The problem with books published in Singapore, about Singapore, is it either looks good or is a good read. It’s rare to find a book that has both.
The overriding principle to produce books at the most economical costs more often than not limits the options available for production. Thus, most books look and feel the same.
Life’s a Stage is a book that has managed to do both pretty well. The book is a photo essay about Ong Si Mui’s Troupe, a group of wayang performers in Singapore. A story about vanishing trades like this would have easily vanished in bookstores. It’s a topic that’s been done to death and the only buyers will be those dying for nostalgia.
But this book stands out because of two things — it’s a well-taken photo story in a well-designed package.
The book brings forth the notion of a book as sculpture with a cover (yes, with the hanger and safety pin!) that was inspired by the troupe’s script synopsis (above left). In place of the synopsis, the cover acts as the content page of the book. The story is told through 119 pages of photographs and short write-ups and is printed on uncoated paper which mutes the gloss of the colours and gives it a gritty, real-life feel.
Such details in design is most probably because this book was done by a creative agency, Splash. Besides documenting a dying troupe, this books also acts as a good marketing material for its capabilities. This is probably why the book was not done with a commercial success in mind and you can find it in its entirety online. But if you’re interested in getting your own copy, you can find it at Polymath & Crust at $35 with a hanger or $28 without the hanger.