished to view those on the far end of the exhibit were forced to squeeze in. The rest of the wall space was covered in infographic posters about poverty in Singapore. Students who visited the exhibition were encouraged to pen down their thoughts on Post-It notes which were then put up on a cork board inside the exhibit, as well as on its exterior.

The majority of post-its expressed approval of the exhibit, such as one that said the exhibition was “very meaningful and insightful in showing us the living conditions of our fellow Singaporeans [which] we otherwise would not know about”. Similarly, another said the exhibition “opened my eyes to the harsh reality in Singapore and inspired me again to remember to be grateful and stand up for the needy”. For such individuals, the exhibition clearly confronted them with the stark reality of poverty and inspired them to reconsider their own privilege, fulfilling CA’s intended outcomes.

At the same time, the exhibition had its detractors, with one post-it arguing that the exhibition was an “unrealistic representation of a one-room flat” and an “exaggeration”. Admittedly, the exhibition had its limitations; one could hardly expect CA to reconstruct an entire flat in the canteen, and stepping into a small space for a couple of minutes makes a mockery of the experience of the poor. However, the intention of the exhibition was not to replicate, but to simulate, and in doing so provide an opportunity to step into the shoes of someone less fortunate.

However, ‘See It’ appeared to be limited in its attempt to inspire students to sign up if they were interested in future home refurbishment activities. When we last checked on Saturday, there were only four signups expressing interest in future home refurbishment activities. When asked if she noticed the signup sheet, Sandra Faith Tan  from 15S05A highlighted, “If it was on the table outside the exhibition, the table was strewn with loose papers and post-it pads,” which may have obscured the signup sheet. The exhibition had unrealised potential to engage and inspire students and perhaps there could have been better organization and more conspicuous positioning.

For an inaugural run, the one-room flat simulation appears to have been well-intentioned, but to increase its effectiveness, it could have been executed more thoroughly, with greater attention paid to detail. A Y5 who has requested to remain anonymous praised the visual component of the exhibition, but felt that ‘it could be much more improved through other senses like taste, smell and touch’ for a more comprehensive and convincing sensory experience.

Tana River Life Foundation Talk 

That same day, a talk was also held to help establish the right attitude towards the final instalment of Heartware, Feel It! No Shoes Day. Over the past two years, this has been held alongside the Shoe Collection Drive that CA holds in partnership with the Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF). This is a charitable organisation situated in Kenya, which aims to provide dignified aid to marginalised locals. The talk was conducted by Rafflesian alumnus and TRLF founder, Mr Gabriel Teo, about his organisation’s schemes and the ethics he believes should underpin any acts of social service. He was accompanied by three Kenyan youth beneficiaries of TRLF’s programmes, including the Mitumba Project which the Heartware shoe collection drive is contributing towards.

Mr Gabriel Teo spoke about TRLF’s aid schemes and the principles underlying TRLF’s work.
Mr Gabriel Teo spoke about TRLF’s aid schemes and the principles underlying TRLF’s work.

Mr Teo began with a preamble on the principles underpinning his work. He warned against heroism and ‘creating dependency’ or a culture of slacktivism, which he characterised as ‘playing with people’s lives for your own ego’. Passionately decrying shortsighted, one-off welfare projects that fail to prioritise human lives, he said, “Community is understanding that it is not about output or numbers you generate, it’s about outcomes, and how are lives changed for the better.”

After touching on schemes geared towards subsidizing education for Delta students, Mr Teo provided detailed information about the Mitumba Project, which is behind Heartware’s Shoe Collection Drive. Mitumba, or ‘recycled goods’ in Swahili, is a microfinance scheme set up in 2004 and one of TRLF’s entrepreneurship courses. In addition to shoes, Mitumba also collects clothes and bags, which are then sorted and either sold or used for the course.

The microloan scheme, essentially a form of repackaged financial assistance, operates over 4-5 months. In the first month, 100 pieces of clothing and 20-30 pairs of shoes are loaned on good faith to interview-selected applicants, mostly women with dependents such as children studying in secondary school or with chronic disease. Participants market and sell their wares to locals for about 400-500% profit. The sale of all their shoe stock, with a pair going for approximately $4.20, can pay for about a term’s school fees. In the subsequent months, they repay their loans and purchase more stock to sell. Participants must remain accountable, presenting monthly receipts accounting for their income and expenditure.

Eddie, a Kenyan youth beneficiary of the Mitumba Project, is proof that TRLF aid can be effective.
Eddie, a Kenyan youth beneficiary of the Mitumba Project, is proof that TRLF aid can be effective.

In response to a question about the sustainability of a scheme in which TRLF still provided the shoe stock, Mr Teo clarified that Mitumba ‘is not intended to be a major source of assistance’, and practically only ‘gives them a boost’. The real intention, Mr Teo stressed, was to ‘preserve dignity as you assist, through dignified giving and dignified receiving’, as opposed to a condescending ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ attitude on this end, or a sense of passive dependence on the other.

