Formed in 1987 by our current Artistic Director Alvin Tan, The Necessary Stage (TNS) is a non-profit theatre company with charity status. Our mission is to create challenging, indigenous and innovative theatre that touches the heart and mind. TNS is a recipient of the National Arts Council's Major Grant FY2014-2016, and is also the organiser of the annual M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. TNS also has the honour of being the only arts company in Singapore helmed by two Cultural Medallion recipients: Artistic Director Alvin Tan and Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma. 

Main Season

For its Main Season, The Necessary Stage produces an average of two plays a year at its Black Box and at other venues. The plays are original, mostly devised pieces created in a collaborative process that is based on research, improvisation before scripting, and input from all members of the production. This process has produced many important works, including Boxing Day: The Tsunami Project (2005), godeatgod (2002 & 2004), Completely With/Out Character (1999), Fundamentally Happy (2006), Good People (2007), Gemuk Girls (2009), Model Citizens (2010), Off Centre (1994 and 2007), Still Building (1993), Balek Kampong (2011), Best Of (2013 and 2014) and Poor Thing (2014), all of which received critical and popular acclaim. The Necessary Stage’s international collaboration, Separation 40, was produced with Malaysian theatre company Dramalab, and was staged at Esplanade and at Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. In June 2006, The Necessary Stage presented Mobile, a creative collaboration involving talents from Japan, The Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, as part of the Singapore Arts Festival. Mobile also toured to Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo. Mobile 2: Flat Cities continued our intercultural and intergenerational collaboration with Japanese and regional artists; this premiered in August 2013, followed by a tour to Kuala Lumpur the same year. We continued our intercultural and interdisciplinary explorations with Gitanjali [I feel the earth move] staged in 2014, working with artists across different countries and genres. We will be building on our interdisciplinary approach through a new production entitled Ghost Writer, premiering in June 2016.

Other notable productions include Off Centre, first staged in 1994 and then restaged at the Esplanade Theatre Studio in 2007, with both stagings receiving accolades and warm responses from the audience and press; the script was also selected as part of the GCE ‘O’ and ‘N’ Level literature syllabus from 2007, and was republished by the company a year before that. As part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, The Necessary Stage presented Good People in 2007, which was nominated in 7 categories of the 2008 Life! Theatre Awards and won the Best Original Script award. In 2008, the Company presented Gemuk Girls, which had a sold-out run and garnered critical and popular acclaim - the play went on to win Best Script, Production of the Year and Best Actor (Najib Soiman) in the 2009 Life! Theatre Awards. Gemuk Girls was restaged and enjoyed a sold-out run once again in November 2011. Our production Model Citizens in 2010 also saw director Alvin Tan receiving the Best Director accolade at the Life! Theatre Awards. More recently in 2013, The Necessary Stage presented Best Of, a monologue featuring Young Artist Award winner Siti Khalijah Zainal, which was staged 4 times in Singapore and Malaysia, all to rave reviews, and will be due for performances in Brisbane and New York in late 2015. In 2014, we explored the use of social media in theatre through Poor Thing, a work that throws the spotlight on road rage in Singapore. The sold-out run of the production received enthusiastic reviews from all quarters.

In 2015, The Necessary Stage presented an intergenerational main season production entitled Pioneer (Girls) Generation that featured young theatre practitioners alongside participants from our Theatre for Seniors, as characters in a posh, upmarket senior retirement home. Come March 2016, the company will be premiering a brand new collaboration with local theatre company Drama Box entitled Manifesto, which looks at the relationship between art and politics through history.

International Work

The Necessary Stage is committed to international exchange and networking between Singapore and other countries. Such exchange is done through staging the company’s plays abroad, inviting foreign works to be presented by the company in Singapore, as well as through dialogues, workshops and training opportunities. To date, the company has performed in Berlin, Birmingham, Brisbane, Busan, Cairo, Dublin, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Khabarovsk, Kuala Lumpur, London, Macau, Melbourne, New Delhi, New York, Rijeka, Seoul, Sibiu, Sziget, Taipei and Tokyo. Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma also participated in a collaboration among Southeast Asian theatres, spearheaded by Setagaya Public Theatre in Tokyo, Japan, which culminated in a production in 2005. Haresh was also one of four international playwrights commissioned by the Glasgow-based 7:84 Theatre Company to write a play on the theme of Separation and Reconciliation in 2006. Sharma's play, Eclipse, is about the Indian/Pakistan partition as told by a young Singaporean man who is making a trip to his father’s homeland in Pakistan. The play saw its world premiere on 11 April 2007, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, and subsequently toured to various theatres in Scotland, including the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow. Eclipse made its way back to Singapore for its Asian premiere as a full-length play as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2008.

