Brown Boys Don’t Tell Jokes
The eve of an election. A politician, a musician, an activist, an academic, and a therapist reunite after several years. As the five friends catch up on the different paths their lives have taken, they realise their rose-tinted memories might be the only thing holding them together. With secrets unravelling, old conflicts reawakening, and a threat looming, the five are forced to confront the boys they once were, and the men they want to become.
Playwright Myle Yan Tay’s powerful and incisive play lays bare the tensions of male friendship with sharp humour and searching questions. As past mistakes lead to dire consequences, should loyalty prevail over shifting values? What does it take to be a friend?
Huzir Sulaiman’s deft direction illuminates the finely-crafted text, interrogating what it means to be a brown boy in Singapore. With a stellar ensemble cast comprising Gosteloa Spancer, Krish Natarajan, Ebi Shankara, Adib Kosnan, and Shahid Nasheer, Brown Boys Don’t Tell Jokes is a nuanced and unflinching examination of friendship, race, and masculinity in our country.
Myle Yan Tay
"This is not a comedy, although it has some laugh-out-loud funny moments. The humour plays second fiddle to some very serious themes and intense character-building in playwright Myle Yan Tay’s impressive debut script.
"As the men in this mismatched group catch up with one another, squabble and get drunk, old secrets come tumbling out and their assumptions about one another, and their friendships, are severely tested.
"Clocking in at almost two hours, this is the sort of meaty, texty production that is signature Checkpoint Theatre fodder.
"Nonetheless, the wordiness is part of the pleasure as Tay has dedicated substantial attention to shaping each character and their dynamics with one another.
"While the play places brown characters centre stage and privileges their narratives, their brownness is only one aspect of who they are.
"[...] the characters never degenerate into mere mouthpieces for woke opinions or narratives, even as the topics ramble from cancel culture to dirty political games to racism.
"The polish is probably thanks in good part to the sure guiding hand of dramaturg and director Huzir Sulaiman, whose unerring instincts for character and dialogue are very much evident in his own works.
"Corralling the surprisingly large cast, which includes five other speaking roles which are practically cameos, Huzir keeps the narrative pace moving briskly with streamlined clarity [...]
"BROWN BOYS DON'T TELL JOKES marks the entrance of a promising new voice on Singapore’s theatre scene and that is nothing to laugh at."The Straits Times, SG
"What does it mean to be a brown boy in Singapore? After nearly four decades, I’m still not sure I have an answer but Myle Yan Tay certainly does in this astonishing new play, presented by Checkpoint Theatre and directed by Huzir Sulaiman.
"It’s a play that benefits not just from pitch-perfect performances from its cast but taut, sensitive direction and incisive dramaturgy, keeping its audience utterly rapt throughout its two-hour run. One feels that not a line is wasted, each scene essential in building the narrative.
"And what a narrative it is! A deep dive into the messy realities of race relations, the complexities of male friendship, the idea of shoehorning oneself to fit an idealise version that society will accept. These are characters who may be united by the colour of their skins but as the play takes pains to establish, they are so much more than that - authentic, full-blooded individuals who deserve to be see and heard on their own terms.
"Hilarious and tender, urgent and compelling, this is the sort of play that should be taught in schools, an instant classic of the Singapore stage that demands readings and restagings. I’m already hoping the text gets published in a future edition of Checkpoint [Theatre]'s NEW SINGAPORE PLAYS."Crystalwords, SG