Normal (2015) by Faith Ng

8 March, 2020

109 years ago, on 19 March, International Women’s Day (celebrated 8 March) was honoured for the first time in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland. This would come to be an important milestone in the arena of female representation, in a time when society on a global scale was still overwhelmingly patriarchal.

Today, a little closer to home, the issue of women’s rights and representation in Singapore has been a constantly debated topic. In an article published by The Straits Times in February 2018, women accounted for 10.8% of directorships in companies in 2017, up from 9.9% in 2016 and 9.5% cent in 2015. However, Singapore still lags behind other similarly advanced countries, like Norway and France, both of which have a female board representation of 42% among listed firms.

Although the Singapore government optimistically deems these numbers as concrete improvement in terms of diversity in private sector employment, sceptics such as the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) and BoardAgender, an advocacy arm of the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisations (SCWO), strongly advocate for more to be done. Some critics also take to creative expression to question the lack of female representation and the female identity in society today.

Normal (2015) by Faith Ng, an alumna of the NUS Department of English Language and Literature, is a play which revolves around two girls, Ashley and Daphne, and their experience as Normal (Academic) students in Singapore’s mainstream education. In particular, Ng sets their story in a fictional all-girls school, a facsimile of one in real life. The play explores not just social class divide among students in the education system, but also the unique experience of being female in a single gender school. Normal has been lauded for its cruel yet realistic portrayal of the struggles of growing up female, especially in an all-girls school in Singapore, along with the issues of self-doubt, female empowerment, and disempowerment as well as sexual tension, among others.

Faith Ng is a playwright and an Associate Artist with Checkpoint Theatre. She previously taught playwriting at the NUS Department of English Language and Literature and was the writer-in-residence for the Singapore Creative Writing Residency 2014. Normal is part of a wider collection of plays in her book Faith Ng: Plays Volume 1 (2016, Checkpoint Theatre), which includes For Better or For Worse (2013) and wo(men) (2010) and is available in most Singapore bookstores.

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