The Necessary Stage collaborated with Tony Yap Company from Australia in 2009 for a brand new piece entitled Past Caring. In 2010, The Necessary Stage collaborated with Theatre KnAM from Russia and presented Sofaman in Singapore and Khabarovsk. We have staged Crossings, a creative multidisciplinary collaboration with Croatian theatre company TRAFIK, presented as part of Esplanade's The Studios in August 2012. The play will be traveling for a staging at National Theatre, Rijeka, Croatia in September 2012. Most recently, we have worked with Japanesem Malaysian and Singapore artists to create Mobile 2: Flat Cities. The production premiered in Singapore in August 2013 before touring to The Actors Studio @ KuAsh Theatre in Kuala Lumpur in September the same year.

The theatre company's recent main season productions, Good People, Gemuk Girls and Model Citizens toured to Kuala Lumpur in May 2008, December 2008 and January 2011 respectively. Best Of, the company's recent new work that premiered at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2013 featuring Siti Khalijah Zainal, has also toured to Penang for CausewayExchange in June 2013. It was staged once again at the Fringe Festival in 2014 by popular demand, before touring to Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre in January the same year. The production has also just toured to Brisbane and New York later in 2015.

Theatre For Youth and Community

The Theatre For Youth Branch was set up in 1992 and re-named Theatre For Youth and Community (TFYC) in 2001. TFYC’s principal interest is in theatre work with and for young people and different communities in Singapore. This includes presenting short plays during school assemblies, interactive Theatre-In-Education programmes, workshops, and process-based drama programmes that focus on personal development. Since 1992, TFYC has performed to more than 800,000 students, piloted drama programmes for school curriculum, and worked with numerous non-governmental organisations and voluntary welfare organisations. It was also responsible for the successful Marine Parade Theatre Festival (2000), FamFest (2001), The Necessary Community Festival (2001), M1 Youth Connection (1997 – 2003) and M1 Theatre Connect (2004).

Over a 3-year period beginning from April 2008, TNS began the Theatre For Seniors Ensemble (TFS), geared towards training the participants in various aspects of theatre-making and arts administration. This project is supported by the Council for 3rd Age, Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and the National Arts Council, and the participants successfully staged their end-of-year production Encore I, Encore II: Heartland! Heartland!, Encore III: Family Knots and Encore IV: Love Life to full houses in March 2009, 2010, 2011 and June 2013 respectively. Currently, a spin-off group from TFS, now known as Theatre for Seniors Interest Group is exploring ways to continue their training and engagement with the public through performances and related events. We have also trained selected seniors as facilitators, so that they can work with the community on a wider level to engage other seniors in arts activities. TFS was also commissioned to stage a successful production entitled Old Flames as part of the 2013 My Queenstown Festival. In January 2014, TFS was featured at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2014: Art & the People, in Singapore’s first seniors forum theatre production entitled Take Me or Leave Me!. One of the two plays in the production, Void Deck, was restaged as part of Passion Arts Festival 2014. Most recently in November 2015, TFS was commissioned by Esplanade's A Date with Friends festival to present Rise of the Phoenix, a doublebill comprising 2 plays—Waste and Loss—that featured a mix of professional and senior actors. 

The Necessary Stage has also worked with various non-governmental organisations, statutory boards and government ministries to present works dealing with specific issues to the public. Alzheimer's Diseases Association had commissioned the Company to create a full-length performance dealing with Alzheimer's diseases, Don't Forget to Remember Me, which was presented at Jubilee Hall over 4 performances. Health Promotion Board has previously commissioned the Company to create and present Play Safe (a forum theatre piece on safe sex) as well as a scaled down version of Don't Forget to Remember Me in various community spaces. Most recently, The Necessary Stage was also involved in a commission by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports to present a skit on child abuse entitled Sweet Dreams, targeted at primary school students.

