This Is Who I Am – UK & SINGAPORE

I am proud to announce the release of ‘This Is Who I Am’, a new digital theatre project I have been working on.

A truly international collaboration, eight artists with disabilities in the UK and Singapore imagine a world designed for everyone, from the truth of our lived experience.

From Singapore, we have Stephanie Esther Fam, Lily Goh, Ammar Ameezy, Alister Ong, Lim Lee Lee, and Nice, together with UK collaborators Nadia Clarke, Daniel Watts, Jeremy Goldstein and Jan Heyes from #londonartistsprojects from UK, and the #BritishCouncilSingapore.

Thanks to #SarahMeisch, Ker Lay Hong And Cherry Chan for putting this together. It is indeed my honour to be part of “#ThisIsWhoIAm”.

You can view the film for free

Starting today, it will make its rounds in the public libraries in Singapore. Should you happen to be in the Botanic Gardens, you can keep a lookout for the “This Is Who I Am” tree.


The Pitch

A HUGE APPLAUSE to this great collaboration among the three big-time theatre companies! 👏🏻👏👏🏿👏🏽👏🏼

Great story! I saw many efforts put in this short film! However, I wish there could be captions for the background song at the end credits!

After Adrian sang in his full emotions, I could feel my love going out all to this collaboration. Then, the end credits arrived with the song that I couldn’t “hear” fully. No captions…!If only this part got captions, I could possibly cry out my heart to everyone who makes art in a variety of forms.

The Covid-19 situation has affected many of us – artists, musicians, theatre creators, so on… BUT what about d/Deaf and Disabled artists in Singapore? We’re also affected – we’re considered as the “non-essential” artists. Even lower than those mainstreamed artists; perhaps at the bottom line.

Pardon me for my poor or lacking writing skills; I wish I could express myself in Singapore Sign Language (SgSL). Not many hearing people know SgSL. I’m accommodating myself to this mainstreamed society in Singapore, just for a little “pitch” for faith.

I wonder why Singapore couldn’t create grants specially designed for d/Deaf and Disabled artists who might be much affected by the Covid-19 situation. Possible to make the application process sweet, short and simple for us?

Many asked us to go try Very Special Arts Singapore. Why? We are often seen as a symbol of charity, just because of our disability. Sign Language is definitely not part of charity. You can’t treat it as your part of your “circus act” – song-signing!

I repeat, what is song-signing? Clearly, this is in support for ableism. Many hearing signers often transliterate words that are sung, into sign vocabulary. More of representing the English structure, without understanding the Deaf culture. Many people see this act by hearing signers, and they applaud their “lousy” signing unknowingly and blindly. Often associated with their “entertaining efforts in helping Deaf”. Are they sincere in “helping Deaf” just with their stupid song-signing?

“No, no! I just practice my signing skills with songs!”

“You should not create and publish those videos, just for your practice! You are entertaining in a WRONG way! You’re murdering the Deaf culture! Also, making the Deaf people divide! That’s not inclusivity that you promote for!”

Another example of culture appropriation in music is demonstrated in this link. Andy Dexterity adopted sign language in his performance for the Voice Australia 2020. What he did on television had angered the Deaf community in Australia. His intention was misled, with the words, “accessible” and “hear your favourite song” as he had failed to understand the heart of Deaf culture. Obviously, it is merely for his own gain – to become popular among his society!

I advocate for Deaf music, that has its continuum in interpreting music and songs in Deaf way. This form of art is led by the Deaf musicians (or music practitioners) around the world. They know their language, community and culture the best. Music has silence, music has noise, music has off-beat notes, music has sign language – self-expression in Deaf way… Deaf music is all about the art of making music in Deaf way. It is not necessarily beautiful, but also it could be ugly! Silent, but noisy. Rhythmatic, but off-beat…

900-Strong Singapore Virtual Choir sings Home (Dick Lee)

Last April, at a short notice, I was asked to participate in this project by Voices of Singapore. You can see me standing out with a green background, and I wear the black top. Anyway, I was delighted to be part of this initiative, and I could represent the Deaf community in Singapore. Also, this could be another platform to show the Deaf music to the public.

