Let's look at the Festival Guide! #2

Ng Yi-Sheng

May 6, 2015

I poked my nose around half the Singaporean acts in the Festival Guide last week - now let's consider the other half.


27, 28, 29, 30 August

This one's another interesting selection for SIFA. You see, it's being put up the folks at W!ld Rice, one of Singapore's most mainstream and most commercially successful theatre groups, featuring their top directors and playwrights: Ivan Heng, Glen Goei, Alfian Sa'at and an up-and-coming-amazeballs-writer-I-know named Marcia Vanderstraaten. 

In other words, W!ld Rice usually doesn't need the aegis of an arts festival to sell tickets. But when you consider the scale of this production - eleven playlets set in the life of a Singaporean hotel, from 1915 to 2015, spanning two performances and lord knows how many actors and props, not to mention all the rewrites and workshopping and hotseating that an original work requires - then one starts to realise that this is a work that needed a whole lot of investment, and if SIFA can help with that investment, then by gum, why not?

(Bottom line is, the biggest arts groups also need help, occasionally. Kudos to this year's SIFA for including them.)

Cabinet of Curiosities

27, 28, 29 August

This one's a bit more standard Arts Fest fare: an evening with Margaret Leng Tan, Singapore's best-known "avant-garde" composer and musician (I was gonna use the word "contemporary" but that can mean *anything* these days). Based in New York, Tan's been called the premiere interpreter of the works of John Cage (the two collaborated for the last 11 years of his life). There's famous stories of her performing his 4:33 here in the eighties and people walking out and slamming the doors in frustration.

Alas, she won't be performing any of her own compositions, or those of any Singaporeans. But some of the weird assortment she's got in store  (James Joslin, Ge Gan-ru, the Beatles) are multimedia and music theatre pieces, so that should be fun to watch.

Smriti Padha (Memory's Route)

4, 5 September

Let's be honest here: this production is a bit of an odd man out. No other performance in the program can be classified as traditional arts (except possibly the first evening of the T'ang Quartet). This thing's a Kathakali dance performance by Bhaskar Arts Academy and Kerala Kalamandalam, inspired by the story of the Mahabharata.

So how does it fit in with the themes of the festival? Well, it seems that Smriti Padha was actually performed here 60 years ago, back in 1955. So this work is in a way an experiment with restoration, resuscitation, renewal of memory for a generation that's forgotten our choreographic past. And that ties in with how we're paying tribute to pioneer visual artists in Nanyang, the Musical, how we're looking back at our island's history in Hotel. 

And by the by, SIFA seems to be quite casually championing the legacies of quite a few female artistic genii this year: Goh Lay Kuan, Margaret Leng Tan, Natalie Hennedige, and also Santha Bhaskar, founder of Bhaskar Arts Academy. (I've got a soft spot for her, 'cos I did a mudhras workshop under her when I was 13.) Good to remember that our heritage is about foremothers as well as forefathers.

Sleepy again - will update soon!

  • 2015