It's National Theatre Season, apparently!

Ng Yi-Sheng

July 26, 2015

Apologies for not updating this blog for a while! I’ve been travelling with family and trying to keep up with other work assignments at the same time, and of course we’re in that strange gap between The OPEN and SIFA proper, when there isn’t much to urgently report.

Not that there isn’t anything to report at all in the world of theatre. As we’ve seen recently, one patriotic musical has closed disastrously:

Singapura the Musical

While another has opened amidst criticism, but also to standing ovations:

The LKY Musical

Of course, there've been controversies about government intervention in the show, as recorded on a certain actor’s blog, before he took it down. I read the original post; based on what he said, the input from government bodies seemed pretty benign, in the mode of supplying research materials rather than heavy-handed censorship. (The full story of what happened behind the scenes is currently quite unknown to me.)

Anyhow, in the midst of all the state-sponsored narratives, it’s nice to reflect that SIFA has been able to put counter-narratives on display, including the takedown of socialist democracy in The Imagination of the Future(considerately edited by our censors):


Or the upcoming Hotel, which looks at a hundred-year sweep of Singapore history.

Or Nanyang, the Musical, which looks at the founders of our first national art movement, the Nanyang School:

All of which makes one feel that even in an age of artistic inundation in Singapore, SIFA is still pretty damn relevant. Reminds me of what Peter Brook said about how some African tribe would traditionally devote one day of its festivities to satirical performances by young people, mocking its elders – how political theatre should not simply be tolerated, but also receive state support.

SIFA isn't just reflecting on Singaporean issues, though – it’s far more cosmopolitan than that, as we’ve seen in the case of The OPEN, which hardly featured any Singaporean acts at all. Hell, last year’s SIFA proper was bereft of Singaporean shows, since they were all prepping to be in this year’s lineup.

And I do think that’s part of where Keng Sen’s sympathies lie: trying to push us to think broader, less parochially, less dogmatically about the world we live in. Post-Empires, post-ideology, post-everything. Thence the exploration of Australia’s history in eleven different Aboriginal languages in dirtsong;

Thence the collision of Schubert’s Winterreise with the animations of South African artist Wlliam Kentridge:

And really, we may be quite sick of Singaporeana by the time the festival comes. After all, we’ll be witnessing the National Day Parade on 9 August, three days after SIFA’s opening:


Plus it looks like the elections may actually overlap with SIFA in early September, which means we’ll be running around the island attending political rallies. Folks might actually be ditching their long-bought tickets in order to wave their lightning bolt/hammer/Star Trek logo flags.

So prepare to snap up some discounted second-hand SIFA tix via Facebook, Capacity Building and Carousell. There’ll be politics both in theatres and out this autumnal equinox. No escaping it, nosiree.

  • 2015