Stay At Home, Singapore (Kids’ Edition) | The Straits Times

Impressed by this video. My Deaf music is seen between 0.34 sec and 0.39 sec. Only for 5 seconds. With captions in English, you could feel it better, and it is including more hearing people to appreciate it that way.

Please do not compare me with other big-time musicians, such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Dame Evelyn Glennie. We have experienced deafness at a different time. Dame Evelyn became deaf at her age of 12, and Beethoven started having his hearing problems at around his age of 28. My deafness is discovered when I was two. Our musicality is different; we have acquired music at a different time, too. We have our different music journey.

Ken Kwek has come up with his story, “The Pitch” for three “giant” theatre companies, SRT, Pangdemonium, and WILD RICE. This evoked many thoughts and feelings from me, so I wrote them here as the Deaf art and music practitioner. I have neglected this art & passion of mine for some time, and due to the Covid-19 situation, I resorted to earning enough money from teaching sign language online – my only income source.

Covid-19 has impacted many of us in positive and negative ways. It has taught us many things about life. With making art, will we emerge to succeed better or go down like a good-for-nothing? Do we need collaborations for better support? What kind of collaborations? What will you see yourself in the next 3-5 years, including the toxic Covid-19 period?

We just need a little “pitch” for faith from you all. With this, we will become more resilient and adaptable.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Introduction to Participatory Arts & Inclusive Classroom Pedagogies (Nov-Dec 2019)

IMAGE DESCRIPTION: “My back is aching!” Lily Goh and Alicia acted out that thought. Alicia’s left hand is on the back-hip, while Lily Goh’s right hand crosses over her shoulder-back.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: 14 adults stand in a circle.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Two rows of people pose for the group photo. The standing row holds a string of blue and yellow flags.
IMAGE DESCRIPTION: Lily Goh poses beside Jodi-Alissa Bickerton who is the Creative Learning Director from Graeae Theatre Company.

Grateful to the Access Path Productions for giving me opportunities to learn more about participatory arts, as well as different perspectives from teachers, social-service workers, museum professionals and other leaders. Also learnt about creative access.

The inaugural Theatre for Development (TfD) programme is a participatory arts practice that allows communities to tell their stories, using drama & storytelling techniques. It lasted for 6 weeks.

I’m pleased to have shared some of the Visual-Gestural Communication activities with the teachers and social-service workers, so that they could improvise their pedagogies for future, inclusive classroom. Not only me, but there are other artists, like Kaite O’Reilly and Wheelsmith who offered their insights into their craft.

Led by Jodi-Alissa, she got us to come up with our final product this week. I have tried to invite a few of my deaf friends to watch it yesterday, but all of them couldn’t make it. Alright.

One of my few biggest wishes is to see our local Deaf theatrical scene becoming alive once again, just like the Hi! Theatre so happening in the 1990s. This could be my vision as I have been exploring different crafts of storytelling (since late-2016), and almost all of them are led by Hearing. However, it is really hard for me to apply to what I have learnt from them. At this moment, I have been figuring out how to continue applying my learning, and take a lead for Deaf Singapore Theatre once again.

Looking back to my past memories when I spent together with my former voluntary group, XTOMIC that was under SADeaf, I had been a volunteer for many years (since I started in 1999). I had performed with Deaf & Hearing volunteers. We promoted deaf awareness through our performances, mostly literal song-signing and musicals. Moulin Rouge, KFC Christmas. With ExtraOrdinary Horizons, I continued to present our debut gigs, such as Amazing Deaf Production @Esplanade (2011), Chai Tao Kway

I have shared the above links here with you here to understand better about Deaf and Disabled Arts.

