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Local commissions lead starting line-up alongside award-winning Canadian production for Singapore International Festival of Arts 2020

Taking centre stage are four highly anticipated Singaporean theatre productions and the Asian premiere of Kidd Pivot’s Revisor


Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani
with Directors of SIFA 2020 Commissions (from Left: Goh Boon Teck from Toy Factory Productions, Nelson Chia from Nine Years Theatre, Gaurav Kripalani, Alvin Tan from The Necessary Stage, Chong Tze Chien from The Finger Players)

Singapore, 2 December 2019 – The Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) continues to break through with exciting debuts and triumphant conclusions in its 43rd year of festival-making. The first wave of productions for Singapore’s pinnacle performing arts event features new works from local theatre companies Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players and
The Necessary Stage
created in collaboration with international artists. Toy Factory Productions will also reach a new milestone with the grand finale to their SIFA-commissioned trilogy, A Dream Under the Southern Bough.

“I have always sought to make SIFA an artist-led festival, providing a platform for artists to realise their dream projects. As part of the first wave of shows being launched for SIFA 2020, I am proud to announce four Singapore commissions that are all fruits of this vision. These include work by some of the best artistic talent in Singapore – Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan (The Necessary Stage), Chong Tze Chien (The Finger Players), Goh Boon Teck (Toy Factory Productions), and Nelson and Mia Chia (Nine Years Theatre). With SIFA’s support, these artists have spent two to three years developing and incubating work that is now ready to be shown to the world” says Gaurav Kripalani, Festival Director.

From farther afield, Canadian contemporary dance company Kidd Pivot will be making their Singaporean debut with their internationally acclaimed production, Revisor. Combining the visions of Kidd Pivot's Artistic Director Crystal Pite and Playwright in Residence Jonathon Young, Kidd Pivot's remarkable international cast of dancers are poised to deliver an astounding multidisciplinary performance in Revisor's Asian premiere. “This is a wonderful coup for SIFA, and for Singapore. It is a sensational work not be missed” adds Gaurav Kripalani, Festival Director.

Low Eng Teong, Assistant CEO (Sector Development), National Arts Council, says, “SIFA, a key fixture in Singapore’s performing arts calendar, is a significant platform for our leading home-grown groups and practitioners to present their latest works. SIFA 2020 promises to be an exciting season featuring a unique line-up of Singaporean commissions that will challenge our artists and bring them to greater heights, as well as renowned international companies. We are confident artists and festival-goers will continue to embrace SIFA as a ground-breaking and leading performing arts festival.”


Revered Stories Reinvented in Striking Visual Narratives

With innovation etched deeply within SIFA’s ethos, this year’s productions have not pulled any punches when it comes to taking on artistic risks. Inspired by history and myths from cultures abroad, fantastical narratives will be incarnated through an arresting visual language played out on the stage.


SIFA 2020 presents the Asian premiere of Revisor by Kidd Pivot, choreographed by Crystal Pite. (Image courtesy of Michael Slobodian.)

Highly dynamic and bursting at the seams with raw physicality, Revisor is anticipated to exhilarate audiences at SIFA 2020. Based off Nikolai Gogol’s farcical play, The Government Inspector, choreographer Crystal Pite translates the themes of corruption and conflict into a kinetic masterpiece of tragicomedy. The constant flux of this performance – featuring a dizzying number of costumes, set changes, and dance genres – is synthesised into a coherent narrative with a colourful cast of characters. Writer Jonathon Young’s sharp and quirky dialogue is animated through Pite’s highly visual form of storytelling as the dancers’ movements reflect the characters they play, embodying their traits with deliberately exaggerated movements and expressions.

Oiwa – The Ghost of Yotsuya (left) by The Finger Players also sees classic and contemporary sensibilities come together in an intricate mise-en-scene that ruptures the connections between actor, agent, and autonomy. In this retelling of the famous Japanese ghostly legend of Oiwa, actors imitate the movements of puppets in an adaptation of the ningyo buri technique of Kabuki while the traditionally disembodied voice of the “puppeteer” takes on an uncanny physical presence on the stage. Inspired by director and playwright Chong Tze Chien’s personal encounter with Oiwa's shrine and fable, The Finger Players traverses between history and myth in an uncompromising visual choreography that promises to be a sight to behold.

