Lim Chor Pee



Lim Chor Pee (b. 1936, Penang, Malaysia1–d. 5 December 2006, Singapore) was an established lawyer and a pioneer playwright in Singapore. He was among the first batch of playwrights in the 1960s who planted the seeds of local English-language theatre in Singapore. His plays Mimi Fan (1962) and A White Rose at Midnight (1964) catapulted him to national fame.2 Mimi Fan is considered Singapore’s first English-language play.3 A well-known litigator, Lim handled numerous high-profile cases. He died of lung cancer in December 2006.4

Early life
Lim read law at St John’s College, Cambridge in the United Kingdom in the 1950s. Those who knew him remembered him to be extremely passionate about theatre during his undergraduate years. Despite his passion for theatre, he chose to carve a career in law.5 He was called to the Bar at Inner Temple, London, in June 1959, and was admitted to the Malayan Bar in Singapore in September 1962.6 Still, he found the time to establish the Experimental Theatre Club (ETC) in Singapore in the early 1960s. He achieved an impeccable juggling act as both a practising lawyer and one of the prime movers of Singapore’s English-language theatre for many years, before he gave up drama for his legal career.7


In 1964, Lim left the legal service, where he had been a state counsel, to set up his own law firm Chor Pee & Hin Hiong. After this company was dissolved, he founded Chor Pee and Company, which later became Chor Pee & Partners. In the early 1990s, Chor Pee & Partners was among the first handful of foreign law firms that were granted licences to open offices in Vietnam, at a time when few other local firms had branched out into the region. The company was dissolved upon his death.8

Contributions to local theatre
Lim founded ETC as a Malayan theatre company with the objective of encouraging local English-educated playwrights by staging their plays.9 As ETC’s artistic director from 1961 to 1967,10 Lim attempted to set the group apart from other theatre companies, such as the expatriate-owned The Stage Club, by pushing for experimental theatre instead of drawing-room drama. This was unsurprising as Lim had often spoken against patronising colonial influence in local drama.11


The interest in forming distinctive local theatre coincided with the run-up to Singapore’s independence.12 In 1962, Lim wrote Mimi Fan with hopes of ending the domination of expatriate-produced plays and wanted his play to be as realistic as possible, with punch lines that a local English-speaking audience could resonate strongly with. He was especially determined not to make his characters speak in “Queen’s English” as that was not an accurate representation of Singaporeans.13 The play, which centred on the quest for truth and identity, was restaged in the 1990s and tickets were completely sold out.14

In 1964, The Straits Times theatre critic M. E. Constant remarked: “Let the local theatre clubs be not too proud to learn from the expat clubs”.15 A debate ensued between Lim and Constant, in which Lim retorted: “This sort of attitude should have gone with the departure of the plumed hat”.16

Lim’s second play, A White Rose at Midnight (1964), was staged by the ETC. He wrote another play after that, but it was not staged. He was not confident of this last play and, at the same time, found that his interest in drama was beginning to wane. After he started his own law practice in 1964, time became a major constraint and Lim eventually stopped his involvement in theatre.17

Family
At the time of his death, Lim was survived by his wife, mother, three children and three grandchildren.18



Author

Adlina Maulod



References
1. Lim Chor Pee. (n.d.). Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/lim-chor-pee
2. Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancerThe Straits Times, p. H4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Rubin, D. (Ed.). (1998). The world encyclopedia of contemporary theatre. Vol. 5, Asia/Pacific. London: Routledge, p. 401. (Call no.: RART 792.03 WOR)
4. Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancerThe Straits Times, p. H4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancer. The Straits Times, p. H4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Admitted to Bar. (1962, September 23). The Straits Times, p. 5; Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancer. The Straits Times, p. H4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Lam, D. (1990, October 11). Being thereThe Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancer. The Straits Times, p. H4; Who’s going where. (1994, February 7). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lam, D. (1990, October 11). Being there. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Rubin, D. (1998). The world encyclopedia of contemporary theatre. Vol. 5, Asia/Pacific. London: Routledge, p. 401. (Call no.: RART 792.03 WOR)
10. The Esplanade. (n.d.). Lim Chor Pee. Retrieved 2016, October 28 from Esplanade website: https://www.esplanade.com/tributesg/performing-arts/lim-chor-pee
11. Yeo, R. (1982). Towards an English language Singaporean theatre. Southeast Asian Review of English, 4/5, 61. (Call no.: RSING 820 SARE)
12. Yeo, R. (1992, February 23). New reach for Singapore’s English-language theatreThe Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Lam, D. (1990, October 11). Being there. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Pandian, H. (1990, November 15). Transcending stereotypes. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Constant, M. E. (1964, November 10). Letter. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Lim, C. P. (1964, November 14). Stage Club and the critics. The Straits Times, p. 12; Birch, D. (1984, October 14). Of pride and prejudice. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Lam, D. (1990, October 11). Being there. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Sua, T. (2006, December 7). Lawyer-playwright dies of cancer. The Straits Times, p. H4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Lim, C. P. (1962). Mimi Fan. Singapore: [s.n.].

(Call no.: RCLOS 828.995957 LIM)

Lim C. P. (1964). A White Rose at Midnight. Singapore: [s.n.].
(Call no.: RCLOS 822.914 LIM)

Rajah, J., & Tay, S. (1991). From second tongue to mother tongue: A look at the use of English in Singapore English drama from 1960s to the present. In E. Thumboo, & T. Kandiah. (Eds.), Perceiving other worlds. Singapore: Times Academic Press.
(Call no.: RSING 809 PER)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Lawyers--Singapore--Biography
Law and government
Singaporean drama (English)
Arts>>Theatre>>Playwriting
Personalities
Personalities>>Biographies
Theatre
Lim, Chor Pee, 1936-2006
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Theatre