Since the overwhelming majority of students in attendance were CA members or Councillors, the outreach for this talk was admittedly seriously limited. This was unfortunate, as the talk did have important messages to share. Especially in light of Acta Non Verba, those in attendance found the talk useful in clarifying exactly how the Mitumba project works, and understood TRLF’s guiding mindsets of aid with dignity in relation to No Shoes Day. Lum Qian Wei, a Y5 member of CA, succinctly summed up her takeaways, “I found it useful. The TRLF emphasises self-reliance and preserves the dignity of the beneficiaries as ultimately, beneficiaries have to put in their own effort to run the businesses. I think No Shoes Day serves to remind us how fortunate we are, and helps us empathise with the poor; this ties in nicely with the TRLF’s principle of treating everyone with respect regardless of his background or status, and not slipping into condescension.”

Day 3: Feel It! No Shoes Day 

Heartware 2014 rounded off with Feel it!: No Shoes Day as the popular poverty awareness event returned for the third year running. Organized in collaboration with the aforementioned Tana River Life Foundation, the event aimed to raise awareness for the poor living conditions of the children in Kenya.

A sample of the 905 and counting pairs of shoes collected in this year’s Shoe Collection Drive, which have far surpassed previous years in number.
A sample of the 905 and counting pairs of shoes collected in this year’s Shoe Collection Drive, which have far surpassed previous years in number.

There, millions of children are forced to go barefoot across treacherous terrain and risk painful abrasions, cuts and infections with every step they take – all this because they cannot afford a pair of shoes. While walking around without shoes in a clean, safe school compound is in no way an accurate simulation of their daily ordeal, this small act of sacrifice on our parts was intended to encourage participants to empathise with less fortunate children. No Shoes Day was also meant to encourage participation in the Shoe Collection Drive so as to raise funds for these Kenyan communities through the Mitumba Project, which encouraged students to donate their pre-loved shoes to the Tana River Life Foundation.

Across the three days of advocacy, No Shoes Day appears to have sparked the most criticism of all, with students levelling the typical accusations of ineffectiveness and slacktivism at it. For instance, a Y5 student who declined to be named demurred, “No Shoes Day is rather gimmicky as it doesn’t raise awareness enough to make a difference. It’s merely a bandwagon thing and people just jump onto it without understanding why. Everyone will just forget about it in a week so I don’t see how it’s useful at all.”

Some students also pointed out the stark contrast in going barefoot in RI compared to going barefoot in Kenya, again a case of simulation becoming ineffective simplification. Participating Rafflesians had to navigate mere puddles of water and the occasional ledge, to the extent that a Y6 student said, “It was a great experience and by the end of the day I got used to it. I really enjoyed myself.”

In contrast, the children in Kenya have to negotiate much harsher terrain and the profundity of their difficulties may well be beyond our imagining. Those who willingly participated and grasped the risible contrast between conditions here and there are perhaps the ones who benefited most from the challenge. One such individual would be Natalie Chan from 15S03B, who reflected: “The grossest part was the toilets and the canteen floor, but even that is nothing compared to what the Kenyan children have to go through because they risk stepping on dangerous objects such as broken glass”. Some other students, like Ding YuChen, took the challenge several steps further by running their 2.4km item for NAPFA sans footwear.

Two J1s resolutely running their 2.4km for NAPFA without shoes.
Two J1s resolutely running their 2.4km for NAPFA without shoes.

While many people were seen walking around school barefoot or instagramming themselves with their friends that day, it can be hard to distinguish between successful advocacy and mere slacktivism, as the difference lies in the mentality behind the action. For those who participated by walking around school barefoot, their good intentions are to be commended,though it is important that they realise how much worse going shoe-less is for those in Kenya for the entire exercise to have been fruitful. As with the $3 challenge, the fact that we had a choice to participate only underscores our own privilege. Moreover, going around shoe-less for a school day was a small sacrifice to make. Indeed, No Shoes Day seemed to be a success because of the number of students who enthusiastically participated; yet, it remains to be seen how many took away the true meaning behind their dirty soles that day.

As a whole, Heartware’s thoughtfully planned, holistic experiencewas a welcome evolution from past years, where there was only ‘No Shoes Day’, and those who attempted each day’s challenges and experiences generally came away with a better appreciation of poverty. This year, however, controversy arose over the various events organised and numerous questions were raised over the kind of aid being provided and whether it would reach the very people we are trying to help. And perhaps that recognition  and depth of thought is something encouraging for the Rafflesian community – after all, advocacy can only progress when we truly take ownership of it. While it is up to the reader to assess the impact of this year’s Heartware, credit has to be given to the Organizing Team, who began planning Heartware last October, for their hard work in conceptualizing and putting together the different events over the three days. For these dedicated organisers, their parting message to all participants is, “All in all we hope that everyone who participated in Heartware 2014 can better appreciate the little things we have around us and are more aware about poverty that exist both on local and global scale.”  Hopefully, regardless of which side students take in the conundrum of slacktivism and spreading awareness, every student has grown at least a little more cognizant of the privileges they are fortunate to have.

