Singapore International Festival of Arts

For the Humanitarians

Dementia (left), about how patients are evicted from a psychiatric hospital, is by Kornel Mundruczo. The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers (above).
The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers (above).PHOTO: DOUGLAS VARCHOL
Dementia (left), about how patients are evicted from a psychiatric hospital, is by Kornel Mundruczo. The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers (above).
Dementia (above), about how patients are evicted from a psychiatric hospital, is by Kornel Mundruczo. PHOTO: MARCELL REV AND MARTON AGH

You have a soft spot for works that speak for the marginalised and those that offer a voice to under- represented communities and cultures, so check out these works.


By: Proton Theatre

Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, best known for winning the Un Certain Regard for his film White God at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, is behind this production.

Part-black comedy, part- melodrama, the production asks how society benefits by prolonging the lives of mental patients, many of whom are unaware of their own condition.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Aug 13 to 15, 8pm

Admission: $30 to $60


By: Black Arm Band

Dirtsong is performed in 11 Aboriginal languages by an ensemble of indigenous Australian singers, musicians and actors, set against projections of moving images and text. The show promises a musical journey across the great plains of Australia, blending dance rituals and vocal harmonies with the sounds of instruments such as the didgeridoo.

Where: Victoria Theatre

When: Aug 20 to 22, 8pm

Admission: $40 to $80


By: Ong Keng Sen

This transnational piece, originally commissioned for the Singapour En France - Le Festival in Paris in March this year, is a multimedia installation performance featuring real-life stories of people who have crossed national borders for one reason or another. A work that blurs the boundaries of installation, karaoke and fashion runway, it will see travellers sharing their personal stories on a catwalk-like stage.

Where: Exhibition Galleries 1 & 2, National Museum of Singapore

When: Sept 17 to 19, 6.30pm

Admission: $45


By: Drama Box

Staged in the wee hours of the morning and at twilight, this two-part multi-disciplinary show will first take place in the storied grounds of the Bukit Brown cemetery. At dawn, performers do a movement piece as the first light of day breaks over the cemetery, parts of which will be demolished for the new section of an expressway.

At dusk, a verbatim theatre piece helmed by Drama Box's artistic director Kok Heng Leun will give voice to the concerns surrounding Bukit Brown's fate. It will wrap up with a performance by indie band The Observatory.

Where: Bukit Brown Cemetery (Dawn) and School of the Arts Studio Theatre (Dusk)

When: Sept 18 and 19, 5.30am (Dawn) and 8pm (Dusk)

Admission: $45 for each performance

In the spotlight: Kornel Mundruczo, 40, director of Dementia

Why did you name the play Dementia?

I wanted to use this as a metaphor for Hungary, and actually also for Europe where people do not want to face their past, and would rather forget about it.

My other inspiration for the story was when the National Mental Asylum of Budapest was suddenly closed in 2008 as the government decided to make use of the estate in another way. No provision was made for the accommodation of the patients. The mental departments of general hospitals were not ready to accept hundreds of them. 

What themes are you specifically exploring?

The idea of forgetting and losing memory is not just for those who are sick, but also the government. The play is about the way a society deals with the down-and-out people.

There is an old Hungarian song saying, "All I can remember is what was nice". And that is how we, as a nation, deal with our past and make up a new reality.

The play looks at how a group of patients are evicted from a psychiatric hospital by a rich man. How do you think a wider audience can relate to this study of the Hungarian healthcare system? 

At first, I thought the problem would be local, but after touring with the piece, we now can be sure it isn't. Perhaps it is because each community has its own kind of memory problem.

What are some of the challenges you faced while staging this production?

As my company Proton Theatre is an independent one and we work without state support, the main challenge is always to produce a new show. To create Dementia, we took a year. Preparations including research work and writing the play took about five to six months.

What do you hope audience members will take away from this production?

Just like how Chekhov was able to show the way a political system works in a hospital in Ward No. 6, we hope to demonstrate the way money works and how corruption spreads and destroys people, their morals and health alike.

Lee Jian Xuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 28, 2015, with the headline 'For the Humanitarians'. Print Edition | Subscribe