Someone told me, “You’re already out there knocking on doors. It’s Singapore that is failing you, not recognising your talent and putting you on bigger platforms”. Yeah, I have many bad days in my life. Quite tiring to keep on telling the public that Deaf people are capable of doing everything, except hear. But I never give up. Persist all the way. I really hope the world can wake up to us at last, and give us boundless opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

My First-time Experiences with the SSO National Day Concert (2019)


Grateful to the SSO for giving this opportunity to d/Deaf to enjoy the National Day celebrations at Esplanade Concert Hall, especially when the interpretation in Singapore Sign Language was provided for us last Saturday.

I decided to write this blog about my experiences attending this concert for the first time this year. My opinions are different from those of my Deaf peers who attended it.

The first half of the concert was complex for me to listen, partly because of my profound deafness. I know that Jeremy Monterio is renowned for his jazz piano music. It’s really hard for me to follow this kind of tempo and rhythm. Even if I play this kind of song, it is really very challenging for me. Well, many see me as the Deaf musician in Singapore. Sometimes, they mention that I remind them of Evelyn Glennie, who is a famous world-class percussionist. I actually do not like to be the subject of comparison, based on musicality. Yes, I am different from other deaf musicians, like Dr. Azariah Tan, and Ron Tan. Although I had obtained the certificates in ABRSM Percussion (Grade 6 & 8 with Merit), I may not play great as you think.

When I watched Jeremy Monteiro Jazz Trio (namely, Jeremy Monteiro (piano), Tamagoh (drums) & Christy Smith (bass)) perform with the orchestra, it was really intriguing or fascinating to look at them. However, it was tough to listen (even if the sign language interpreter tried her best interpreting their music).

During their music playing, I then remembered about my ReSound multi-mic. I quickly connected it to my hearing aids, and the sounds became clearer (with less noise, which is cut off from the (open) environment). But still, there was no difference.

The second half was more enjoyable for my peers and me. We shared their feedback with one another. The interpretation quality of this year was better than the previous one as she tried her best to allow us to resonate our deaf, visual minds (based on musicality) to the music & songs, such as Kampong Overture, the Awakening, March On, Our Singapore Dream and Home, with her interpretation. It would be better and more powerful to have conceptual interpretation and representation by Deaf.

Not only having the interpretation for Deaf, but also feeling music (through air-filled balloons) is another alternative for music appreciation. There are many other ways for us to enjoy arts and music, and it could be the efforts of promoting inclusion.

Now, I remember why I started learning percussion music. Again, thanks to the SYNC SINGAPORE programme (that was conducted by Jo & Sarah, and organised by VSA Singapore), I am able to make my ideas happen, and I am working very hard on them. My ultimate goal is to let Deaf know more about music, and let them be more included in music. Lastly, I hope to see more of their Deaf music where they can express themselves, whether playing, or telling stories in the form of song-signing or writing.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Commentary: Power In Our Hands

One of the video trailers published online.

‘In Our Hands’ traces the changes and growth of the Deaf Community in the UK from the early 1900s to the present day. The documentary looks less at what it means to be deaf and instead looks more at how social groups and movements have supported the community over the decades. The documentary is comprised of a collection of interviews interspersed  with footage uncovered from the British Deaf Association (BDA) archives.

The documentary traces the development of the BDA and the Deaf community in the UK from a close but disperse set of individuals who meet occasionally for sporting events through the them becoming a very structured and politicized group in the early 2000s. It looks at how the community has flourished and their pride and sense of identity has grown of the years, as well as their struggle their journey away from reliance on hearing individuals into becoming a self-governing association.

A key change in the community is their sense of self-pride, spurred by a boost in confidence and belief in their own identity and abilities. The documentary suggests that in the early part of the century deaf individuals were often poorly educated and were often reliant on hearing ‘missionaries’ for jobs and for instructions in their day to day lives. They were reluctant to sign in public for feel of ridicule and instead their social lives revolved around local Deaf clubs and associations.  These clubs arranged sporting events around the country and it’s clear that the competitors and their communities prided themselves on achieving high levels of competence in their chosen sport. These events served as a meeting place for people to socialise, broaden their networks and provided a platform for political ideas to spread and grow.