Notes from the Underground: Meet the Counsellors

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Maasha (15A03A), Valerie Yap (15S07D) and William Hoo (15A01E)

Yesterday, we explored the counsellors’ responses to some of the tough questions about going for counselling, stigmas related to counselling and even counselling as a profession. Today, we bring you the ‘lighter’ side to the counsellors!

Continue reading “Notes from the Underground: Meet the Counsellors”

Notes from the Underground

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Maasha (15A03A), Valerie Yap (15S07D) and William Hoo (15A01E)

Counselling; a word associated with various problems, and inviting curious reactions. Yet, there is often more than meets the eye. In a bid to dispel the stigma surrounding this word, the three of us got the opportunity to meet up with the 7 friendly members of the Raffles Guidance Centre (RGC) team, to find out more about themselves and what they do.

Continue reading “Notes from the Underground”

IHC 2014: Dramafeste

Reading Time: 15 minutes

By Celine Liu (15A01E) and Bryan Chua (14A01A)
Photos by Samuel Tan (15S03K) and Nigel Gomes (15S06R)

Two short weeks of late nights, grueling rehearsals and hard work came together on the 6th and 7th of March for Dramafeste 2014. As evening fell, a steady stream of theatregoers made their way into the PAC foyer, which was abuzz with energy and chatter. Dramafeste has developed a solid reputation for delivering entertaining amateur productions, and the theatre was crowded with students keen on showcasing their house spirit and wanting to support their friends.

Rumours of rooftop rehearsals, production teams getting locked in school and houses that rehearsed in the dark had only heightened the sense of apprehension around campus, yet those fears prove to be unfounded. Despite the ever-shortening rehearsal time, low budgets and lack of rehearsal space, Dramafeste 2014 definitely did live up to its hype. The sheer amount of dedication required to undertake such a task cannot be understated; nevertheless the friendships and experiences gained more than made up for the undone homework and sleepless nights.

As one actress fittingly put it, ‘When I’m busy rushing tutorials before rehearsals it’s easy to think that I’ll be so relieved when Dramafeste ends, but now that it’s over, I just wish we could have another one all over again!’

Hadley Hullet: Payday


Hadley- Hullett’s Payday takes place in an alternate reality where time and life itself lies in the hands of a corporation led by two characters of questionable morality. When Angie is hired into the corporation under mysterious circumstances, she finds the fate of a young boy’s life under her charge and, after deeming him a ‘waste of time’, takes it into her power to end it. Yet this action comes with dire consequences as Angie realizes that each life comes intertwined with so many others, and struggles to come to terms with her decision and her humanity.


A rather abstract piece that dealt with heavy themes of love, life and man’s inability to play God, Payday showed great potential to develop into an inspired, thought-provoking play that perhaps fell short due to a lack of polish. Putting an interesting perspective on a dystopian theme, the play proved itself to be both touching yet humorous with witty dialogue, larger than life characters and sound acting.

The play started off promisingly, with a dramatic entrance by the ensemble introducing the theme of time with a clear yet wordless bit of physical theatre. Katrina Jacinto’s portrayal of Angie as a robotic, subservient employee showed remarkable stage and vocal presence throughout the play, although her initial exaggerated walk and laughter did sometimes become distracting, instead of illustrating her character’s seemingly inhuman nature. The rest of the cast fared just as well with their exceptional acting. Myko Philip’s loud character as the fraudulent surgeon shone with great attempts at humour, drawing uproarious laughter from the crowd.


A main weakness with this play, however, lay in its lack of a consistent flow. Perhaps due to the time constraints, parts of the play tended to be too hurried to allow for sufficient emotional engagement with the audience. The conclusion in particular ended with a whimper instead of a bang. The incongruous moral awakening and the awkwardness of the transition between the conclusion and the previous left audiences with a lingering taste of incompleteness. This was compounded by a seemingly random introduction of the ‘stakeholder’ who has control over all time and a rather abrupt ending where everybody, literally, runs out of time.

As for the judges, they added, “We felt that the whole play had a really strong and consistent vision and the sets really complemented it; special mention to the surgeon, Myko, and Angie, Katrina. However, we felt that the pacing could’ve been improved, especially at the end, which we felt was a bit rushed.”

Payday was very much a work in progress with great ideas that could have been better executed, though its attempts at staging a profound yet entertaining piece should be acknowledged. Its ambition and impressive acting too, should be applauded, given the short span of time in which it was put together.


