An opportunity to meet with famous playwright Stella Kon came up yesterday and I quickly grabbed hold of my son’s secondary two literature text and finished it in a day in order to be ready for the meeting at the Singapore Literature Book Club.
The book is a monologue play which has been performed worldwide since the 80s. The play, fictionalised by the author from her memory of her grandmother while still living at Emerald Hill, is about a Peranakan (Straits born) girl, Emily, who was married at 14 to a widower, Keong, the eldest son of a rich family.
She took great pains to ensure her position as the eldest daughter in law is respected despite being younger than her sisters in law, and that her son, although the not the eldest grandson, would be made heir.
Last night’s book club brought about a rich discussion about the Emily.
Was she manipulative and two faced, as described by my son in the footnotes at the bottom of the page, or just wanting the best for the family but doing it all wrong, like so many of us mother.
Tragically, her son, perceived to be gay and studying for an English law degree, was found to have committed suicide when told to return home by Emily after he gave up his law study and not to pursue his career in a stable.
She tolerated Keong’s infidelity and finally gave him an ultimatum, only for him to ostracise her.
The play reminds me of the good intentions I see in so many mothers portrayed in Korean dramas, authoritative yet caring, but ending up alienating their love ones.
Although the play was set in the 50s, it’s still relevant in many Asian societies today.
I will definitely be watching the musical in May.