The documentary then goes on to show how various key individuals within the BDA started to help shift the mindset of the community by helping to showcase the achievements of individuals in the workplace, providing more educational support and by encouraging people to start believing that they are worthy of such rights and opportunities. These changes started a shift away away from the community relying-upon and accepting the instructions and beliefs of the hearing community and instead a focus on inspiring deaf individuals to move into leadership positions. This happened gradually with the first step being the existing ‘missionaries’ being replaced by leaders who were Children of Deaf Adults (CoFA) into BDA leadership positions (they were considered to understand the community better than external missionaries). This then led the way for deaf leadership.

Along the way the BDA encouraged film as a key medium by which groups and individuals could document their culture and language – something not possible in written form or via photographs. The BDA also championed and supported researching into signing and were part of the discovery that it is in fact a language which they then christened British Sign Language (BSL) and have been campaigning ever since for it to be recognized as an official language. The documentary challenged the audience to think about the importance of community support and the importance of having an understanding of the communities culture and history, and that this support and teaching come from within the Deaf community rather than an external reliance on the hearing.

Something that wasn’t touched upon within the documentary was the evolution of BSL itself, however the fact that it has evolved quite significantly within the last century was very apparent from the footage itself. The earliest footage suggested a very heavy reliance on finger spelling. Perhaps this may be because other signs weren’t as established, or perhaps because individuals had signs that they used among their own friends/family but which weren’t standardized across the whole community and hence spelling was the back-up. I do not know. As the footage rolled forward in years it was notable to see the proportion of spelling vs. gesturing changes significantly suggesting both a more standardized and comprehensive language system.

The documentary is educational, inspirational and stands with integrity: there is no spoken language during the show except for some of the old footage which had an original spoken translation accompanying it. I’d certainly recommend this documentary for anyone interested in Sign Language, Deaf Culture and also to anyone who’s interested in seeing social-change in action. 

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Selling Percussion Instruments

Managing this account @bizhearthotz on Carousell

After we have decided that YDGEN is officially disbanded, we couldn’t find a place where we could store these percussion instruments. So we made up our mind to sell them to help sustain ExtraOrdinary Horizons financially in a longer run.

I could say based on my subjective opinions; Singapore is different from other countries. It is not easy for Deaf to run a business. Not easy to manage or lead the band, especially when arts and music scene is small. Hmmm, it is strange to see that more emerging or accomplished (mainstreamed) artistes work closely with artistes with disabilities. This aligns well with the vision of inclusion in the arts. However, are the artistes with disabilities empowered enough to develop their practice on their own?

Looking back to the point when I joined the Singapore Idol Season 1 (2004), I still remember why I joined there. I had three intentions namely; to fulfil my childhood dream (to be the singer), to show the public about Deaf capabilities (meanwhile, dispelling misconceptions about Deaf people in Singapore), and to see where I was actually embarking on my music journey. From there, I continued with grit to obtain ABRSM Grades 6 & 8 in Percussion with Merit (within 10 months). With my earnings from four part-time jobs. Now, I am the member of the Purple Symphony. I really thank MP Denise Phua with my sincere heart for giving me this opportunity to experience playing with different musicians with or without disabilities.

Now, I worked with different people – Peter, Zihao, many… I have learnt many things from them. Good for my exploration though… This time, I do not think I can become one of the international Deaf performing artistes, like Ramesh Meyyappan. I do not mean to make such comparisons… Many years ago (before Singapore Idol Season 1), I tried applying for financial aid for the undergraduate program in music studies that I managed to get a place in UK, but to no avail. I had to give it up.

After watching the CNA’s special series entitled, “This is What I Hear”, I realised that every deaf individual has different backgrounds and privileges. Same but different… I know I have failed to understand the quality of sound when playing mallet percussion. But I continue to develop my own niche – #deaftalent arts. Since I am set on becoming one of Deaf social media influencers in Singapore, I continue sharing my works-in-progress (music, percussion, poetry & storytelling) that might include the Singapore culture.

