SINGAPORE - Two audio productions by Singapore theatre-makers are part of the Singapore International Festival Of Arts' v2.020 programme, which wraps up the last quarter of this year with a smattering of online events which pick up from this year's disrupted festival fare.
Multidisciplinary artist Irfan Kasban's art collective Compound is presenting The Silence Of A Falling Tree, a three-track journey which invites listeners to become part of a performance art piece. Actor/director Tan Shou Chen teams up with playwright Joel Tan on A Bird Calls You To Moscow, a three-episode audio drama with music to be experienced on the move.
Irfan says his piece was inspired partly by a desire to escape the Zoom trap, "there's something internal that we are not addressing, or tapping into, with the performances that we watch on a phone or a laptop", and partly by his discovery of guided meditation, "you listen to a track and there's a set of instructions after meditation. There was something quite theatrical about that."
Venues are cautiously inching towards reopening - the latest government advisory released last week allowed for two groups of 50 people each in designated performing venues - after more than six months of closure. In the meantime theatre-makers looking to recapture the vibe of live performances have latched on to the "retro" audio format. These two latest shows follow on the heels of Checkpoint Theatre's three audio offerings earlier this year.
Shou Chen observes: "In theatre, sound is always the forgotten sibling. It's so obvious when it's done badly. Done well, you actually forget it's there."
Joel recently returned from a three-year stint in England where he rediscovered the pleasures of audio drama. His approach to this work was to ask: "How do we use this as an opportunity to make something digital that is not just monologues?"
A Bird Calls was originally intended as a response to Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters, a festival highlight by homegrown Nine Years Theatre. But Shou Chen says: "When I started reading it, I was wondering, what is my connection with Three Sisters during this height of the circuit breaker. Why should I be responding to this."
He took inspiration instead from his love of music and nature walks. So the work encourages listeners to pick different locations to listen to each installment, ranging from a room to a park with old trees to a ride on public transport.
The Silence Of A Falling Tree too suggests locations, such as a supermarket, and related exercises, "imagine everyone in the supermarket is an actor".
For all these theatremakers, the audio format offers intimacy and a different, more internal, way to access the audience experience.
Irfan, who compares his work to a choose your own adventure book, says: "When you watch a show, all your judgment comes into play: Why you think it's not a good piece? Why do you resonate with it? It all comes from you. So I just wanted to make that clear. At the end of the day, we are our own performers and our own audiences."
A listener consuming an audio experience alone means the artists do not receive feedback from their audience, unlike in a live theatre experience.
But that is an advantage for Joel: "I've always found something selfish and vampiric about the need to feel the public responding to your work.
"This format feels to me like the potential for intimacy is a lot higher. It is really between the listener and the sound. I don't really care what you think. I'm just giving you this frame around which you can spend some time by yourself."
What: The Silence Of A Falling Tree
When: Tracks will be released on Nov 22, 29 and Dec 6
What: A Bird Calls You To Moscow
Other Sifa shows to watch out for
A THOUSAND WAYS
Call in and be guided by a narrator through an hour-long immersive theatre experience with a fellow participant. This three-part event begins with a phone call and will pick up next year with a socially distant, face to face encounter and a finale which brings together all the participants in the production. Created by American theatremakers Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone who have won an Obie award for their craft.
When: Nov 5 to 20, Thursdays and Fridays, 3pm, 4.30pm, 7.30pm, and 9pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 11.30am, 1pm, 2.30pm, 5.30pm, 7pm, and 8.30pm
Admission: $20 per phone call
CONTEMPORARY WINDS: ENSEMBLE INTERCONTEMPORAIN LIVE IN PARIS!
This celebrated wind quintet was originally scheduled to play at Sifa in May but they will now livestream their concert from Paris. They will present a programme inspired by nature and her sounds, featuring the works of Claude Debussy, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, and Luciano Berio. There will be a short Q&A session after the concert.
When: Nov 10, 8pm.
Admission: Pay as you wish, $10/$15/$20
UNBOXING NEW MUSIC; SOUNDS OF ASIA
This hour-long digital concert will highlight new music from the region. It will feature works by Toru Takemitsu, Isang Yun, and Koh Cheng Jin. This ticketed concert will also launch Ensemble AEquilibrium, a new Singaporean contemporary music group.
When: Nov 18, 8pm
Admission: Pay as you wish, $10/$15/$20
THE MRBROWN SHOW LIVE!
The self-styled blogfather of Singapore tries his hand at a live show in this concert with skits and music which will be livestreamed. The show will feature Mr Brown, aka Lee Kin Mun, along with his frequent collaborators blogger Mr Miyagi and poet Marc Nair. Ticketing details will be announced soon.
Where: KC Arts Centre, 20 Merbau Road, Singapore 239035
When: Dec 25 to 27. Friday 8pm; Saturday 3pm and 8pm; Sunday, 3pm
For more programmes and information, go to the Sifa website.