The upcoming play highlights the unspoken worries of Singaporean men on reservist duties. 

Jack Neo’s hit military-themed series Ah Boys to Men has given many an insight – albeit a dramatized version – into the life of young Singaporean conscripts.

Their journey does not end there though. After the 2-year mandatory full-time service, operationally ready National Servicemen (NSmen) are expected to stay fit to perform reservist duties until they turn 40 or 50 years old. And it’s their struggles – both physical and emotional – that take center stage in local playwright Lucas Ho’s upcoming play, FRAGO.

Video by: CTV

“There’s been loads of stuff out there about the army and the 2 years of full time National Service (NS). A lot of it is about how you enter it as a boy and emerge from it as a man,” said Mr Ho, 33.

“I wanted to instead look at what happens when a grown man has to go through the whole assembly line again.”

FRAGO, which will run from 13 to 23 July at the Drama Centre Black Box, centers on a group of army mates who’re returning to camp for their 7th year of reservist training. Soon to turn 30, the men find it increasingly challenging to keep up with the physical demands of in-camp training. Growing responsibilities at work, family pressure and relationship issues also put a strain on their nerves.

The actors take turns learning how to dig a shell scrape. Photo courtesy of: Checkpoint Theatre

In Singapore, NSmen have to serve for up to 40 days a year. Their employers are required to grant them leave of absence during the reservist period.

While the play puts a spotlight on the anxieties of NSmen, Mr Ho’s core message is one of friendship.

Tim Nga (actor) and Jo Tan (actor) learn to hold rifles and take aim at enemy targets. Photos courtesy of: Checkpoint Theatre

“By virtue of suffering and toiling together, you get a very unique bond that cannot be forged elsewhere,” said Mr Ho, who’s also written Everyday Miracle and The Artist Who.

“That’s why some people say that army mates are more intimate than lovers; you’re not physically intimate, but you’ve seen a side of each other that will never surface outside of the army.”

While the military jargons used in the play can be alienating to some, he said he is working very hard to “open up and allow people who haven’t experience NS to have access to this world”.

“A lot of openness, a lot of listening, a lot of conversation, a lot of empathy, I hope that’s what people can get out of the play,” he said.