Back to the topic, I hope you can support me, as well as ExtraOrdinary Horizons, please check my website out at

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

YDGEN Officially Disbanded

We made this announcement here that the YMCA Deaf Generation (YDGEN) is officially disbanded of today.

We no longer enjoy the free studio usage provided by YMCA this year because of their budget cuts. For the past years since 2007, we had performed at various YMCA events for this exchange.

However, this does not stop me from practising the #deafmusic in mallet percussion & song-signing, and #deaftalent in theatrical arts, poetry & storytelling.

We will find ways out to continue the practice. If you have any suggestion, you can contact us by email.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is the director and founder of ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Purple Parade 2018 – THIS IS DEAF

SFDLE8057.JPGFor this year’s Purple Parade, ExtraOrdinary Horizons put up a choreographed dramatic dance performance, with a rendition of ‘This Is Me‘ from the movie “The Greatest Showman”, sung by Keala Settle and The Greatest Showman Ensemble.

The dance was choreographed by Donny Laurence, the Deaf performing artiste, with ideas and suggestions thrown in by the rest of us, former and current students from the sign language courses (across all the levels). He was mentored by Lily.

We rehearsed every Friday night, and despite our busy schedules and differing views, everyone was very dedicated and willing to put in our best efforts to put up a good show for the audience at The Purple Parade.

As shown in a dramatic introduction, the three Deaf students were being ostracized by the rest of the “normal” (Hearing) students. As the music progressed, the Deaf students eventually decided to stay true to themselves and ended up earning recognition from the rest.

The concept for the dance is that we want to showcase inclusive arts – the fact that Deaf can perform as well as the Hearing. Arts is a common language for us to express ourselves, and is a medium for us to reach out to others, sending a message that despite the loss of hearing, the Deaf can still find a way to live their lives as fully as possible.

As the chorus proclaims:

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me

Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

This song has been a huge hit ever since the movie’s release and has been used multiple times as an anthem by those who are rejected by society. When we rehearsed for the song, we decided not to be too strict on perfecting our steps, as we wanted to keep it as natural as possible.

Deaf was first priority. In my opinion, this performance did justice to the song and kept true to the meaning, that whether you and me are Deaf or not, we ought not to be afraid to show our true selves and live truly as we deserve.



DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

Illusion or(of) Reality: Off Kilter by Ramesh Meyyappan

By Arjun Vadrevu

Growing up in Singapore, there is one common experience—one unifying factor—that we can all relate to: rote. We believe in the tried and tested; we revel in structure; conformity is our greatest aspiration. We rely on being able to predict the future, a reliance based on the assumption that the world is fundamentally predictable. However, it may simultaneously be observed that from the days of Apep in ancient Egypt, right down to Dickinson’s theories of international relations, mankind has understood that the world is inherently anarchic. All matter, all structure, is born only of that chaos.

The sole way we, as humans (or specifically, Singaporeans), can safeguard our comforting structures is by imposing control, which, when postured against the inherently ‘natural’ chaos of the world we live in, must logically be artificial. This control is imposed in two ways: time and space. And in his one-man play Off Kilter, Ramesh Meyyappan explores the boundaries of these impositions.

We’re introduced to the notion of time from the very get go. Ramesh’s character, Joe Kilter, is surrounded by alarm clocks that ring repeatedly. Contrary to what one would expect, though, he doesn’t show any signs of annoyance, rather revelling in the system he has in place to deal with his clocks. We are introduced to his other systems as well, such as the order in which he gets dressed and ready for work. It is clear that he finds great comfort in these mundane but finely-tuned processes. The impact of rote methods is also highlighted here, as evidenced by Kilter going to great lengths just to touch his toes, an action rooted in the belief that mechanical repetition invariably leads one to success.

During the play, Kilter is seen to thrive on audience interaction, bordering on participation (we’re all given a copy of the letter he receives). But this is so much more than a mere breaking of the fourth wall—a device I feel too often verges on the meretricious. At times, Meyyappan would repeat an action, or pause, until a desired reaction was elicited from his audience, thus supporting the notion of routine as performativity, and highlighting the importance of an audience to such an end. After all, what is performance without appreciation?

