Records show that this historic bungalow at 42 Waterloo Street was built before 1893 and once housed the De Souza family until 1917, when it was leased out to the Cornelius family. Eventually, it ceased to be a place of residence in 1969, when court action converted it into a commercial space.
According to advertising records, the Dharmapala P Company advertised its services at this address from 1972 to 1974. The company did hand engraving for various metals, cups and trophies. Later advertisements showed a ‘want-to-buy’ listing for plastic injection mould machines and machine tools by a ‘Mr Pala’ in 1977.
Sometime between 1977 and 1999, the pre-war two-storeyed bungalow underwent restoration. Its original plaster mouldings and some traditional embellishments were removed but the building retained many of its traditional features — symmetry, pitched tile roof, high ceilings, tall windows and a garden compound. Today, it dons a bright cerulean blue coating with white fringes, dark green doors and a red tiled roof and functions as a centre for theatre and the arts.
In 1999, Action Theatre moved into the building. The arts group was founded in 1987 by Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham. The opening was presided over by Professor Tommy Koh, then Chairman of National Arts Council, who said that the move was part of a larger initiative to “create an arts village in the Waterloo Street Area.” Costing $1.3 million, the site had two outdoor performance spaces, indoor studios, two rehearsal rooms and a café.
Action Theatre staged a variety of plays including non-realist, surrealistic and psychological realism plays. Today, the oral histories of the performers who acted in the Action Theatre can be found at the National Archives of Singapore.
Action Theatre vacated the premises in 2012 and the building was converted into Centre 42, a project developed in collaboration with the National Arts Council. Centre 42 is run by a team of theatre practitioners, and is dedicated to the documentation, promotion and creation of creative talents and works for Singapore theatre.
Buildings and sites featured on Roots.SG are part of our efforts to raise awareness of our heritage; a listing on Roots.SG does not imply any form of preservation or conservation status, unless it is mentioned in the article. The information in this article is valid as of August 2019 and is not intended to be an exhaustive history of the site/building.