Buckle- Buckley: Mona Lisa

Synopsis: Buckle-Buckley’s Mona Lisa follows the life of Steve, a disturbed child from a broken family. After witnessing the decline of his parent’s abusive relationship, Steve grows up in an unstable environment with his domineering father, never completely coming to terms with his mother’s abandonment. As a surgeon, he believes that any heart that has stopped beating more than 30 seconds is dead, yet he soon realizes that 30 seconds could be all he needs to make the decisions that will change his life.

Mona Lisa was an emotional play that stood out in its relatability. With strong, identifiable characters and impressive staging, BB managed to pull off an eloquent piece with weighty yet everyday themes dealing with the question that we have all asked ourselves at some point in time: what if?

Naresh Manoj’s portrayal as Steve’s father set the play off to a brilliant start; the chilling encounter between husband and wife was shocking and all too real, and despite limited stage time Naresh managed to play a difficult role with impassioned mastery. One cannot deny the talent in the cast, especially Joel Seow’s performance of the protagonist Steve being both adorably awkward and lacking in confidence, while soberingly realistic in his insecurities and struggles. His character’s likeability shone in particular when he attempted to stop a suicidal man, played by Teo Weilong, in a poignant scene that highlighted greatly his character’s imperfections and with it, his humanity. Weilong’s character too was both well-written and well-executed, his quiet melancholy was effective in conveying his despair without resorting to melodrama, again adding to the play’s relatability.


Another great moment in the play was when the two storylines of Steve reuniting with Lisa, and his mother respectively were presented side-by-side on stage, culminating in both Lisa and the mother calling out, “Please, it’s nothing! Don’t worry, Steve” in unison. Credit must indeed go to the actresses for the execution of this scene, as coordinating their timing was certainly no mean feat.

The play manages to deal with some heavy themes without being off-putting, coupled with fantastic sets that were simultaneously aesthetic and functional. The backdrop of constellations present throughout the play stood out in particular with both its breathtaking beauty and significance, illustrating the idea of lucky stars aligning. The ensemble’s countdown every time Steve gave up the chance to make a life-changing decision was a laudable attempt at physically presenting the gravity of life’s everyday choices, yet it could have been much better executed; at times, the significance of the countdown was not made very clear or obvious and may have been lost to much of the audience, who did not understand what it meant. Scripting was not all perfect either, as the secondary storyline of Steve’s reunion with a girl from the past was, although not entirely irrelevant, rather cliche in its execution and even a cause for some laughter amongst the audience. Its conclusion too seemingly left the Lisa plotline unresolved, as the last we saw of Lisa and her daughter was when they abruptly left Steve to go look at childrens’ books together, never to return. Although this may have been necessary in creating the intimate reunion between Steve and his mother, it left audiences feeling dissatisfied, as if Lisa’s story was unfinished.


The judges added, “We felt that the set was gorgeous and that Dad, played by Naresh, and older Steve played by Joel had really good emotional acting. However, we weren’t really clear on the significance of the 30 seconds, as well as the – we didn’t really like the blackouts because there were too many.”

Overall, a great play from BB with professional sets and great casting, which stood out in its simplistic nature and down-to-earth tones.

Bayley-Waddle: That Place

Synopsis: Danny and his girlfriend Lena, who are facing relationship problems, have joined a gang of ruffians intent on overthrowing the government, greatly worrying his parents. But does the revolution really matter? As they imprison a dissident, die in war and wait in the afterlife, it seems that nothing does.

That Place started off with a revolution that took a heavy toll on the protagonist’s relationships, touching upon themes ranging from race to religion to bureaucratic inefficiency. Yet it soon gravitated away from that and ultimately focused on Danny’s estrangement from his parents and girlfriend, with the revolution providing the context for this plot line. While the flurry of disparate themes was rather confusing at times, That Place’s unique approach provided a breath of fresh air.


The play featured solid acting from a strong cast. Gary Huang was proficient as Danny, being realistically irritable and awkward when confronting his parents and girlfriend, while sorrowfully nostalgic when recalling better times. Jovi Tan and Rachel Koh, in addition, shone as the revolutionaries Alex and Emma, with their careless, unabashed manner and occasional wit helping to lighten the depressing mood. The sets were also crafted well, with the incongruous, brightly-coloured doors in the afterlife showing the ending’s otherworldly character. Perhaps the only issue with That Place’s sets was the bar in the corner of the stage, which never seemed to leave even when clearly irrelevant.

That Place also featured several impressive scenes. For example, in the elevator scene, the revolutionaries imprisoned a dissident, Adam, for challenging their goal by pointing out that his people had been in the country from the beginning, and that they, the established racial majority, had no moral authority to start a revolution. Mudassar Ahmad then delivered a quivering, powerful soliloquy filled with fear and despair as Adam while the revolutionaries towered over him on chairs, creating an image of a helpless prisoner in a claustrophobic jail. The breakup scene between Danny and Lena was both unique and beautifully poetic, as they made their way down the aisles of the theatre delivering lines entirely in verse, every word steeped in grief and heartbreak. In another instance, the absolute silence that met a messenger’s pronouncement of Danny’s death was incredibly poignant, conveying shock and sorrow more movingly than any tears could.