In a multilingual production jointly created together with New York-based SITI Company, Nine Years Theatre takes on Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s seminal play Three Sisters in an adaptation that is driven strongly by the visceral connections formed on the stage. This work will be presented in an idiosyncratic style of movement informed by the Suzuki Method of Actor Training—a rigorous practice and acting exercise that demands acute awareness and control of even the most subtle, “invisible” movements of the body. Bridging the gap between the diverse languages and actors, this timeless naturalist narrative of humans confronting an incoherent and unforgiving world is juxtaposed against a performance where the body becomes a common language.

The world’s first modern theatrical adaptation of Tang Xianzu’s famous Kun opera A Dream Under the Southern Bough reaches its momentous conclusion in SIFA 2020. A production in three parts, Toy Factory Productions’ Chief Artistic Director Goh Boon Teck has crafted immersive and fantastical dreamscapes unique to each instalment, with every aspect of the set and sound production meticulously designed to captivate audiences without straying from the essence of the original tale. From the refined, minimalist black box production in 2018 to the larger and more elaborate theatre stage of 2019, the upcoming SIFA will see Toy Factory Productions continue this evolution as they build upon past visions towards a culmination of the dream. In this last act subtitled Existence, the motif of reflection is incorporated as a crucial feature in the set design to mirror reality setting in – that as SIFA bids farewell to A Dream Under the Southern Bough, this final performance also augurs the inevitable awakening.



Unprecedented Local and International Collaborations

SIFA's efforts to connect artists all over the world has manifested in exciting collaborations between Singaporean artists and their international counterparts.


The Year of No Return by The Necessary Stage, one of four commissions in SIFA 2020. (Image courtesy of Tuckys Photography)

Three Sisters marks a milestone in the fifteen-year relationship between Nine Years Theatre and New York-based SITI Company. Founded by the illustrious Anne Bogart and Tadashi Suzuki, SITI Company’s production of Death and the Ploughman at the 2006 Singapore Arts Festival was a pivotal moment for Nine Years Theatre’s director, Nelson Chia. Incorporating both the Suzuki Method of Actor Training and the Viewpoints method conceptualised by Bogart into Nine Years Theatre’s training regimen, Three Sisters not only marks a long-awaited reunion of kindred artistic spirits, but also represents Chia’s journey as an artist and director coming full circle as he works alongside his former mentors. With SIFA as a backdrop to this incredible relationship, Three Sisters is a testament to the festival’s vision of being a space where artists from all over the world meet and collaborate.

Oiwa – The Ghost of Yotsuya also sees The Finger Players working with Japanese counterparts in a bridging of cultures on and off the stage. In this exploration of the myth’s cultural origins and its expression in Japanese performance, director and playwright Chong Tze Chien seeks to forge new theatrical languages that can enthrall audiences without compromising on authenticity. With this endeavour in mind, The Finger Players have created a corporeal discourse on stage where Singaporean and Japanese actors play disembodied parts of a whole—a voice emanating from one while movement arises from another. Artfully switching roles from puppet to puppeteer, Oiwa features actors from disparate backgrounds converging in an intimate choreography that erodes the distinctions between Japanese and Singaporean, puppet and master, individual and collective.

In what is the most necessarily collaborative production, The Necessary Stage brings the issue of climate change to the stage through an alliance of actors from Singapore and all over the region. The Year of No Return presents the environmental crisis from the perspective of different individuals and discourses, as conversations with researchers and scientists are translated into a dramatic constellation of light, sound, and multimedia elements on the stage. Known for their incisive social commentary and commitment to the representation of marginalised voices, The Necessary Stage’s The Year of No Return dialogues with an increasingly conscious, critical, and outspoken public, providing an Asian perspective to a global emergency on SIFA’s international stage. Peeling back science and statistics, this intensely relevant new offering underscores the role of the arts as a site for a collaborative reckoning with critical social issues.

“Looking ahead, the diversity in our arts landscape will continue to shape our unique identities and shared experiences. SIFA embodies this spirit and has over the years, grown to be a beacon that illuminates Singapore as an international arts and culture destination. The month of May is an opportune time to celebrate Singapore’s position as a leading arts destination where visionaries take to the stage.” adds Sarah Martin, CEO of Arts House Limited.