To me, Kilter thus far represents all of us—society—and the ruts we’ve subconsciously got ourselves stuck in. But then everything changes.

Kilter receives a letter. We don’t yet know who it’s from or what it’s for, but its delivery is done with such grandeur and persistence only befitting of a life-changing entity. After an agonisingly long period of grappling with the very existence of the letter, Kilter rips it open, much as one would rip off a bandaid, and we learn the truth: after 18 years of working in the same job, he’s been fired. In the time that follows, the audience processes this news with Kilter. We’ve only known him for 20 odd minutes, but we feel his pain. He signs, “I’ve worked for so long. Now it’s finished,” (a phrase that has far more impact in British Sign Language) over, and over, and over. Even in his emotional expression he is repetitive, indicating how ingrained repetition is in our psyche.

All the while during the performance, there is one clock out of anyone’s reach, and it is this clock that sees the audience through the play—it doesn’t follow any intelligible pattern or logic. However, even upon Kilter’s termination, the clock doesn’t stop and the ticking noise—one that the audience becomes all too familiar with by the end of the 50 minutes—reverberates through the theatre. Thus, at some junctions, its message is clear: time goes on.

Life as Kilter knows it, though, does not. His routine isn’t just thrown off course; it’s obliterated entirely. We thus become privy to his coping strategies, many of which are compulsive in nature. He taps on the table, obsessively cleans his glasses, continuously rearranges the stationery on his desk, and generally becomes perfectionistic to the point of paranoia. We see a gradual unravelling of his reality, to the extent that he performs his ‘getting ready ritual’, but in reverse this time. Yet the lack of structure is most obvious when he tries to throw his keys into a cup, a trick he performs flawlessly each morning—the clatter of the keys upon the wooden floor is almost jarring. This unlearning of new habits, a prerequisite to adjusting to a new reality, is a painful experience to witness.

Thus we enter what I am referring to as the “Twilight Zone” segment of the play. Imagine reality on steroids: the entire time-space continuum is thrown out of whack. We’ve already established that time is arbitrary, but its chaotic nature comes to the fore at this point, as Meyyappan displays great mastery of theatric timing (ironic, isn’t it?), portraying Kilter’s actions in a ‘pause-and-play’ sort of sequence. Space, too, is shown to have no limits in this world—shelves slant, cookies regenerate and then grow to great sizes, some things disappear, while others multiply. The tapping that Kilter clearly found solace in now becomes erratic and panicked. Logic, boundaries, systems—such ideas are irrelevant in this universe.

The most devastating part of witnessing such a degeneration is Kilter’s helplessness through it all. Stapling the letter to the desk only results in him stapling his own finger, just as stabbing the paper with a pen barely harms the letter itself, injuring his hand instead. Possibly what Meyyappan is trying to convey is that, in trying to impose control on nature, we only end up hurting ourselves.

As sound, action and lighting climax, Kilter makes his choice: he shreds the letter to pieces. As they rain down around him, the audience comes to understand the implication of this decision—that he has chosen to deny reality; that he is to return to the world of schedules and systems, of structure and chains. By doing so, the inconvenient reality Kilter battled with for the better part of the last hour…is now lost.

The most striking, and I dare say defining, segment of the play was its ending. The audience had entered the theatre with the following poem in hand:

…I live like a cuckoo in a clock,

I don’t envy the birds of a flock

They wind me up, and I cuckoo

A fate like this—sad but true…

Bringing the play full circle, Meyyappan wraps with the same image of the cuckoo clock. In a beautiful display of gestures and handwork, he depicts birds flying gracefully through open skies. He, on the other hand, is a bird of a different variety, specifically the artificial one stuck in a cuckoo clock, satisfied by cuckooing on the hour, every hour. Just as the poem begins and ends will ellipses, so does Kilter’s life return to the monotone of his reality and of the denial of nature.

