The Singapore International Festival of Arts makes a dramatic comeback

The Commission is the first stage collaboration between the three groups. PHOTO: CRISPIAN CHAN
Scott Silven will perform The Journey. PHOTO: DAVID WILKINSON

SINGAPORE - In these pandemic times, the performers of next month's Singapore International Festival of Arts have found necessity to be the mother of invention.

Some have found ways of beaming themselves in remotely. Others have opted for a "hybrid" production with actors present digitally and in the flesh.

This year's event, the final leg in festival director Gaurav Kripalani's tenure, returns from May 14 to 30 with more than 60 shows by local and international acts.

The local performing arts scene will return with a vengeance and the festival features several landmark collaborations.

Public response has been positive since ticket sales opened last month. While festival organiser Arts House Limited declines to reveal sales figures, it says several shows sold out right away.

It adds that it is exploring ways of offering more seats in light of the National Arts Council's latest advisory that zoning is no longer required for live performances, which may have up to 750 audience members with pre-event testing.

Book it/ Singapore International Festival Of Arts

Where: Various venues; online

When: May 14 to 30; video-on-demand from June 5 to 12

Admission: Tickets start at $8 for video-on-demand, $10 for front-row student tickets and $15 for selected in-theatre programmes. Go to or call 6348-5555

Info: Singapore International Festival Of Arts' website

Triple threat as Pangdemonium, SRT, Wild Rice join forces

SRT's Gaurav Kripalani (left), Pangdemonium's Adrian Pang and Wild Rice's Ivan Heng (seated) will play characters based on themselves. PHOTO: CRISPIAN CHAN

Home-grown theatre groups Pangdemonium, Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) and Wild Rice are joining forces again for a meta-theatrical satire about three companies staging a play together.

The Commission, one of the highlights of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, is the first stage collaboration between the three groups, all major players in the local theatre scene.


The Year Of No Return shines spotlight on climate crisis

The Year Of No Return has been in the works since 2018 and has been revised many times. PHOTO: TUCKYS PHOTOGRAPHY

Staging a play about climate change poses a number of dilemmas. How do you convey the urgency of the crisis without being didactic? How do you move away from a human-centred view of the world, while telling a story that still strikes a chord with the audience?

The people behind Singapore International Festival of Arts production The Year Of No Return, which is set during an international conference on climate change, had to grapple with these concerns.


A landmark symphony of local dance and orchestra

This is the first time the decades-old companies are performing together on stage for a commissioned project. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM SIFA.SG

A landmark collaboration between the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) and Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) has been one of the happy upshots of the global pandemic.

The Rhythm Of Us, a three-part production at the Esplanade Theatre, is the first time the decades-old companies are performing together on stage for a commissioned project - and it all began with an invitation from the Singapore International Festival of Arts earlier this year.


Tribute concert for Louis Soliano, Singapore's 'godfather of jazz'

Cultural Medallion recipient and jazz icon Louis Soliano at Victoria Theatre, on April 15, 2021. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

With the live music scene curtailed by the pandemic in the past year, Singapore's "godfather of jazz" Louis Soliano has been feeling out of sorts lately.

But an upcoming live concert, in which members of the local jazz fraternity will pay tribute to his legacy, has put the spring back in the veteran musician's step.


Chekhov crossover took 'more planning than Broadway'

Remote video URL

A modern adaptation of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters will see Singapore's Nine Years Theatre and New York's Siti Company "come together" on stage, even as the actors remain socially distanced and all of 15,000km apart.

When the production premieres at the Singapore International Festival of Arts next month, actors from Singapore will perform onstage at the National Library Drama Centre Theatre.


Vengeful Japanese ghost wife takes the stage

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Playwright Chong Tze Chien was on a research trip in Tokyo seven years ago when a local told him about Oiwa, one of Japan's most famous ghosts.

Oiwa, as legend has it, was the beautiful wife of a samurai in the Edo period. After she was disfigured and murdered by her husband, she appeared as a ghost to avenge herself.


Put your ear to the ground in a garden of the Syrian dead

In Gardens Speak by Tania El Khoury, 10 speakers are "buried" in four tonnes of soil. PHOTO: JESSE HUNNIFORD

During the Syrian uprising, they were killed and buried in gardens.

Now, the stories of these 10 ordinary people can be heard in Gardens Speak, a haunting sound installation by Lebanese-British artist Tania El Khoury.


Surveillance and singing in a Singapore public square

Sophia Brous will be "sounding the city" in the run-up to her performance. PHOTO: BRETT WALKER

Next month, somewhere in a public square in Singapore, a security camera will "sing" a libretto.

Pedestrians will be under remote surveillance by a woman in Melbourne, who will - without being visible to them - comment on the scene, issue instructions and sing in real time.


Other local highlights

A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Existence

The trilogy A Dream Under The Southern Bough finally comes to an end in its last instalment, Existence. Toy Factory Productions' modern adaptation of a 16th-century epic Kun opera blurs the line between dream and reality, as protagonist Chun Yu Fen finally awakens from his 20-year slumber.

Chief artistic director Goh Boon Teck says the show is directed as a chorus stage performance and "focuses a lot more on ensemble work and unified energy".

Where: Drama Centre Theatre, Level 3, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street; online
MRT: Bugis/City Hall
When: May 29, 2 and 8pm; May 30, 2pm (in-venue). June 5 to 12 (video-on-demand)
Admission: $48, $58, $68
Info: Performed in Mandarin with English subtitles


Arts collective Zeugma, which comprises Rizman Putra, Safuan Johari, Brandon Tay and Zulfadli "Big" Rashid, will present _T0701_ at the Sota (School of the Arts) Studio Theatre, as well as on a Web browser.

The theatrical performance is set in a post-Covid-19 world and follows a delivery rider who uses a motorised personal mobility device, which has been illegally modified, to navigate digital and physical worlds. It offers a glimpse into the struggle of being bound by financial incentives and social ratings online.

In-venue tickets to _T0701_ are sold out. Available as video-on-demand

Festival House Programmes

During the festival, The Arts House will also play host to discussions, workshops and immersive installations with a focus on care, compassion and community. Topics range from mental health to sustainable living and climate change.

Where: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane; online
When: May 14 to 30 (in-venue) or June 12 (online)
Admission: Tickets start at $5; selected programmes are free with registration via
Info: Festival House website

Other overseas highlights

An interactive performance by a Scottish illusionist and an audio walk in central Singapore are some overseas productions local audiences can look forward to, besides the Singapore International Festival of Arts' headline commissions.

The Journey by mentalist Scott Silven is a 50-minute digital experience that begins in Glasgow, Scotland, against the landscape of Silven's childhood home.

Silven wanted it to feel as close to his live shows as possible. "What we have created is something that not only feels like a live experience, but is deeply interactive and immersive, as the audience's input directly affects key moments of the show."

Audiences of 30 will receive "special films and a binaural sound experience" before the show and will be asked to bring along objects of meaning to them.

Another highlight is En Route, an immersive audio journey where participants put on headsets and walk through the streets of a Singapore neighbourhood, guided by text messages and hidden clues.

Designed by Melbourne collective One Step At A Time Like This, it encourages people to see their city with fresh eyes.

The Journey

Scott Silven will perform The Journey. PHOTO: DAVID WILKINSON

Where: Online

When: May 18 to 23; 25 to 30, 7pm

Admission: $40

En Route

En route, an immersive journey by Australian group One Step At A Time Like This. PHOTO: JANE BARLOW

Where: Central Singapore

When: May 14 to 16; 19 to 23; 26 to 30, at 11am, 2.30 and 5pm

Admission: $35

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