Singaporean void deck goes to Scotland

Last Of Their Generation, which will premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, is written and performed by Mohamad Shaifulbahri Sawaluddin (left) of Bhumi Collective and directed by Adeeb Fazah.
Last Of Their Generation, which will premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, is written and performed by Mohamad Shaifulbahri Sawaluddin (left) of Bhumi Collective and directed by Adeeb Fazah.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Multi-disciplinary arts company Bhumi Collective is taking a Singaporean void deck to the Scottish stage in its one-man-show titled Last Of Their Generation.

The original work will premiere this August at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival featuring more than 3,000 shows every year.

Joint artistic director of the collective, Mohamad Shaifulbahri Sawaluddin, will be donning three hats for the show as performer, writer and producer. This will be his debut one-man show.

The 60-minute autobiographical piece began as Mohamad Shaifulbahri's response to the death of his grandfather. However, it evolved to grapple with the transience of his own relationships with people, places and friends.

As he takes the audience through the memories he has of the elders in his family and fixtures of his childhood that have disappeared, he also broaches a central question of where he should call home.

"The whole piece begins with me at the void deck with luggage in tow, deliberating whether or not I should go back to London or stay in Singapore. In a way, the void deck setting grounds the piece," he says.

The 31-year-old holds a master's degree in Creative Producing from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in London.

In 2005, he founded and served as the artistic director of Yellow Chair Productions, but stepped down in February this year. Last year, he co-founded Bhumi Collective, which staged its debut production bhumi at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The multi-disciplinary arts company is based in Singapore and London.

Mohamad Shaifulbahri drew inspiration from last year's Edinburgh Fringe, where he was intrigued by the raw simplicity of the solo shows.

He recalls: "I was amazed at how the essence of a story could be retained when everything else was stripped back. So, the day I got back to London, I sat down and came up with some ideas."

On the relatability of the script, director Adeeb Fazah, 25, says: "I could definitely identify with it, especially because we are both Singaporean and Malay Muslim.

"On a more universal scale, I believe everyone can relate to certain issues such as guilt over not spending enough time with family, which the show talks about."

Adeeb and Mohamad Shaifulbahri have four years of experience collaborating on multiple projects, but they agree that this is the most personal project thus far.

Apart from contacting private donors, the collective has applied for grants from the National Arts Council and the Singapore International Foundation. In addition, it will commence crowd-funding later this month. It hopes to raise $20,000.

When asked about the challenges of creating the show, Mohamad Shaifulbahri admits that writing has been the hardest part due to the emotional triggers in the script. "For me, it's about consciously letting go and just responding to what inspires and scares me," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Singaporean void deck goes to Scotland'. Print Edition | Subscribe