Local theatre productions enjoy overseas success

Toy Factory Productions will stage Innamorati Two (above, retitled Innamorati) at Beijing's Spring For Chinese Arts Festival on May 12 and 13. Drama Box took its participatory show, The Lesson, and an inflatable GoLi Theatre to the International Community
Toy Factory Productions will stage Innamorati Two (above, retitled Innamorati) at Beijing's Spring For Chinese Arts Festival on May 12 and 13. Drama Box took its participatory show, The Lesson, and an inflatable GoLi Theatre to the International Community Festival of Arts in Rotterdam, from March 29 to April 2.PHOTO: TOY FACTORY PRODUCTIONS
Toy Factory Productions will stage Innamorati Two (retitled Innamorati) at Beijing's Spring For Chinese Arts Festival on May 12 and 13. Drama Box took its participatory show, The Lesson, and an inflatable GoLi Theatre (above) to the International Communit
Toy Factory Productions will stage Innamorati Two (retitled Innamorati) at Beijing's Spring For Chinese Arts Festival on May 12 and 13. Drama Box took its participatory show, The Lesson, and an inflatable GoLi Theatre (above) to the International Community Festival of Arts in Rotterdam, from March 29 to April 2.PHOTO: DRAMA BOX

At least 10 local productions are being staged overseas this year and theatre groups say the higher cost of going abroad is worth it

Singapore theatre is resonating with audiences overseas. Cake Theatrical Productions takes its retelling of Greek myth Electra to Kuala Lumpur this week. Toy Factory Productions will open its original musical, Innamorati Two, at the Spring For Chinese Arts Festival in Beijing next week.

Meanwhile, I Theatre's children's show, Jewels In The Tale, has been translated into Korean and is touring South Korea this year in a collaboration with the Play YA Theatre Company there.

At least 10 productions from Singapore are travelling or have travelled overseas this year. These include works from major companies as well as independent arts groups, such as How Drama's Fat Kids Are Harder To Kidnap, which is running at the Paris Fringe Festival on May 27 and 28.

Going overseas comes at a cost. Toy Factory Productions' Innamorati Two (renamed Innamorati for this festival) will cost $150,000 to stage on May 12 and 13 at Tianqiao Performing Arts Centre. However, artistic director Goh Boon Teck says touring helps him gain perspective and become aware of international developments in theatre. This is his fifth production staged in China, which his group has toured since 2003.

Theatre group Drama Box took its participatory play, The Lesson, plus an inflatable GoLi Theatre to the International Community Festival of Arts in Rotterdam from March 29 to April 2. It cost about $48,000 more to stage overseas than it would in Singapore, but associate artistic director Koh Hui Ling, 38, says it was worth it to make connections with other artists and festival organisers.

Drama Box's staging in Rotterdam was supported by grants from the National Arts Council and the Singapore International Foundation. The arts council supported 10 shows from major companies and independent artists in the 2015 financial year, including I Theatre's Jewels In The Tale. Another 15 were supported in the just-ended 2016 financial year.

Some funding came from the arts council's Market and Audience Development Grant, others from the Cultural Diplomacy Fund from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Ms Pamela Tham, assistant director, strategic planning (international office), of the National Arts Council, says: "We have seen more Singaporean theatre productions travelling overseas over the past three years and we are heartened by this growing interest from international presenters. This underscores the universality of the rich canon of made-in-Singapore works and the quality of works incubated and developed here."

I Theatre's Jewels In The Tale has been shown overseas since 2015. The collection of folk tales retold with elements of Indian dance and Chinese opera was first staged with a Singaporean cast at the opening festival of the Asian Culture Complex Children's Centre in Gwangju, South Korea.

Writer-director Brian Seward, 59, was then given a chance to direct a Korean version with a South Korean cast. This has now been nominated for the Seoul Children's Theatre Awards.

Seward says it is important for local theatre to be seen on a wider stage. "The work we produce is of an international standard. When we watch it at home, we don't realise this. When we take it overseas, we find out how good it is."

Cake Theatrical Productions' staging of Electra at the KuAsh Theatre from Friday to Sunday comes after years of developing audiences in Malaysia.

In 2009, the troupe created the play Cuckoo Birds for Malaysian arts collective Five Arts Centre and a year later, the show was programmed for the Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay's annual The Studios series.

Artistic director Natalie Hennedige, 42, says: "It's a great exchange. You learn something about the culture of a city through its audience and you experience how the work lives and breathes outside of home ground.

"Inevitably, relationships are forged with practitioners and the arts community in that particular city and you leave a little of your artistic imprint on foreign soil."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2017, with the headline 'Travelling theatre'. Print Edition | Subscribe