As the curtain opens on each production by The Stage Club, Singapore’s highly regarded amateur drama theatre group, watching in the wings are two of its driving forces, David and Eileen Hickman. For a change, we put them in the spotlight.
Where are you from and what do you miss most about it?
DAVID: We grew up five miles apart in Surrey, England, and met when we were 17. Walking over the heath to the pub from the bungalow that we built by ourselves is a fond memory. We left England for six months in 1974 and haven’t lived there since, so most of our memories are a little faded!
When did you first come to Singapore?
DAVID: We landed at Payar Lebar Airport in 1975 after a year in New York and three months in Hong Kong. No ERP, no Sistic, no MRT, no expressways. Lots of kampongs. Old men on bicycles with a monkey coconut-picker on the handlebar riding along Bukit Timah Road. The original Bugis Street was very colourful, to say the least, after midnight and particularly when a fleet was in town.
And this is your second stint here after a long break?
EILEEN: Yes, we left in 1982 when David’s employer decided we had been in the sun too long and relocated us back to New York. We were there, in Tokyo and in Hong Kong for a total of 14 years and have been back in Singapore for 15 years, for 11 of which David has been in retirement.
When and why did you first become involved in The Stage Club?
DAVID: The late Maureen Clarke encouraged us to join in 1977. We were keen to find a hobby away from fellow bankers and an activity where we could put our handyman and dress-making skills to good use. Sweeney Todd, Our Town, Table Manners and a pantomime every Christmas season were among our earlier experiences. Back then, the original Drama Centre on Canning Rise was our performing home. Sadly, this lovely purpose-built venue was demolished a few years back.
What would you say is the biggest difference between the club when you first joined and now?
EILEEN: We moved from a black-and-white on Malcolm Road, where the clubhouse was for 45 years, to Wessex Estate in 2006. But really, the standout is what’s the same – same characters, just different people.
What do your roles as President (David) and Treasurer & Business Manager (Eileen) of the club entail? A little bird tells us that you’re tireless attendees of every show, rehearsal, meeting or social event for the club. True?
DAVID: Indeed, we are very active, and while it does take up a lot of time it is a very rewarding way of making a contribution to the community. Eileen does a phenomenal amount of paperwork and administration. My role is more that of a CEO, but within the setting of a democratic club of volunteer members. I rely on everyone’s good will and intentions, as there are no salaries, bonuses, job titles, etc. to motivate people! I also have a very supportive and hardworking committee which meets monthly.
Does either of you tread the boards, or do you prefer to leave that to others?
EILEEN: David takes on cameo roles from time to time – short-term memory problems prevent him from learning lots of lines! More often than not he is stage manager.
DAVID: Helping painting the set in the theatre prior to curtain-up and running front-of-house is the closest Eileen gets to being on the boards – but she doesn’t mind participating in the after-show skits, which are always great fun.
What’s your favourite memory from your association with The Stage Club?
DAVID: Specifically, the creation of our Stammies – the awards at our annual dinners, for members who made mistakes or did silly things during the course of a production. For example, I was part of a group of members who went to a friend’s house on Sixth Avenue to borrow dining-room furniture for a show in 1980. The maid allowed us to load the truck and leave, but we subsequently found out that it was the wrong house! The last time I received the award was for putting too much dry ice in hot water to create smoke for the overcooked chicken in The Female Odd Couple in 2009.
More generally, it is the many friendships we have made and kept with members over the years, no matter where in the world they now live.
Why join the Stage Club?
DAVID: It’s a fabulous route to learning new skills, meeting lots of gregarious peeps and adding to one’s social life – it certainly worked for us and it’s available to all, no matter what skillsets they possess.