Recalling Mother

Another must-see show in Something To Write Home About, a Singapore arts festival in New York, is the production of Recalling Mother by Checkpoint Theatre. It will play only for one night, Monday, September 21 (7:30 – 9:30 pm), at the iconic downtown venue of La Mama Theater.

From the festival website: “Two women tell stories about two other women – their mothers – and the complexities of living with (and not living with) them. One mother is Cantonese-speaking and impetuous; the other speaks Malay and is quietly stubborn. Both are smart, sharp and strong, and they are wonderful cooks.

Poignant, moving and funny, Recalling Mother celebrates the joys and challenges of motherhood – and daughterhood. Written and performed in English, Malay and Cantonese by Claire Wong and Noorlinah Mohamed.”

Tickets are available on-line.

Claire Wong kindly agreed to answer a few questions about Recalling Mother.


SP. Which part of the play did you most enjoy writing? Which part do you most enjoy acting?

CW. This play was originally inspired by a series of conversations between me and my co-writer and co-performer, Noorlinah. We would share stories about our mothers when we met. When we decided to create a play about our mothers, we devised a creative process that involved writing, improvisations on the rehearsal floor and our continuing conversations. We’ve revisited that process in working on an updated version of the play – we’ve written new material and re-worked the original script. I’ve really enjoyed the creative process.

Some of my favourite writing is giving voice to what I think are my mum’s unspoken thoughts and taking pleasure in telling stories of my parents’ younger selves. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege to be able to perform before an audience – so, every moment is enjoyable.

Well, there is one scene where I say very, very little. It’s not my “favourite” scene but I’m looking forward to feeling the audience’s own thoughts and responses to that scene. Silence (or near silence) on stage can be very potent.


SP. The play will be performed in English, Malay and Cantonese. How will an American audience follow it?

CW. Mostly, the non-English interjections are self-explanatory and comprehensible from their context. We have found from previous shows that most audiences are able to understand and respond to the emotional textures of the performances, and enjoy listening to sound of the Malay and Cantonese.


SP. Complete this sentence: Mothers are ….

CW. … people who are more than just someone’s mother, and they’re people who had to figure out mothering – the child did not come with a manual.



Scene from Recalling Mother by Checkpoint Theatre.


About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.


  1. Pat

    With reference to the ‘Recalling Mother’ promo photo, is the painting of the child done by Alan Oei ?

    It is highly reminiscent of the series of oil paintings displayed during the lecture-performances ‘These Children Are Dead’ (2009) & ‘The End of History’ (2013).


    • Pat

      Replying to my own query … The painting (larger image) is indeed by Alan Oei, titled ‘Lee Brothers #8: The Boy with the Purple Sleeve’ (oil on linen, 60 by 90 cm, 2009).

      It’s interesting that the same painting (of an imaginary boy) haunts different productions across the years. And how we (mothers or not) can’t help but recall those who haunt us, real or otherwise.


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