However, while the play stood out at particular moments, it became slightly confusing when it deviated from the central theme of the revolution to tangentially related topics. Furthermore, by portraying the afterlife as an eternal limbo suffering from an ‘earthly’ bureaucracy, the entire significance of the plot seems to be compromised; what, after all, was the point of all that suffering given that the whole point of the play was “in the end, nothing matters.”

The judges added, “We felt there were really good physical theatre movements, and that a shining moment in the play was by Adam, played by Mudassar with a really memorable soliloquy. However, there were many big ideas in the play that we felt were too many to fit into the 20 minutes given. But, still, it was wonderful.”

Perhaps the manner through which the overall play went from script to stage unfortunately overshadowed the crisp acting and brilliant individual scenes, making That Place good in moments, but lost in its entirety. In the end, as Alex said in the play’s final scene, we were just waiting – for something more .

Moor-Tarbet: The Bigness of Small Things

Synopsis: Tom and Mary are completely different – one’s a clumsy romantic, while the other’s a tomboyish, cynical pragmatist. Each engages in brief romantic relationships with other people – Tom with an obsessive stalker against his will, and Mary with a shy, weak boy – only to break up with them. In their adulthood, Tom meets a childhood friend, the Broomstick Girl, and asks her out, only for her to go with a former schoolmate later. Broomstick Girl does, however, introduce Mary to Tom, finally bringing the two protagonists together.

‘Just remember two things for our play: one, metaphors are dangerous things. Two, when you wish upon a star, you are a few million light years late. The stars are dead.’

With this depressing synopsis from the MT Dramafest team, we expected a disheartening play about the futility of hope. To our surprise and delight, we were absolutely wrong. The Bigness of Small Things distinguished itself from the other Dramafest plays by dismissing complex themes or dark psychological discussions for a simple romantic comedy that brought the house down.

The actors were simply brilliant, with the supporting characters being the stars of the show. Rahul Jayaprabha in particular was uproariously funny as the boorish bully, while Anthea Chua was similarly hilarious as a creepy stalker who fell in love with the most absurd of things –  Tom’s sneeze. As for the protagonists, their little imperfections aided the message that even awkward and apparently incompatible characters could find true love. The scenes themselves were executed excellently; even as the play maintained its light-hearted nature, we felt the pang of heartbreak as Mary was rejected by her first boyfriend and bittersweet emotion as the reformed bully shyly confessed to the Broomstick Girl with tender awkwardness. The final scene, whereby Tom and Mary sat eye to eye in love after all their failed relationships, moved the audience to a standing ovation. In that moment we were genuinely happy for the characters, with The Bigness of Small Things successfully engaging us emotionally.


Yet the most impressive aspect of the show was undoubtedly the exquisite sets, being divided into four parts that acted as Tom’s bedroom, the broom cupboard in which he and the Broomstick Girl hid, Mary’s bedroom, and a classroom respectively. Each part had unique designs, such as the detergent bottles in the cupboard and the blackboard in the classroom, allowing the cast to act continuously through different scenes without changing sets, facilitating the play’s smooth flow. The set’s true value, however, was only revealed during the final scene, when it was rotated to reveal a breathtaking, hand-painted picture of a starry night sky above forests and mountains, providing a perfect, romantic background to Tom and Mary’s union. This final touch awed the audience to thunderous applause, bringing many more to their feet.


No performance, however, can be perfect, and The Bigness of Small Things could perhaps be criticised for its pacing. The play in fact ran overtime on both nights and had to be cut off, and while the crew managed to shorten the scene to a few seconds to provide conclusion, it is a pity when one wonders what may have been lost in those final moments under the starry starry night.

The judges commented, “MT had a really good sense of pacing and we felt that not a moment was wasted. (commented that thursday’s performance was more energetic, friday’s was slightly slower) Still, the cast had really lovely presence and energy and Mary and Tom were lovely too. However, we felt that they still could have been given more lines so they could flex more of their acting muscle and show us some stuff. So, good job to MT.”

Nevertheless, the play’s merits superseded its trifling flaws, and despite the cumulative effect of three consecutive gloomy plays, The Bigness of Small Things gave us renewed faith in love and human nature.  If we had no idea what was happening now and then, we were too busy laughing to care.

Morrison-Richardson: Anna

Synopsis: Morrison-Richardson’s Anna follows the investigation involving a mysterious and shocking murder- that of the circus’s psychic, Madame Cassandra. To add to the riddle an ominous note had been painted on the wall, claiming “five can walk away unscarred / one lies dead in pooling blood”. Now the whole circus troupe is under suspicion; each defends their innocence introducing us to a colourful cast of characters as the mystery slowly unveils itself to its bone-chilling conclusion…

The preamble to MR’s plan, Anna, reminded audience members to constantly pay attention to the stage, because “nothing is ever as it seems”. Investigating the murder of a psychic fortune teller, the play takes several twists and turns on its way to a revelation that, while not leaving audience members in the dark, still felt somewhat unsatisfying.

