Accidental playwright Helmi Yusof tackles deep-seated stereotypes in his debut play.



When the National Library Board (NLB) decided to pulp several children’s books which feature single mother and gay child in their stories, it got Helmi Yusof thinking.


“If I was the father of a gay child, or if I was the child of a single mother, what would I think about this decision?


“Would I think that something’s wrong with my mother … Would I think that something’s wrong with my child?” said the first time playwright of My Mother Buys Condoms.


and tango makes three was 1 of the books removed by the NLB for its LGBT content


NLB’s decision sparked a heated public debate back in 2014. Some quarters of the society supported the withdrawal of materials which are “not pro-family”. Others see the move as an assault on inclusiveness and diversity. Helmi belonged to the latter.


“I thought that kind of moralizing destroys family bonds. In that sense the decision wasn’t so pro-family,” the 41-year-old said during an interview with UrbanWire.


The NLB saga ended with the transfer of the children’s titles in question to the adult’s section. But it also started Helmi on a creative journey to write a story about the less mainstream ideals in society.


His story, which came in the form of a comedy play titled My Mother Buys Condoms, is witty but no less hard-hitting. Directed by Ivan Heng, founder of W!ld Rice, Singapore’s leading professional theatre company, the 1.5 hour play stars theatre veterans Lok Meng Chue and Remesh Panicker in the leading roles as unlikely couple Maggie and Raju.

Actress Lok Meng Chue plays Maggie, the female lead in My Mother Buys Condoms

Maggie is 63, a Singaporean Chinese, a retired English Literature teacher, and a divorcee with 2 children – one of them a conservative and the other a closet lesbian. Raju is 56, single, a Malaysian Indian, and an air-con business owner often referred to as the repairman. When their romance comes to light, an uproar ensues, and the couple find themselves having to confront some of their closest friends and family members over their choices.


Through this story, Helmi hopes to tackle several issues including ageism, racism, sexism and homophobia. He’s heartened that many in the audience came to accept the characters and understood his message.


“I think at the root of it there remains a lack of respect for the individual’s right to choose,” said Helmi. “I think in essence the play reflects that – a woman still can’t choose to be with this man because the community still judges her,” he added.


My Mother Buys Condoms was staged from July 14 -24 as part of the 5th edition of the Singapore Theatre Festival at LASALLE College of the Arts. It was sold out.


Helmi, who’s also an art correspondent with The Business Times, is now working on his next script. He will explore how romantic relationships have changed under the influence of dating apps such as Tinder and Happn.