Fun slide into theatre

Paper Monkey Theatre will put on The Enchanted Flute (above), which has a local spin on the folktale, The Pied Piper Of Hamelin.
Paper Monkey Theatre will put on The Enchanted Flute (above), which has a local spin on the folktale, The Pied Piper Of Hamelin.PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL
Australian company Strange Fruit Productions presents The Three Belles (above).
Australian company Strange Fruit Productions presents The Three Belles (above).PHOTO: DAVID COOK

Puppet show The Enchanted Flute will unfold among the playgrounds in the heartland to engage kids in physical play

In an age where children are too absorbed in their smartphones, Paper Monkey Theatre wants to bring play back to the playground.

The theatre group's puppet show, The Enchanted Flute, will unfold later this month among the slides and spiderweb climbing frames of playgrounds in Pasir Ris Park and West Coast Park.

It was commissioned for the latest edition of Arts In Your Neighbourhood, a biannual series by the National Arts Council which takes arts events out of theatres and concert halls and into the heartland.

The series' seventh edition will run from Thursday to Nov 27, with more than 40 activities at 16 locations.

The Enchanted Flute, which will be staged on Nov 19 and 26, puts a local spin on the German folktale, The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, in which a piper lures away the children of a town with his music.

In those days, simple metal bars and slides were castles and oceans to us, full of adventures. Today, when you ask children to play games of imagination, they will ask how to download the app for it.

PAPER MONKEY THEATRE'S ARTISTIC DIRECTOR BENJAMIN HO on how smartphones have affected children's imagination

The group's artistic director Benjamin Ho hopes the play can lure children away from the screens of their mobile devices and back into the realms of imagination where the games of his childhood were set.

Says the 48-year-old: "In those days, simple metal bars and slides were castles and oceans to us, full of adventures.

"Today, when you ask children to play games of imagination, they will ask how to download the app for it."

He hope the play - which has puppets made from recycled materials and live music inspired by traditional Malay songs - can unpack complex themes such as ecological imbalance and social responsibility for its young audience.

Site-specific performances such as this are drawing in crowds for the initiative, says the council's arts and communities director Chua Ai Liang.

During the last edition of Arts In Your Neighbourhood in March, the council experimented with siting events in Toa Payoh. This time, many of the events will take place in Bedok, chosen because of its rich heritage as the oldest estate in the east of Singapore.

"We want people to engage with the past, but also have a refreshing new take on what's happening in the neighbourhood," says Ms Chua.

The Bedok events include a music trail on an open-top bus and an arts carnival in a carpark, as well as the return of The Real Estates, a project involving photo walks with community artist Jean Loo and her team.

Loo, 32, who led a similar trail around Toa Payoh in March, hopes the three-hour walks will give participants glimpses of hidden nooks and crannies, such as the old low-rise flats of Chai Chee which, thanks to residents' decoration and gardening efforts, look like "mini art installations".

Participants are encouraged to snap photos along the way, which will be added to an art installation in Bedok Town Square that presents a visual tapestry of the area.

"We really want to show another side to Bedok that's more than just bak chor mee," says Loo, who will lead two walks on Nov 19 and 26.

Ms Chua says she is heartened by the increased response that the initiative is garnering. The March edition had 200,000 participants, double from when the series started in 2014.

"In the past, take-up was slow and we would still have slots available on the day of the event. Now, sign-ups are full within a week or two," Ms Chua says.

She hopes the arts events can bring families together. "We want to see children coming with their grandparents."

Ding Yi Music Company, which is putting on scenes from classic Cantonese, Hokkien and Teochew operas on Nov 23 and 26, hopes to increase appeal across generations with modernised musical arrangements that are more harmonious.

Its general manager Dedric Wong, 30, recalls how he did not cherish being taken to Chinese operas in his childhood, thinking of them only as hot and noisy outings.

"Only later did I realise we should appreciate such performances, which are not common here anymore," he says.


What to see

Here are some highlights of Arts In Your Neighbourhood:

THE ENCHANTED FLUTE

Paper Monkey Theatre's puppet show in a playground puts a local spin on the folktale The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, when the arrival of a foreign ship leaves a small Malay village infested with rats. Where and when: West Coast Park (playground near Carpark 3), Nov 19; Pasir Ris Park (playground near Carpark E), Nov 26; 4 and 6pm on both days Admission: Free. Register at aynnov2016enchantedflute.peatix.com Info: artsforall.sg

TIME FOR OPERA!

Relive the 1970s with Ding Yi Music Company as it presents scenes from classic Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese operas - rearranged for Chinese chamber music instruments. Where and when: Toa Payoh HDB Hub, Nov 23, 7.30pm; Ang Mo Kio Central Stage, Nov 26, 7.30pm Admission: Free

THE THREE BELLES

Australian company Strange Fruit Productions presents the dream-like spectacle of dancers in colourful costumes swaying atop 5m-high poles. Where and when: Raffles Place Park, Friday, noon and 1.30pm; Woodlands Civic Centre, Saturday, 5 and 7pm; Our Tampines Hub (Festive Plaza), Sunday, 5 and 7pm Admission: Free

THE REAL ESTATES

Go on photo walks with community artist Jean Loo and her team to see a different side of Bedok and snap photos of your own, to be added to an art installation. Where: Bedok Town Square When: Photo walks are on Nov 19 and 26, 3.30 to 6.30pm. The installation is up from Nov 15 to 30, 10am to 10pm. Admission: Free. Register at aynnov2016therealestates.peatix.com Info: www.therealestates.sg

ARTS IMPRINTS AROUND MY NEIGHBOURHOOD

Led by Chinese music maestro Quek Ling Kiong, this tour in an open-top bus takes you around Bedok to get a glimpse of its heritage sites, listen to old tunes and pick up drumming along the way. Where: Bedok Town Square When: Nov 20, 9.30am to noon and 2 to 4.30pm Admission: Free. Register at aynnov2016artsimprints.peatix.com

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 08, 2016, with the headline 'Fun slide into theatre'. Print Edition | Subscribe