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Welcome to My Grandfather’s Road!

My Grandfather’s Road is a multidisciplinary project of stories about growing up on a road named after my grandfather called Neo Pee Teck Lane along Pasir Panjang Road, until I move out in 1973.

My Grandfather’s Road was commissioned by Cake Theatrical Productions and comprised a photo installation, a book and a 30-minute monologue (script edited from the book) in English performed by Bjorn Lee Varella from 19 – 21 November 2015 as part of Cake’s 10th Anniversary celebrations, Running With Strippers at Cake’s Studio at the Goodman Arts Centre.

The stories in the book were developed into two different Cantonese monologues and presented by Centre 42 as The Vault: My Grandfather’s Road from 23 – 25 November 2017. The Malaysian Cantonese version was written and performed by Tan Cher Kian and the Singaporean Cantonese version was written and performed by Gary Tang.

The two Cantonese monologues were further developed and performed back-to-back with the two performers reprising their roles, from 15 – 17 June 2018. It opened with Tan Cher Kian’s first person narrative version, followed by Gary Tang’s storyteller version. With variations of the same stories, updated information and speculations, who is telling the truth and/or the real stories?

Karen Tan performed the premiere of the full-length English monologue of My Grandfather’s Road from 14 – 16 June 2018. The English version included updated and new stories and information as well as new interviews.

The 2018 stagings of My Grandfather’s Road were presented at the Centre 42 Black Box and were independently produced.

On 4 September 2018, the Cantonese storyteller version was performed at the Hua Mei Centre for Successful Aging, a day care centre for seniors with dementia. The script was adapted for this performance. The main objective of the performance was to get the seniors to share with us their own stories and anecdotes about some of the places that were mentioned in the performance.

From piecing together my grandfather’s past to idyllic carefree childhood days to innocent observations of mortality, from Pasir Panjang to Changi, from family holidays to Penang to snippets of the history and policies of the changing times, the monologues looked back at the past to reconnect with the present and vice versa – written from the voice of a 10 year old and reflecting on them 40 years later.

Very often, we do not realise that our personal stories all contribute to create the social fabric we live in and make us who we are as a people because they ultimately form the story of our homeland.

My Grandfather’s Road is ultimately a storytelling project and I hope that it will help to make people think more of their own personal stories and share them with others. You will find that they resonate with other people in the most surprising ways.

Most of the first printing of 150 copies of the book were given out at Running With Strippers in 2015. The National Library Board purchased the remaining copies for its public libraries islandwide. 300 copies were printed for the second print run in 2017 in conjunction with the staging of the Cantonese monologues in November 2017.

The book is available to loan from all public libraries islandwide. You can also support independent self-published books by buying a copy from:

  • City Book Room, 420 North Bridge Road, #03-10, North Bridge Centre, Singapore 188727.
  • BooksActually, 9 Yong Siak Street, Singapore 168645.
  • Knuckles & Notch, 14A Bali Lane, Singapore 189850.

In the first quarter of 2019, there were two iterations of My Grandfather’s Road. It  returned first as an exhibition at the Chamber of the Arts House from 8-17 March 2019 as part of the Textures programme organised by The Arts House. My Grandfather’s Road – Rabbit Heart, Dragon Soul featured an exhibition of photographs, artefacts, a set of newly published books, video documentation of past versions of the stage performances, readings in English and Cantonese and a music listening session. More details here.

The exhibition was followed by My Grandfather’s Road (RHDS) presented by Esplanade as part of The Studios programme from 18-21 April 2019. Both the English and Cantonese versions were revisited and focused on my personal journey in the project. Loong Seng Onn joined Karen Tan in the English version and Tan Cher Kian and Gary Tang reprised their roles. The latest iteration of My Grandfather’s Road includes new stories that were unearthed, new speculations and reflections, and forgotten histories. There was also a revised version of the installation and the experience start before the audience enter the Theatre Studio. A new version of the exhibition was also installed in the foyer of the Theatre Studio.

– Kim Seng

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