In some ways, he leaves us all hanging. He fingerspells: “F-A-T-E”, but then adds a dramatic “?”. In the silence that ensued, that question mark was akin to a wake up call. Maybe what we thus far assumed to be every person’s inherent fate—working within the bounds of socially-defined structures and systems—is actually a choice, and that is up to us to question this notion. That is what I personally took away from that spellbinding conclusion, but I’m sure each person in that theatre was affected in a different yet equally personal way.

And then there is the fact that Meyyappan is Deaf. Honestly, it wasn’t an arbitrary decision that landed Meyyappan’s Deafness such a late feature in this article. Instead, it is a reflection of its lack of importance to the entire production—at no time during the play did I feel a scene was in need of dialogue. Recently, Meyyappan spoke at an annual forum on arts and disability in Singapore, where he signed, “First, I am an artist. Then I am Deaf.” He clearly prefers to let his art speak for itself, and in this regard, he achieved great success with Off Kilter.

We live in a world today where theatre is equated with voice. Any lack thereof grants the performance the far less glorified label of “mime”. Off Kilter, however, was testament to the power of silence. In fact, the entire play was a silent soliloquy of sorts. Even though there was music—which, as a side note, was arranged to excellent ends—Meyyappan was able to convey the same emotion, frustration and mood as the music through his own body language and facial expression. Typically, silence is defined as the absence of sound. However, Off Kilter showed us all that silence is truly an entity unto itself.

To venture into the meta, in a sense the entire play mirrored its message. It broke barriers, challenging commonly accepted notions of what theatre is and demonstrating a fluidity of normally rigid concepts. The lack of voice additionally opened doors to exploring other forms of expression, such as dance and mime, whose influence could be observed regularly through the play. Last year, during his production of Butterfly, Meyyappan toyed (mind the pun) with puppetry. In keeping with his proclivity for pushing boundaries, Off Kilter delved into the world of magic. In the context of a play about illusions and the contrast between illusions and reality, the use of magic provided an incredible platform to show the thin line between our contrasted reality, and the actual chaotic one.

I have long enjoyed patronising the arts, and recently have been rather involved in the Deaf landscape. We often hear talk of “inclusive arts”; however, this still works on the assumption of incorporating marginalised (usually disabled) individuals into existing structures. This was my very first time in an environment where art was designed for Deafness, rather than catering for it. And it was a truly breathtaking experience.

It was therefore interesting to observe hearing audience members’ reactions to Off Kilter. One, in particular, suggested that they subtitle the portions in which Sign Language is used (of which there is only really one, for the ending scene relied on visual gestural communication). It was something this particular individual apparently felt very strongly about. Ironically, this is how Deaf people feel on a daily basis, resulting in a complete lack of access to the broader arts scene. This then raises the question of whether it is alright for Deaf-friendly to, in some aspects, include hearing audiences. For my part, I don’t view this as particularly harmful or insidious, rather as a way to celebrate the Deaf arts. (And besides, there were sufficient non-signed visual cues from which one could gauge meaning, as highlighted by other hearing members of the audience.)

At the end of the evening, we emerge from the theatre and pour collectively out into the street. It dawns on me that even the location of the theatre may have been intentional. Sure, we’re in the heart of Singapore—just along the Singapore River—but concurrently most of us had never been to the pocket of space in which the theatre was situated.

I now realise I can’t help but see the world through the lens that Meyyappan has so gracefully provided us. It’s our choice whether we want to be a bird in the sky, or one in a cuckoo clock. Ultimately, the only reality we can really know is change, and that our world is off kilter.

About Ramesh Meyyappan: Ramesh is a Glasgow-based Singaporean theatre creator who develops performances using an eclectic mix of visual and physical theatre styles. He is currently part of the Programme Design Team for the BA Degree for the Deaf at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

DISCLAIMER: The author of the above article is a volunteer with ExtraOrdinary Horizons. All opinions expressed herein are thus the personal views of contributing individual authors. They are not indicative of any endorsement, political or otherwise, or lack thereof, either on the part of the organisation.

MOVIE: A Silent Voice (2016)


Shown in GV Cinemas this year. You can find out more about its plot.

