Let's look at the Festival Guide! #1

Ng Yi-Sheng

April 25, 2015

In case you haven't noticed, tickets for SIFA are already on sale at SISTIC, so grab your tickets lickety-split, before things sell out!

Can't decide what to buy? Download a copy of the Festival Guide and we'll figure it out! Let's look at the local shows for a bit.

... why did they make Ong Keng Sen look like a 25 year-old hipster?

Kumar's Living Together
6, 8, 13, 15 August

Now, this is an interesting choice for a free public program.  For those of you not in the know, Kumar (pictured in the centre) is treasured as Singapore's most famous stand-up comedian. 

However, he's a success because of his no-holds barred commentaries on race and sex - something he can get away with on outrageous levels because of his identity as an openly gay Indian drag queen. So he's mainstream, but still kinda edgy. Hopefully this'll expose "heartland" audiences to his audacious brand of humour - as long as he doesn't censor himself, alas.

Nanyang: the Musical
6, 7, 8 August

I'm friends with the director of this - Alec Tok of One Kind Theatre, who ran as a candidate for the Singapore Democratic Party in 2011. I'm also kind of a fan of the Nanyang Artists; the pioneering painters who jump-started Singapore's visual arts scene in the 1950s. Hell, I even wrote a musical about one of them myself.

But I can't get all that excited about this. A Mandarin musical celebrating our heritage? No apparent sex or scandal or controversial politics involved? I mean, I'll go and see it, but this is the kind of thing anyone might program for SG50.

13, 14, 15 August

I'm kind of psyched for this one. Goh Lay Kuan, the wife of theatre pioneer Kuo Pao Kun, was unknown to most of us youngish arts goers until recently. Then in 2010, Ong Keng Sen staged The Red Ballerina, a performance based on interviews with Mdm Goh, revealing her pioneering (damn, I'm over-using this word) work as a choreographer here, as well as her detention in the 1970s under the Internal Security Act, with accusations that she was dancing to spread Maoist ideology (hence the title).

I did not think she still had it in her to create a new work of choreography. I do not expect this to be wildly cutting-edge. But it'll be a window into the mind of one of the Singaporean foremothers of that most ephemeral of art forms, dance. So yeah, curious.

T'ang Quartet
19 August, 12 and 19 September

I mean, yeah, I know the T'ang Quartet is good. But I don't know enough about classical music to get really enthusiastic about this. Rather classical lineup, too. It is kinda cool that they're doing Hildegard von Bingen and George Crumb, though.

Hmmm, turns out on 19 August they're performing Guts and Steel with Melvyn Tan, the Singaporean-British pianist who was once attacked for having run away from this country without doing his National Service. So there's a historical dimension to this, maybe? Dunno if it'll be reflected in the music.

20, 21, 22 August

This one's directed by avant-garde director Natalie Hennedige of Cake Theatre. And yeah, I'm pretty thrilled. Here's what I thought about her amazing 2008 production for Arts Fest, Temple.

OK, getting sleepy now so I think I'll cast my judgmental eye on the rest of the festival offerings in a second post.

  • 2015