In Child's Play, renowned playwright tackles medical ethics

In Child's Play, renowned playwright tackles medical ethics
Child's Play written by Haresh Sharma and starring veteran actress Karen Tan explores the issues of bioethics in a digestible manner. Photo: Singapore Science Festival
Child’s Play explores a unique ethical dilemma at this year’s Singapore Science Festival
Published: 4:00 AM, July 8, 2016
Updated: 7:22 PM, July 8, 2016

SINGAPORE — Would you agree to undergo clinical trials to supplement the family’s income? Or do you feel a sense of obligation to enter such trials in order to help advance medical research?

These are just some of the questions raised in Child’s Play, a 45-minute play written by renowned local playwright Haresh Sharma, presented by The Necessary Stage and directed by Alvin Tan as part of the Bioethics Festival at this year’s Singapore Science Festival.

Child’s Play explores the ethical dilemma surrounding medical research involving children, as told through four short stories. Although targeted at an audience of secondary school youth, adults too will find the stories intriguing and thought-provoking.

Acknowledging the heavy subject matter, Sharma shared that the challenge didn’t just lie in navigating the complex ethical issues, rules and regulations involved in medical trials, but also in condensing it all into an enjoyable play for the audience.

“Some of our audience members are as young as 10 years old, and they’re transfixed. To distill it all into light, digestible stories, was something I really enjoyed,” he said.

The stories have all the elements of an engaging play: Well-paced comedy as well as drama. For instance, one story takes the audience to a dystopian future, where the world population is drastically declining due to the uncontrolled spread of disease. Protests erupt as everyone above the age of 12 is made to undergo compulsory medical trials in a desperate attempt to find new cures.

In another short, a 12-year-old boy who has just gone into remission from cancer is the ideal candidate for a promising new drug trial that prevents a relapse. His mother, however, is reluctant as she fears the risks involved. At the same time, she recognises that other children before her son have contributed to his remission by undergoing clinical trials themselves.

Each story is left open-ended, so as to encourage an authentic discussion afterwards.

Child’s Play is the second play commissioned by the Centre for Biomedical Ethics (CBmE) at the National University of Singapore and written by Sharma. Their first play together, titled Future Perfect, was staged in 2013.

Exploring the issues surrounding genetic modification and human enhancement, Future Perfect has since been staged around the world in various languages even until this year. Although the subject matter is different this time round, the collaboration promises yet another exciting platform for in-depth discussion and critical thinking.

Child’s Play is open to students and school groups on 7, 8, 12-15 July at the Science Centre.