One of the bright points of the play was definitely the performance by a reasonably strong cast, in particular Syafiqah, playing a rather aggressive, independent telekinetic who led most of the play’s central plotline – of finding out who killed the psychic. The rest of the cast did a great job in willingly playing their rather comical roles at times, from the Xu Yanling’s portrayal of a bearded lady to Low Ker Yang’s portrayal of a rather amusing monkey trainer. In addition, we must also mention the mime, played by Brian Au Yong, who despite (clearly) not having any lines, became a great source of comic relief throughout the play, for example hiding behind a rather flimsy leaf in a bid to retrieve a sword from the stage, while the other characters continued speaking around him. In the end, Brian continued to do a brilliant job when he portrays being taken over by the spirit found in the doll, ending in a very well executed suicide scene that concluded the play.


However, while the ending was well acted, it didn’t appear to make too much sense when first watched. With the numerous characters on stage, and the multiple theories as to who killed Madame Cassandra, the ending was not immediately clear. With more thought, one realises that the doll Anna was indeed the mastermind behind the murders and the deception, but with the mime dying in the final scene and the ringmaster seemingly murdering Madame Cassandra, one perhaps could be forgiven for not really being sure of what happened by the play’s conclusion.

This wasn’t helped by a rather misleading secondary plotline, through which the audience is shown how each character meets the fortune teller, and subsequently why they could – or couldn’t have – killed the fortune teller. Inevitably, thinking back, one realises that this was all a plot by Anna to have everyone come in contact with the fortune teller and accuse each other of murder. Yet, this again is not made immediately clear – in fact, one (again) could be forgiven for thinking the case of the stolen hair removal cream was a separate plotline altogether. With a bit more time, perhaps, the idea of everything be linked together could’ve been made more obvious, and definitely would’ve made the play far more effective.


On balance, of course, the sets and lighting were done decently. Despite slight mishaps with the sets on occasion, all the sets were very beautifully designed and presented effectively, with the background painting and writing on the world definitely creating the dramatic horror effect the play presumably sought to bring across. Yet, horror is an incredibly difficult genre to pull off on stage, and while Anna definitely tried its best, the idea of horror did not carry itself across the entire play, and was left to bursts of scarier moments that made the horror more sporadic than effective in leaving its impression on the audience.

The judges added, “The whole crew of circus freaks were really enjoyable to watch – Syafiqah as the telekinetic had really good stage presence, and Xu Yanling was able to emote very well despite her hair (fake beard). However we felt that the script had a lot of potential that was not fully realised, and so we encourage you to continue working on the script, we felt it was good.”

As a whole, we agree with the judges comments, who said that MR gave the play a good go, but unfortunately could have done a lot more with a script that showed great promise but failed to deliver on stage.

EXCO Spoof

As is a regular tradition at Dramafeste, the EXCO of Raffles Players puts up a spoof of some key or standout moments in the 5 houses plays, combining them effectively in a manner that was incredibly light-hearted, and very well executed.

Consisting of Jo-Ann Heng, Eugenia Tang, Seah Beiying, Natalie Ng and Rachel Quek (and missing Won Xue Li due to injury), the Players EXCO spoof tackled scenes such as actually pretending to swallow a sword, the renaming of the psychic from Madame Cassandra to Madame Lasagna, and blaming the originally eerie voice of the doll on a ‘sore throat’, all of which are from MR’s Anna. This goes on to even satirise parts of real life – such as the school’s recent decision to lock all other gates by 10pm.

Another highlight of the spoof comes from Seah Beiying, who spoofs a scene from BW’s That Place, emerging from the back door of the PAC before arriving on stage, combining scenes from Anna and HH’s Payday as she brutally murders each of the other EXCO members (bar Rachel Quek, who was asleep in a set from MT’s The Bigness of Small Things), blaming them for making her do announcements, starting the EXCO spoof without her and, finally, for wasting time, a line from Payday.

The EXCO spoof soon concluded with a spoof of the final scene from That Place, as the curtains draw to a close and the EXCO frantically fights over a lone chair, before finally looking up and echoing the line, “Do I at least get a chair?”

In the end, the EXCO spoof drew uproarious laughter from everyone in attendance on Results night (Friday night), and was a magnificent way to round off the performances for the night.


