The FUNdaMENTALs read Boom over the last two sessions and the writer, Jean Tay discussed it when she visited the book club at Woodlands Regional Library earlier this week.

Jean Tay was an economist working in the financial sector shen she decided to write instead. Boom grew from her earlier play ‘Plunge’ about the Asian economic crisis. She wanted to explore how ordinary lives are affected when the stock market crashed. Ten years later, when she was asked to develop ‘Plunge’ further, it was the time of en bloc sales and she read in the newspapers about a woman who refused to sell and prepared her own case in court because she believed her late husband wouldn’t find his way home. At around this time, the Ministry of National Development had plans to exhume graves to reclaim land. Jean thought it would be an interesting situation to explore and imagined giving a voice to the corpse.

Boom is about the relationship between a mother and her son and the first really Singaporean play about a very Singaporean topic. It contains a fair bit of Singlish (which looks quite weird printed as the syntax is all mixed up with  Malay and Chinese dialects like Teochew and Hokkien) which makes the characters more real.

Boom was first performed in UK without any Singaporean in the cast. (It had a French director, British-Asian actors, even a Malaysian actress but no Singaporean.) It was also used as a ‘N’ & ‘O’ level Literature text; it’s good to know that the Ministry of Education is open to using a book containing Singlish as a text and that the students appreciated and enjoyed it.

Boom is about family, redevelopment and learning how to let go. There is also the social commentary as a result of government policies – social changes, the friction between moving on or holding back. The relationship between parent and child is a universal one. The ending is deliberately left open.


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