Giving the lesser heard a voice

Andrew Marko stars in Every Brilliant Thing as a man who spent his childhood trying to cheer up a depressive mother who has suicidal tendencies.
Andrew Marko stars in Every Brilliant Thing as a man who spent his childhood trying to cheer up a depressive mother who has suicidal tendencies.PHOTO: MARK BENEDICT CHEONG

Bhumi Collective, a Singaporean arts group in Britain, brings an edgy British show on caregiving and depression here

True to its name, arts group Bhumi Collective wants to offer artists around the world common ground.

Formed last year by Singaporeans in Britain who wanted to present a show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the collective - whose name comes from "bumi", the Malay word for "earth" - is developing new intercultural and international projects.

These include a festival at a new off-West End theatre in London as well as bringing edgy new theatre from Britain to Singapore and vice versa, says co-founder Mohamad Shaifulbahri Sawaluddin.

Next week, in London, Bhumi Collective partners the off-West End Bunker Theatre in Bunker Without Borders, a festival of theatre, spoken word, dance and music on the themes of immigration, racism and assimilation.

  • BOOK IT / EVERY BRILLIANT THING

  • WHERE: Centre 42 Black Box, 42 Waterloo Street

    WHEN: April 18, 21 to 23, 3 and 8pm; April 19 and 20, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $35 ($15 for previews on April 18)

    INFO: E-mail hello@bhumicollective.com for tickets

Next month, the arts group presents the one-man show Every Brilliant Thing at the Centre 42 Black Box here. The show, written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, was staged to rave reviews at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2014 and last year.

From April 18 to 23, Singaporean actor Andrew Marko stars as a man who spent his childhood trying to cheer up a depressive mother who has suicidal tendencies. Mohamad Shaifulbahri directs.

Marko, 24, gave voice to a young man with depression last October in Dora Tan's Sadness Is The New Normal, presented by Playground Entertainment as part of a quadruple bill titled State Of Mind.

He says: "It's nice to hear from caregivers now. There's little coverage on how depression affects not just the person, but also all the people around him."

Mohamad Shaifulbahri, 31, says: "We're telling stories to do with the lesser seen, lesser heard and lesser talked about."

He helms Bhumi Collective with dancer Muhammad Noramin Mohamed Farid, who is also known as Soultari Amin Farid.

The collective debuted in August at Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a dance work titled Bhumi. It featured British dancers as well as Singaporeans such as Royal College of Music-trained pianist Nabillah Jalal. The work married Malay traditional music and silat with contemporary dance.

It went so well that the founders decided to do more intercultural collaborations. Next came Ikan Girl, a movement performance last October at the Singapore International Festival of Music, helmed by noted conductor Darrell Ang.

The work was set to music written by Singaporean composer Syafiqah 'Adha Sallehin, who is schooled in the Western classical music tradition at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

Bhumi Collective wants to develop more of such intercultural and international works, says Mohamad Shaifulbahri.

"We're all people of this earth, we have a lot of differences, but a lot of things are similar."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2017, with the headline 'Giving the lesser heard a voice'. Print Edition | Subscribe