Three bears turning back the clock

13 08 2013

EVERYTHING BUT THE BRAIN on a Sunday Afternoon …

[A pair of tickets up for grabs – click here for details]

Sitting still watching a play isn’t something I can usually do for long, especially when it does involve trying to understand scientific theories. It was however just what I did do on a Sunday afternoon at the DBS Arts Centre, where I did sit completely still for the entire length of a performance of Jean Tay’s award-winning EVERYTHING BUT THE BRAIN, presented by Sight Lines Productions.

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EVERYTHING BUT THE BRAIN, in its third run here having been staged to sold-out audiences in 2005 and in 2007, is a play which revolves around the life of Elaine Lim (played by Koh Wan Ching), who finds herself taking a year off to care for her stroke-afflicted father (played by veteran actor Gerald Chew in a reprise to his role in the original staging for which he picked up Straits Times Life! Theatre Award for Best Actor).

The story is one which, despite its title, has everything to do with the brain. The main characters are ones whose love for Physics binds them together as much as the love between father and daughter does. Elaine is a Physics teacher and Father, a retired Professor of Physics who’s main work was in Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – his attempt to explain the theory to a six-year old Elaine on a train ride to Malacca in which a chorus of three bears through the persuasion of Elaine are introduced, forms the basis for the Elaine’s attempt to slow time down to save her father from deterioration.

Main Leads Edward Choy, Gerald Chew and Koh Wan Ching.

Main Leads Edward Choy, Gerald Chew and Koh Wan Ching.

The chorus of three bears (played by Faizal Abdullah, Amanda Tee and Cassandra Spykerman), is present throughout the play, aiding not with narration but also with injecting much to laugh at into the hour and a half long play. Completing the list of characters is the Doctor (played by Edward Choy), with whom Elaine finds an uncannily a connection with each time he makes an appearance.

The three bears played by (from bottom) Faizal Abdullah, Amanda Tee, and Cassandra Spykerman.

The three bears played by (from bottom) Faizal Abdullah, Amanda Tee, and Cassandra Spykerman.

The mix of fairy tale characters in the three bears, a love-struck doctor and a much talked about Physics theory is a touch of genius which does help the audience in confronting a subject matter that is very real in our lives which nobody really likes to think about, mixing humour with plenty of poignancy. It is in this that we see the pain, emotional anguish, and the struggle that a child faces with an unplanned and unexpected situation which in which the roles of a parent and child are reversed.

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The restaging of the play is one in which sees Sight Lines Productions holding in partnership with the Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) and the Health Promotion Board with an aim to raise the level of awareness of the fight against stroke. It hopes to also spread the message of  the necessity and critical importance of timely intervention in the event of a stroke. A performance held on Sunday evening was dedicated to a Charity Gala Night to raise funds in aid of the SNSA.

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While I do find myself saying strange things sometimes, saying that I would spend another one and a half hours with three bears in an attempt trying to understand the two Physics educators use of them in explaining a scientific theory isn’t quite as strange as it does sound. With the play running until 21 August 2013, there certainly is the opportunity for me to do that!

A pair of tickets to EVERYTHING BUT THE BRAIN up for grabs!

Do drop me an email with the subject “Everything but the Brain” by noon on Thursday 15 August 2013 with your name and email address. The winner of the pair of tickets will be informed by email. Tickets will be for the 8 pm performance on Sunday 18 August 2013.


EVERYTHING BUT THE BRAIN tells the story of Elaine, a Physics teacher who hatches a plan to turn back time and save her stroke-afflicted father from further deterioration. Along the way, she is egged on by a chorus of three bears, occasionally distracted by a dashing young surgeon and haunted by a particularly memorable train ride to Malacca…

Don’t miss this award-winning, comic play, which premiered in 2005 to critical acclaim. After two sold-out runs, it went on to win two awards at the 2006 Life! Theatre Awards including “Best Original Script” and “Best Actor” (Gerald Chew).

