Suan-tze lives in Singapore. Craig lives in England. They are both ten years old. They have not met, but they have something in common – this is a difficult and troubled moment in both their lives. Suan-tze feels she does not live up to the ‘pretty little girl’ image that her parents wish her to be. Craig similarly feels inadequate, not matching up to the ‘tough little boy’ he is expected to be. The large, clumsy girl and the puny, bullied boy both feel there is no-one on their side, no-one they can confide in. When their class-teachers announce that there is to be a letter-exchange between a school in England and a school in Singapore, both Craig and Suan-tze have strong reactions. Suan-tze begs to be able to correspond with a boy; Craig is mortified when he discovers that the interesting name he has chosen belongs to a girl.
Gradually, through the correspondence, the two children get to know each other – or they think they do, for both Suan-tze and Craig hide from each other their ‘unacceptable images’. So Craig sends a drawing of a big, strong, happy boy wearing a blue baseball cap. Suan-tze sends a drawing of a petite, happy, pretty girl.
The correspondence becomes increasingly important. What neither of them talk about are the feelings towards the adults in their lives – feelings they have buried: anger, resentment, shame and humiliation towards themselves.
The Gift is a new play written by British playwright Noel Greig, to be performed to Singaporean children of upper-primary age. The project developed out of the writer’s question – ‘how do we find new ways of engaging with our age-group target when we are making theatre for them; ways which invite the children’s own voices into the early creative process of developing a story?’