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Facts
Is now a full time mother to two girls, but was originally an economist for 7 years following her double degree in Economics and Creative Writing from Brown University in the US. She states she did this “until I escaped my bond” and didn’t particularly enjoy it.

Her experience of being an economist led directly into her 1997 play Plunge, about the Asian Economic Crisis – as they were the figures that she was dealing with and it was her way of processing what was happening. In Plunge, she wrote about the ‘little stories’; the stories which weren’t reported, but which were the everyday realities for Asian people at the time.

Following this, she was attached to the SRT for a few years, during which Boom came about.

On the Economic Boom

In 1997, wrote a play called ‘Plunge’ about the Asian Economic Crisis & the impact the Asian stock market on the lives of ordinary individuals in Singapore. It was something that she, working as an economist at the time, dealt with everyday and she feels it was her way of ‘processing’ what was happening at the time.

In 2007, during a playwright’s residency in London, someone asked her how she would update this play. She said, ‘half jokingly, I suggested writing a sequel, titled Boom, seeing how soaring property prices were starting to impact ordinary Singaporeans’ lives at that time. Indeed, I had even begun to wonder whether progress and prosperity could really be as destructive a force as an economic meltdown’.

The En Bloc sale

Tay was particularly interested in one major factor in the 2007 economic boom – the en bloc sale, where ‘everything was going up in a scary, non-rational way’. She comments, ‘there was a small but increasingly vocal minority of owners who objected to the sales, but had to sell their homes against their will…… [turning] friendly neighbours into bitter enemies’. There was a lot of media coverage at the time about things which were going on, but two stories which particularly struck her was one about a woman in Singapore refusing to sell because she felt her dead husband’s spirit wouldn’t be able to come back to her if she moved, and one in China about a family refusing to sell their house to developers, so the developers simply built up around them, thus eventually forcing them to sell.

Tay herself grew up in Farrer Park, which saw one of the largest bloc sales in 2007. She would love to show her daughters where she grew up, but all she has is the memories of living there, as her childhood home was pulled down to make way for the new. She says she intended to take them there before it was pulled down, but somehow never managed to get there, so lost that connection to her past.

Destruction of historical landmarks

She feels that once you get rid of the physical, something is lost, even if people still have memories about it, ‘usually, a sense of history is being eroded away by progress. Iconic buildings like the old National Library and the old National Stadium have to be torn down to make way for new (buildings)’

‘I also wanted to explore the tension between the aspirations of the younger generation of Singaporeans, and the desire to hang on to the past and memories, as embodied by these old buildings.’

New Burial System

Tay’s husband is a civil servant, and he told her at the time about a real government policy whereby bodies would only be permitted 15 years in the ground before they would be dug up and moved (New Burial Policy). She says: ‘I thought it would be interesting to take this tack – to show its not just about the living, but also about the dead’.

She also commented, ‘even the dead have not been spared in the relentless onslaught of progress and land redevelopment’.