The Necessary Stage has also worked with Centre for Biomedical Ethics on a play entitled Future Perfect, dealing with ethical issues in biomedical research, targeted at secondary school students. This skit is also restaged in 2013 (February/March and July/August 2013). We have also been commissioned by Hospice Care Association to create a production entitled Don't Know, Don't Care, promoting caregiving amongst the young. This production toured schools in July 2012, and was restaged in May and July 2013, with a film adaptation that was recently completed. It will be restaged once again in July 2014. Most recently, we worked on a commission by Singapore Maritime Foundation entitled The Project, focusing on career opportunities in the maritime industries. The Project toured to schools in the first half of 2013 and 2014. In 2015, the company collaborated with Singapore Kindness Movement to create a theatre-in-education production entitled International Friendship Day which deals with integration issues. The production will be reprised in July 2016 as part of Peer Pleasure, a youth-oriented festival organised by ArtsWok. We are also currently working on a new commission of the Centre for Biomedical Ethics. Titled The Trial, the work will be exploring ethical issues implicated in clinical trials on children.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is an annual festival of theatre, installation, music and forum created and presented by Singaporean and international artists. Based on a different theme every year and curated by the Company, the festival aims to bring the best of contemporary, cutting-edge and socially engaged works to the Singapore audience. The first of its kind in Singapore, the Festival is set to be a creative centre with a twin-purpose of innovation and discussion, a platform for meaningful and provocative art to engage our increasingly connected and complex world.

The most recent edition of the festival in 2016 was our 12th edition and took place from 13 to 24 January around the theme of Art and the Animal. It saw a total audienceship of XXXXXX through a variety of free and ticketed programmes, with ticketed audiences at XXXX at an average of XX% house.

Since 2015’s edition of the festival, we have launched a rotating artistic directorship, with a new artistic director from the Singapore arts scene being appointed on a 3-year basis to helm the curating. This will allow for each appointed Artistic Director to bring forth his vision of the Festival for the Singapore audience, and will also allow for us to forge new relationships with artists and curators in the scene.

The next edition of the Festival will take place from 4 to 15 January 2017 around the theme of Art & Skin. For more information, visit


The Necessary Stage has produced several publications. Still Building (1994), published by EPB, is a compilation of three plays by the company’s Resident Playwright Haresh Sharma. Other published work by Haresh include This Chord and Others (1999) – a compilation of six plays published by Minerva, and Off Centre (2000), published by Ethos Books. In 1997, the company published 9 Lives – 10 Years of Singapore Theatre, a landmark book and the first of its kind featuring essays on Singapore theatre, commissioned by The Necessary Stage. Ask Not: The Necessary Stage In Singapore Theatre, a collection of essays on examining the social, political, economic and artistic aspects of theatre-making in Singapore from the perspective of The Necessary Stage, was published by Times Editions in 2004. Off Centre has been selected by the Ministry of Education in Singapore as a literature text for the GCE ‘O’ and ‘N’ levels syllabi, and has been republished by the company. In August 2007, a new volume of Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature, was published with a focus on the works of Haresh Sharma. The publication, written by Prof David Birch and edited by A/P Kirpal Singh, was an extensive investigation into Sharma's development as a writer.

In 2010, we published a new anthology of Haresh's plays entitled Trilogy, including the scripts and production notes of our three award-winning works, Fundamentally Happy, Good People and Gemuk Girls. Most recently in 2011, two collections of short plays by Haresh Sharma entitled Shorts 1 and >em>Shorts 2 were published by The Necessary Stage, The script of Those Who Can't, Teach, which was restaged as part of the 2010 Singapore Arts Festival, as well as Model Citizens, have also been published by Epigram Books. A collection of plays entitled Plays for Schools was also published in late 2012. Our most recent collection of plays is entitled Don’t Forget to Remember Me, dealing with medical issues and launched at the Singapore Writers Festival in November 2013.

In May 2014, we launched the publication Best Of. The play was staged at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2014 and 2014 to rave reviews, and also received popular and critical acclaim during its runs in Penang at the Georgetown Arts Festival 2013 as well as Kuala Lumpur in 2014. The same year, we published the script of Eclipse, which was first staged as part of the 2007 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, and looks at the India-Pakistan partition through the eyes of three generations of men. In 2015, we published the script of our play Poor Thing, which looked at road rage and the role of social media.

The Triangle Project

The Triangle Project was started in 1992 with the aim of providing opportunities for the less privileged to watch theatre. The Necessary Stage matches donors and charities with the former buying tickets to our productions for the beneficiaries. This scheme has proven to be very successful and numerous beneficiaries of Voluntary Welfare Organisations have experienced theatre as a result.