Both the judges and Players’ teacher-in-charge Mr Peter Booth shared the sentiment that the performances at Dramafeste 2014 were impressive, particularly for the short 2 to 3 week span each house had to put together a 20 minute production. Mr Booth added, “After the judging, one of the judges who’s not been to RI before to see Dramafeste said to me that what impressed him was the great amount of energy and commitment that had gone into every single play, and he also said that I should tell the students that whether they win something or not tonight, they can all leave the PAC with a great sense of achievement, and I would echo that sentiment entirely. In fact this really is just the glossy ending to 2, 3 weeks of really hard work and I think that’s what you will take away with you that’s more important than a golden statue or a vase.”

As for the actual results:

Best Script – The Bigness of Small Things

Best Set Design – The Bigness of Small Things

Best Actor – Mudassar, That Place

Best Actress – Swan Yee, The Bigness of Small Things

Best Ensemble – The Bigness of Small Things

Best Direction – The Bigness of Small Things

Best Overall Play – The Bigness of Small Things


As was the general sentiment of the night, MT’s play was definitely the strongest of all 5 houses, but it must be said that all houses did put up incredible performances across the 2 days, in spite of a few errors and unfortunate situations in the build up the performances – or, as Mr Booth called them, “bumps along the way.”

We would like to congratulate all the winners, but also all the cast and crew members involved in Dramafeste 2014, for what was an incredibly effort in creating theatre that was truly enjoyable to watch, and we definitely look forward to what Dramafeste 2015 has in store for us.


A Night of Dance and Fun: Dancefeste 2014

Reading Time: 7 minutes

By Wahid Al Mamun (15A01A) and Maasha (15A03A)
Photos by Isaac Siaw (15S03Q)

On the 5th of March, students filled the RI auditorium, waiting for Dancefest 2014 to begin. As a highlight of the IHC Remix calendar, it was no surprise that the auditorium was packed to the brim, with many students having to resort to sitting on the steps or the floor. Expectations were high, with the five houses giving two performances each. With their recently made friends performing, the energy from the audience was really high too. However, things started off slowly as the emcees, Charlotte and Jingyi, tried in vain to keep the boisterous crowd under control. Despite the sluggish start, the J2 team from Buckle-Buckley kicked off what turned out to be a great two hours.

"One of the dancers of the Buckle-Buckley J2 team pulling off an acrobatic stunt which dazzles the audience."
“One of the dancers of the Buckle-Buckley J2 team pulling off an acrobatic stunt which dazzles the audience.”

The dances definitely did not disappoint. To the loud cheers of the audience, the dancers pulled off each choreographed move effortlessly. All ten teams put up stunning displays of team cohesion and stamina to pull off their respective segments. This year’s Dancefest also saw several houses maximising their creativity to come up with really memorable segments. Of particular note was Moor-Tarbet’s usage of a mystery box placed centre stage, from which they would draw random items and dance accordingly. There was a part where they took out a crown from the box and immediately started dancing to Fantastic Baby by Big Bang, eliciting a wild response from the people present.

Additionally, the Bayley-Waddle J2 team ended off their dance segment with a tableau of the iconic “The Circle of Life” scene from the Lion King, to the amazement of the audience. They also included a tap dancing segment in their performance, which went well with the judges who noted that “tap dancing was something new, something never seen in previous Dancefests”. Likewise, the audience were visibly impressed by the prowess of the two dancers who performed the tapdance, with the segment receiving amongst the loudest cheers of the night.

Some of the houses also made use of humour to make their performances stand out – Hadley-Hullett’s J2 team choreographed a literal tree-cutting segment to the song “Timber” which was met with applause and laughter from the audience. Similarly, Moor-Tarbet’s J2 team mixed pop culture into their dance by choreographing the popular app “Flappy Bird” into their dance, with Moor-Tarbet’s phoenix mascot making a guest appearance as Flappy Bird.

"Moor-Tarbet's J2 team's final pose, featuring a very special guest appearance."
“Moor-Tarbet’s J2 team’s final pose, featuring a very special guest appearance.”

Other houses made use of their ten minutes on stage to tell stories to the audience through the art of dance. Buckle-Buckley’s J1 crew, for instance, told a story of how toys came to life in a child’s bedroom after dark. The crew made clever use of costumes and props to depict themselves as toy soldiers, clowns, dolls and the like. All in all, this performance was an interesting one focused on the concept of dreams. The J1 BW team, on the other hand, decided to translate a common-day sibling squabble into dance. The crew made the most of their skewed gender ratio – the crew consisted of two guys and eight girls – to put up a whimsical yet creative interpretive dance of a fight between two siblings over who should watch TV.

To round off an excellent night of dancing prowess, five members from the Modern Dance exco put up a well-choreographed dance item. This was then followed by an impromptu dance-off where individual dancers showed off their arsenal of dance moves despite being exhausted from their prepared pieces.

