Wednesday, 22 May 2013


I watched Othello in the park the other night. It is that great annual production by the Singapore Repertory Theatre, and I took the eighth graders to it, and they enjoyed it to varying degrees, mostly divided along lines of understanding. As for the experience itself, I could say that Iago was fantastic (he was) and Desdemona was less than convincing (she was) and that the staging was magnificent (a very well thought-out martial theme with infrared goggles and helicopters and satellites), but the most important thing of all was that I met Lim Yu Beng!

Who, you ask? Was he in the production? No, but that's not important. I saw him once before, months ago at Serene Centre in Bukit Timah. He was walking past and I had buillt up courage to shake his hand. He came closer, I stood up, and...he passed me by.

Rejected! Like the miserable wretch I am!

Little did I know my disappointment would be reversed. During Othello, I needed to find a restroom, and I was climbing the dark stairs  up to Fort Canning when a man pulls out a penlight and clicks it on, shining a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet. "It's up the stairs to the right."
I stare at him for what must have been an uncomfortable amount of time. It's hard to tell in the dark, but could it be? I finally take a step forward and hold out my hand. "Are you Lim Yu Beng?"
"Yes?" He takes my hand tentatively, unsure.
"I grew up in Singapore," I gush. "I used to watch you on Triple Nine!"
I forget what he did, but in my mind I'd like to think he laughed.
"And you did that pen thing!" I try to recover smoothly and nod at the stairs. "Up the stairs to the right, right?" (Man, I'm good.)
"Thank you!"

Ladies and gentlemen, I--Sanna "the Almighty" Gabriel, first-year teacher--have shaken the hand of Lim Yu Beng, Singaporean television and stage actor of my childhood years. My life's purpose is fulfilled. Consequently, my faith in chance encounters has also been restored. I completely expect to run into Tom Hiddleston on the train in London (we'll discuss Shakespeare), and why not Kenneth Branagh while I'm at it.

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