SIFA is organised by local non-profit Arts House Limited (AHL) which also curates a range of festivals across five venues in Singapore. Each tailored to champion various aspects of Singapore’s diverse arts scene, AHL continues to bridge artists across the world in fields such as the literary arts (Prologue, Textures), youth art subcultures (Aliwal Urban Art Festival), and placemaking (Aliwal Arts Night Crawl, Goodman Open House). SIFA's unique positioning within this portfolio promotes Singapore’s place in the global arts scene with thoughtfully curated productions that transcend international borders and engage with a breadth of performance disciplines.


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Set to return from 15 to 31 May 2020, the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2020 is organised by Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council. The Super Early Bird tickets, priced from $28.50, are available until 25 February 2020, offering SIFA goers significant savings of 25% off regular ticket prices. See Annex F for list of tickets. Super Early Bird tickets are available for sale at www.sifa.sg from 2 December 2019 (9am, Singapore time) to 25 February 2020, via the ticketing hotline at +65 6348 5555 as well as SISTIC authorised agents.


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For more information, please contact:

Samantha Jong
Senior Associate
Huntington Communications
T: +65 6339 2883
M: +65 8163 4662
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Glenn Huang
Head, Communications
Arts House Limited
T: +65 6435 0240
M: +65 9274 7553
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Johann Khairi
Manager, Communications
Arts House Limited
T: +65 6435 0176
M: +65 9180 7776
E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow #SIFA2020 on:
Website: sifa.sg
Facebook: facebook.com/sifa.sg
Twitter: twitter.com/sifa_sg
Instagram: instagram.com/sifa_sg


For more information, please refer to the following annexes:

Annex A: A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Existence by Toy Factory Productions
Annex B: Three Sisters by Nine Years Theatre and SITI Company
Annex C: OIWA – The Ghost of Yotsuya by The Finger Players
Annex D: The Year of No Return by The Necessary Stage
Annex E: Revisor by Kidd Pivot
Annex F: Ticketing Information

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About the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2020 (SIFA 2020)
As Singapore’s annual pinnacle performing arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) presents captivating and diverse works across theatre, music, dance, film and visual arts. First launched as the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1977, the festival has gone through several evolutions and inspired generations of arts lovers and practitioners. Today, the highly anticipated festival is a high point on Singapore’s arts and cultural calendar.

Under the helm of Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani from 2018–2020, SIFA continues its festival mission to champion the creation and presentation of Singaporean and international works. At SIFA 2020, The Arts House will once again be transformed into the Festival House. With meaningful engagement opportunities from artists talks, workshops, discussions and the festival bar—House Pour, the Festival House breaks down the walls between artists and audiences to create unique experiences and inspiring artistic encounters.


About Arts House Limited
Arts House Limited (AHL) is a not-for-profit organisation committed to enriching lives through the arts. AHL manages two key landmarks located in the heart of Singapore’s Civic District – The Arts House, a multi-disciplinary arts centre with a focus on literary programming, and the Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, a heritage building that is home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.

It also runs the Goodman Arts Centre and Aliwal Arts Centre, two creative enclaves for artists, arts groups and creative businesses, and performing arts space Drama Centre. AHL presents the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the annual pinnacle celebration of performance and interdisciplinary arts in Singapore commissioned by the National Arts Council.

AHL was set up in 11 Dec 2002 as a company limited by guarantee (CLG) under the National Arts Council and was formerly known as The Old Parliament House Limited. It was officially renamed Arts House Limited on 19 Mar 2014.


About National Arts Council
The National Arts Council champions the arts in Singapore. By nurturing creative excellence and supporting broad audience engagement, our diverse and distinctive arts inspire our people, connect communities and profile Singapore internationally. We preserve our rich cultural traditions as we cultivate accomplished artists and vibrant companies for the future. Our support for the arts is comprehensive – from grants and partnerships to industry facilitation and arts housing. The Council welcomes greater private and corporate giving to and through the arts, so that together we can make the arts an integral part of everyone’s lives. For more information on the Council’s mission and plans, please visit www.nac.gov.sg.

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