“What is that?” Young Jocelyne discovers the National Theatre while Ngan Kee waxes lyrical

I pounced on a postcard with glee! Tucked away for keepsake was this invitation from the National Museum of Singapore for their exhibition last June about the swinging 60’s in Singapore entitled Singapore 1960.

On its cover was the old National Theatre in all her glory. Her tenure was short for the theatre was unceremoniously declared unsafe and demolished in 1986.

19-year old Jocelyne’s response when I showed her the postcard was, “What is that?”

I staggered over to Ngan Kee’s corner for a more nostalgic response and the sight of the postcard (and probably Jocelyne’s wondering face) triggered memories. She remembered being brought there for some Teochew opera no less, as the lampost on a date between her uncle and aunt. And being rained on.

Ngan Kee, Jocelyne, National Theatre

Ng Ngan Kee waxes lyrical National Theatre Jocelyne Sze

While Ngan Kee reminsced, my memories flooded back – they were firmly wrapped up around the sounds of the classical Carnatic violin virtuoso, Kunnakudi Vaidyanathan (see this YouTube sample of his performance), whose beautiful performance one night in the 1970’s filled me with untold exhilaration. I remember exclaiming to my father, who had been waiting for us outside the theatre, there after work to fetch us. He was smiling for he was able to catch the tunes where he waited as the loudspeakers had been projecting the melodious tunes.

In order to bring balance to The Force, Ngan Kee then decided to orientate Jocelyne to the landscape of the National Theatre, walking her past the Van Kleef Aquarium to the river. As she compared it with present day Singapore, amusingly enough, she struggled to finish the narrative. No longer familiar with the present day environs of Singapore River, Jocelyne chipped in shakily and then we all sighed.

The well uttered refrain must have been bubbling in our minds, ‘Singapore changes so much’.

Heck, I had just come from Central this morning and I could have sworn it was a market and HDB flats when I was Jocelyne’s age.


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