“All five houses did really well and we honestly think that Dancefest this year was damn good,” said Saaradha Muthunatarajan (15S03T). “We can see how everyone put in tons of effort into making this work too. It was generally very nice to watch,” added Natalie Ann Chan (15S03B). Many of the dance crews customized t-shirts and caps just for the performance that day even when it wasn’t a necessity, showing just how much dedication they had to the cause. “MR’s usage of the umbrellas was really cool too! Very innovative,” added Faith Ng (15A01E). Many of the other members of the audience shared the same sentiment for the first segment of the MR J2 dance crew’s piece where they made use of umbrellas and danced to Con te partirò (Time To Say Goodbye) by Paolo Bernardi as if in an orchestra as well.

"The Morrison-Richardson J2 team's choreography with the umbrellas was definitely one of the more creative dances of the night."
“The Morrison-Richardson J2 team’s choreography with the umbrellas was definitely one of the more creative dances of the night.”

Among the talented crew of dancers who put up the scintillating show was Ang Deng Seng (14S03J), a member of Raffles Street Dance. He, like many other J2s, decided to take part in Dancefest 2014 due to this being their very last year in RI(JC). “It’s fun and something I enjoy doing, so why not?” was what he said right before Dancefest began. Simon Tang (14S06O) of Morrison-Richardson and Raffles Street Dance, added that he joined Dancefest despite it being so close to the CT period because he wanted to help people connect to dance. “I have so many friends who want to dance but don’t know how to start because they aren’t in dance CCAs, so I wanted to join to help spread the culture, to share the little bit that I know and see more people come to enjoy it as I have!”. With his experience as a Street Dancer, Simon was also involved in the conceptualisation and choreography of his team’s dance, including the innovative umbrella dancing segment.

And yet, the dancers do not only consist of the so-called ‘veterans’ of the game. Indeed, a lot of eager participants joined their Dancefest crews with little or no experience in dancing. Participants such as Moor-Tarbet’s Francis Tan (15S06D) decided to join Dancefest after realising that he had a passion for dancing having taken part in the Orientation Night dance-off. Since he only had two years in RJ, he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and do something that he had never done before.

However, a natural concern for many of these new dancers would have been stage fright, with Dancefest being their first dance event in front of a huge crowd of people, mostly consisting of new friends or complete strangers, for that matter. Having said that, Buckle-Buckley’s Ellson Chow (15S06P) said that he didn’t really have any stage fright. “I just felt really prepared and the huge support i had from my friends made me realise that I had no right to be afraid, but instead put on my best show to show my appreciation towards them and to not disappoint them.” What pushed most of these dancers though, was the passion and love that they had for this art form. “There were many tiring nights but my amazing dance crew and my love and passion for dancing were what helped me get through all the intense trainings,” said Pearl Ding (15S03L) of Hadley-Hullett.

"Bayley-Waddle's J1 team fighting over the TV remote through dance"
“Bayley-Waddle’s J1 team fighting over the TV remote through dance”

Nonetheless, preparation for Dancefest definitely entailed a lot of hard work, usually at great personal sacrifice. David Wang (15S05A) of Morrison-Richardson lamented on how “[he] didn’t touch a single lecture note or tutorial for the last week” because of how the rehearsals dragged on until well past 9pm every day. Another Buckle-Buckley dancer said that he was “initially shocked at the amount of practice [they] had to do”.

While the dancers did have to stay back in school over the span of just over a week to undergo intense preparation, none of them were complaining. “All the dumb stuff we did was amazing,” said a dancer from the MR J1 dance crew. They also proudly proclaimed that they were now best friends, despite not knowing each other before Dancefest itself.

After ten amazing performances and the spectacular dance-off, the judges, all alumni of RI(JC), took their time to deliberate and finally announce the winners of Dancefest 2014 – Morrison-Richardson. Most of the judges’ comments revolved around maintaining energy throughout the entire performance and showmanship and how performing with a smile no matter how drained one is feeling is of utmost importance in a good performance.

Still reeling from the high, almost everyone testified that what mattered the most to them was the friends they had made and the journey that they had been through and not the results in it’s entirety. “We had the best team ever!” exclaimed many of the dancers after their performances.

"Ultimately, Dancefest was more of a collaborative group effort than it was a competition."
“Ultimately, Dancefest was more of a collaborative group effort than it was a competition.”

In the meanwhile, as noted by David, Dancefest could be utilised as a platform to create a dance community within Raffles. “At the moment, only a few people get into dance CCAs, but there are actually a lot of people with a passion for dance, especially after watching events such as Dancefest.” As seen in the sheer breadth and quality of dances presented by all the crews despite having only about a week to prepare for the event, it is pretty evident that there is a hotbed of promising young dancers in Raffles despite their lack of experience. For them, Dancefest seems to be the only outlet to express their knack for the stage. Hence, in creating a dance community, there will be a chance for such hidden gems to explore and discover their innate passion for dance.

In conclusion, Dancefest was definitely a success for both dancers and the audience who came down to watch the performances. One can only wait in eager anticipation for the next instalment of Dancefest in 2015.