“The adroit handling of themes, from the origins of genius to gene heritage and the tyranny of time make Everything but the Brain one of the best things seen on stage here in a while.”


About Sight Lines Productions

Established in 2011 by Derrick Chew and Engie Ho, Sight Lines Productions is an entertainment company that produces theatre, films and events. We believe in delivering entertainment that not only excites and entertains but inspires and challenges perspectives. We view ourselves as the next generation of theatre makers and are committed to nurturing young artistes and theatre practitioners, providing the stage and platform for them to produce quality work. We aim to become a national recognized brand name, focusing on the creation of new, exciting local work as well as the re-imagination and reinterpretation of existing modern texts.

Show Details

Written by: Jean Tay

Directed by: Derrick Chew

Cast: Amanda Tee, Cassandra Spykerman, Edward Choy, Faizal Abdullah, Gerald Chew, Koh Wan Ching

Show Dates & Timings: 10 – 11 August 2013; 16 – 21 August 2013; No show on Mon, Tues – Fri 8pm; Sat & Sun 3pm & 8pm

Venue: DBS Arts Centre, Home of SRT

Ticket Prices: $35 – $55 (Prices exclude $3 SISTIC handling fee)

Ticketing Details: SISTIC  / / Hotline: (65) 6348 555

That plain looking building that got us to stop …

24 03 2011

(at two that is!)

Passing by Dunearn Road the other day, I noticed a building that had I had forgotten about that once stood prominently close to the junction with Newton Circus. It was a building that stood out not so much as a great piece of architectural work, but one that was built on simple lines that reflected the frugality of the uncertain times during the era in which it was built. I was pleasantly surprised to find it still there, as many of its fellow buildings of the era had since made way for the wave of modernisation that has swept through Singapore.

The plain white building at the corner of Dunearn Road and Gilstead Road.

The building was when I was growing up, occupied by the Singapore Family Planning Board, serving as the board’s headquarters, right up until 1985, when the Board was closed and its work passed on to the Ministry of Health. The Board itself was formed in 1966, taking over the work of a voluntary organisation, the Singapore Family Planning Association (formed in 1949), which the building was originally built for, having been allocated the plot of land at the corner of Duneran and Gilstead Roads in 1963. The building was completed in 1968 by which time the Board had taken over from the Family Planning Association.

The building which now houses several health support groups including the Breast Cancer Foundation and the National Stroke Association, started its life as the headquarters of the Singapore Family Planning Board in 1968.

A side view of the building.

I suppose that most of my generation would remember the Board’s efforts in the 1970s more than the building, with its distinctive logo and its slew of posters and slogans which one really couldn’t miss, which sought to remind us with what was usually a picture of two girls, that, “Girl or Boy, Two is Enough”. This was everywhere, and with the powers of persuasion that most couldn’t really afford to ignore, the programme was one of the more successful ones, which many now feel contributed to the current low birth rate amongst Singaporeans. The campaign had been part of the Board’s second (of three) five year plans, launched in 1971, the first being aimed at selling the idea of family planning to 60 percent of married women aged between 15 and 44, and the third being to persuade the young to delay marriage and have children later. Based on available statistics, the success of the policies initiated by the Board can be seen in the total fertility rate falling from 3.07 in 1970 to 1.82 at the start of the 1980s. The total fertility rate in 2010 was 1.16.

Posters produced by the Family Planning Board over the years (source: National Archives of Singapore).

The National Family Planning Programme was launched with the formation of the Board in 1966 (source:

The building which today houses several health support groups that includes the Breast Cancer Foundation, the Singapore National Stroke Association and the Epilepsy Care Group Singapore, has for a while, faded into its surroundings despite having once had a prominent position close to Newton Circus, being in the shadow of the flyovers over Newton Circus that now dominate the area. Chances are, it will soon fade altogether, being in a prime residential area … to be replaced by a luxury apartment block that the area seems to have welcomed, and with it, some of the memories we have of a programme that went too well …

A signboard belonging to the National Stroke Association in front of the building.

The porch at the entrance to the building.