The Big Durian
Singapore was amazing. I went there to deliver some drama training and lead a student ensemble. I count myself fortunate that I get to do this. I got to work with middle schoolers, high school students studying theatre at diploma level and also teachers. Whilst working with ISTA, I visited the gardens on the bay, which were superbly crafted bio-domes containing plants from different climatic zones across the globe. The riot of colour and range of smells were delightful and the architecture made me feel like an extra in The Minority Report or a live-action remake of The Jetsons.
Singapore is a roaring city-state. It makes itself known and wants the visitor to know that it is not by chance that Singapore has come to be, it is the product of industry, hard work and vision. In fact, Singapore is all about vision. Singaporeans work hard, they pay and play hard also. I have a few friends who are Singaporean or work in Singapore and I am always constantly amazed by the stories they tell. 100% tax on a car, schools corralled by square feet per student, the populace re-housed by the government on a whim or order to make way for a new, brighter development and of course, the fines!
It is possible to be fined for any kind of infraction in Singapore. I watched an entertaining piece of theatre by the students of Lasalle College of Performing Arts based loosely around the life of Singapore’s most famous playwright Pao Kun integrated alongside the story of Peer Gynt. The thrust of the performance was the playwright’s struggle but also to demonstrate the range of skills of the student actors incorporating moments of physical theatre, voice work and borrowed moments of eastern theatrical traditions. A mezcla of styles and practices but nevertheless a very enjoyable one. A good deal of the comedy came from a character, an ‘Uncle’ slapping fines on the hero for a series of wrongful doings including spitting, poor parking, littering, jaywalking and disrespecting ancient cultural property!
To be fair, most of the laws make perfect sense or are at least common sense and you’ll get fined if you lack common sense. For example, littering. You know you shouldn’t do it, so don’t. However, there are a few strange or at least draconian laws such as 500 dollars for eating and drinking on the subway or a nippy little 130 dollar fine for dropping off someone in your car at or near a bus stop. I narrowly avoided transgressing the law when I took a soft drink into the MRT, luckily, a poster pointedly reminded me of the risk I took, so I took the way of brain freeze instead and drained my cup before carefully depositing it in the proper receptacle.
They had just entertained the formula one race in town too, so I got to see remnants of the infrastructure being dismantled ( no doubt to a specific time frame to avoid being fined) as I walked to Clarkes Quay to watch the daily spectacular light and sound show from across the bay.
Singapore certainly doesn’t do things by halves.
I really like Singapore, it has a duality, it’s yin and yang, though don’t even think about taking a Durian anywhere by public transport.
I’m wondering what the penalty would be for jaywalking in possession of a ripe durian…