This movie reveals school bullying in Japan. School bullying is not new in Singapore.

“As part of a bullying-free initiative by the Singapore Children’s Society, a survey of primary school students was conducted by the Society in 2007. The aim was to examine the prevalence of the various forms of bullying behaviours experienced by our children, the effects bullying had on them, the sources of support the victims turned to and their perceived effectiveness, and to compare the findings with those from an earlier survey of secondary school students also undertaken by the Society in 2006.


Results showed that approximately 1 in 5 primary school students surveyed was a victim of bullying, defined as any action apparently intended to victimise and repeated at least twice every single month over a span of one school year. Bullies and their victims tended to be of the same gender, the same ethnic group, and in the same class at school. However, more bullies and victims were boys than girls, and there was greater tendency for boys to bully girls than for girls to bully boys. Students of any ethnicity were equally likely to be bullied. Similar proportions of children reported being bullied at each primary level.” (SOURCE: Singapore Children’s Society)

Do you think Deaf communities in Singapore face bullying?

MOVIE: Hush (2016)


Plot: A deaf writer is stalked by a killer at her home. (Source: Wikipedia)
More information is found at this link.

Released on Netflix only. This movie is a thriller. The character of a deaf writer was portrayed by a hearing actress who co-wrote this movie with her (hearing) husband. It does not have much deaf elements, such as sign language. If you love thrillers, you may watch it on Netflix.

FILM: The Tribe (Directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy)

Plot: While attending a boarding school for the deaf, a young man (Grigoriy Fesenko) joins a gang of criminals to become a thief and a pimp. (Source: IMDb)
More information is found at this link.

Grateful to the organisers of Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015 for showing this provocative movie to public in Singapore this year. Some locations has access to English movies for Deaf, in form of English subtitles, like GV-Plaza Singapura, GV-Vivo City and GV-Jurong Point.

For the first time, the Tribe was being shown at the Projector without subtitles and voice-over. It does not need translation. Yesterday, I went to watch this movie. For I am Deaf, I was able to get 70% information from the movie. Perhaps, because of our Deaf culture. Our Sign Languages are different though.

I believe that the director wanted the movie plot to be more on criminal activities Deaf people in Ukraine do, instead of the deafness. Therefore, they are like you – the mainstreamed society. But why call it “The Tribe”? I assume that the deaf boy needs to join in the gang, rather called “the tribe”, in order to survive in the boarding school. He got to be involved in robbery and other activities. He then fell in love with one lady who is in the sex trade. A few explicit sex & violent scenes are involved in the movie. Before the story ended, he unwittingly broke the conformity in the tribe.

Thus, it is all about the group conformity for survival in a strange place.

I really enjoyed it though. I felt that it seemed that the main character of the deaf boy was insufficiently developed. But after all, it is a must-watch movie for those who are not deaf as it really played with our senses.

~ Lily Goh

THEATRE: TRIBES by Pangdemonium

Tribes Poster

ARTICLE: Pangdemonium’s Tribes is a warm, wickedly funny drama about deafness

“British playwright Nina Raine’s critically acclaimed text, which premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2010, is a clear-eyed look at one young man’s encounter with deaf culture after living with a prickly family that has shunned it since his birth in an attempt to make their son and brother as “normal” and well-adjusted as possible. He lipreads with great precision, and he doesn’t use sign language, relying on speech instead.”


Invited to the Gala Night last Saturday, as well as to watch the show with interpretation provided for Deaf. When I watched that “explosive” scene where Thomas argued with his family, it was heart-wrenching. Really close to our hearts. Anyway, I’m very grateful to Pangdemonium for the opportunity to teach/train Thomas Pang and Ethel Yap for 5 months since January 2015. Thomas and Ethel worked very hard to present their deaf characters very exceptionally well. I must applaud them and I’m proud of them.

We encourage you all to watch this fantastic show! Now showing at Drama Centre Theatre (Level 3, Central Library) till 7 June 2015. 8pm.

~ By Lily Goh