Esplanade opens new performing space

The two-storey Annexe Studio is expected to be used more for live performances and interactive works of dance and theatre.
The two-storey Annexe Studio is expected to be used more for live performances and interactive works of dance and theatre.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

The Annexe Studio will give artists space to rehearse and create works

The Esplanade - Theatres On The Bay this week unveils its new performance space with shows on Thursday and Friday.

The concerts feature jazz musician Chok Kerong and indie band In Each Hand A Cutlass, both the first to be signed up on the arts centre's new Mosaic Associate Artist scheme.

The two-storey Esplanade Annexe Studio housed the former club Queen until last October. It was redone from end-February to last month during a larger renovation of the commercial buildings around the arts centre.

The Annexe Studio offers 1,060 sq m of space and has a total capacity of 460 people, standing room only.

With all-black walls, scribbled signage and pink lighting in the stairwells, the studio is a world apart from the arts centre's existing studio spaces, which in some minds are associated with sedate, highbrow productions of classical music and theatre.

  • BOOK IT / ANNEXE SESSIONS: CHOK KERONG ORGAN TRIO

  • WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio, venue entrance next to Esplanade Mall (along Raffles Avenue)

    WHEN: Thursday, 8pm

    TICKETS: $15 at the door (includes one drink)

    ANNEXE SESSIONS: IN EACH HAND A CUTLASS

    WHERE: Esplanade Annexe Studio WHEN: Friday, 11pm

    TICKETS: $15 at the door (includes one drink)

The Esplanade's assistant chief executive officer, Ms Yvonne Tham, says: "For the last two years we've been saying: 'Let's focus on creating works and giving artists space to create', but we were running out of rehearsal space."

Last year, as the arts centre presented 50 English plays as part of Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations, the 220-seat Theatre Studio and 240-seat Recital Studio were double-booked by theatre groups seeking places to create and rehearse.

Ms Tham expects the Annexe Studio to be used more for live performances and interactive works of dance and theatre. She says: "This studio gives us a fresh start. This will relate to people who expect to stand during a performance and step out during a show for a drink."

Along with the Esplanade Annexe Studio, the arts centre is unveiling its new Mosaic Associate Artist scheme this week. The Esplanade is offering its network of connections and experts to chosen artists, to help them grow.

For example, Mosaic Associate Artist Chok opens the Annexe Studio with a recital of original and cover music from his Chok Kerong Organ Trio. The trio comprise Chok on the jazz organ, Andrew Lim on guitar and Soh Wen Ming on drums and will debut at the Tokyo Jazz Festival on Sunday.

The Japan gig came through the Esplanade. The arts centre had brought in Japanese jazz musicians in May for the Super Japan arts festival and introduced Chok to festival organisers overseas.

Chok, 33, says: "As a Mosaic Associate Artist, I have possibilities that are much bigger. It's about growth and extending my experience."

The other Mosaic Associate Artists are post-rock band In Each Hand A Cutlass. Guitarist Daniel Sassoon, 41, says the band are looking forward to their first concert at the Annexe Studio. He likes the size of the space and the fact that the performing bands are not under pressure to bring in punters.

"It's a venue size that's been lacking in Singapore for many years. It reminds you of what they call a live house in China, a room that's meant for live performances," he says. "Because it's not tied to a commercial organisation, like a restaurant or bar, you don't have that pressure to bring in sales. It's meant for music."

On Friday, the band will play music from their albums, including last year's The Kraken, accompanied by multimedia visuals from artist Jun Wu. It will be a taste of the group's two-week tour of Australia and China, performing at the BigSound festival in Brisbane and the Concrete & Grass Music Festival in Shanghai, among others.

The Annexe Studio has been set up with a stage for these concerts, but this can be packed away and dance mats unrolled overnight to transform the area into a rehearsal or creation ground for interactive works of dance or theatre.

However, hopefuls seeking space to rehearse or create will have to wait some months. The Annexe Studio is booked until the end of this year. Dancers will use it to rehearse for the da:ns festival in October, as will youth bootcamps such as the SixTeen Dance Challenge and Voices Show Choir Intensive.

Upcoming shows at the new space include parent-child workshops in children's festival Octoburst! from Oct 7 to 9 and interactive dance work Halfbreadtechnique on Oct 14 and 15.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'New space for jamming at Esplanade'. Print Edition | Subscribe