2017 M1 Fringe Fest drops 2 shows, says changes to fit R18 guidelines will 'compromise artistic integrity'

Organisers of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival will cut performance lecture Naked Ladies and interactive piece Undressing Room from next year's line-up.
Organisers of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival will cut performance lecture Naked Ladies and interactive piece Undressing Room from next year's line-up. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/M1 SINGAPORE FRINGE FESTIVAL WEBSITE

SINGAPORE - Organisers of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival will cut two shows from next year's line-up rather than reshape and resubmit them for classification.

The Info-comm Media Development Authority (IMDA) had said on Nov 25 that performance lecture Naked Ladies by Thea Fitz-James and interactive piece Undressing Room by Ming Poon had "excessive nudity". Both exceeded the R18 rating under the Arts Entertainment Classification Code and could not be performed here.

IMDA said then that festival organisers could change the shows and resubmit them for classification.

In a statement released on Dec 5, the organisers said Canadian performance artist Fitz-James and Singaporean dancer Poon were willing to amend the works to meet current guidelines. However, organisers decided this would compromise the artistic integrity of both works.

Patrons who bought tickets for the two shows will receive full refunds, the statement said. Sistic will automatically reverse charges on credit cards used to purchase tickets. Viewers with queries should get in touch with the festival organisers (e-mail info@singaporefringe.com or call 6440-8115).

 
 

An IMDA spokesman said in response to TNS's announcement: "IMDA has been informed by TNS that it has withdrawn its applications for Naked Ladies and Undressing Room.  

"Even though the original performances clearly exceeded the Arts Entertainment Classification (AEC) guidelines, IMDA was prepared to consider a modified performance which could be performed under a R18 rating. IMDA notes TNS's decision not to do so but to instead withdraw the entire performance from the M1 Fringe Festival."

The festival started in 2005 by home-grown theatre group The Necessary Stage is known for its boundary-pushing shows and this year recorded an attendance of 9,900. Its 13th edition will run from Jan 4 to 15 next year, with the theme Art & Skin. The curatorial team is led by artistic director Sean Tobin, head of the School of the Art's faculty of theatre.

Undressing Room has the dancer and an audience member undress in private. The idea is to relate to a stranger without the "protective skin" of clothing.

Naked Ladies is a lecture given in the nude to address public perception of the female body. Fitz-James inserts her finger into her private parts at one point.

Organisers said IMDA's assessment of both performances works was ironic since the works "make deliberate attempts to distinguish nudity from sexualised connotations". The works were not lewd, "nor was there any artistic intent to titillate", the statement said.

On Nov 22, a Facebook group called Singaporeans Defending Marriage And Family compared these shows to "solicitation for a public sex act".

Festival organisers said in Monday's statement that the works advocated "body positive messages as well as a sense of personal candour and community trust".

They added: " Ultimately, the licensing process - along with the online furore surrounding these works - deems that society at present is not ready for these cutting-edge, intelligent works."

The organisers also invited detractors to approach them and engage in discussion "in a safe, private space, where we can mutually share our concerns", rather than send anonymous letters.

Last week, artists network Arts Engage also issued an open letter on its website, questioning the process used to deny both shows ratings. It called the ratings denial "retrograde moral policing".

IMDA, however, defended its stance, saying: "Artistic expression cannot be an end in itself, without due consideration for social mores."

akshitan@sph.com.sg

The official website of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is www.singaporefringe.com