Spotlight on helpers at next year's M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

A cheeky play inspired by attitudes towards Singapore's essential workers and a sardonic take on social inequality in Thailand are some of the highlights of the upcoming M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.

The annual festival of live art returns from Jan 12 to 23, with a line-up of contemporary theatre, a dance film and more.

Five local productions will run at the Esplanade and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa), while three shows by overseas groups will be available as videos on demand.

Many of the works tackle topical issues. The Essential Playlist by Singapore's The Second Breakfast Company, for instance, features a fictional group of millennial comedy content creators who - in a bid to revamp their brand image - pitch ideas for a new series inspired by essential workers.

Rupa co.lab's Rindu di Bulan, meanwhile, draws inspiration from the Chinese myth of Chang'e while delving into the story about a Malay woman and her adopted son.

Then, there is Being by Wei Collective & Collaborators, which will use light, sound and textures to explore breath and breathing.

The theme for the 2022 festival - now in its 18th edition - is The Helpers.

The organisers said in a media release: "We are still faced with waves of Covid-19 infection throughout the world, with disparities of access and privilege between communities perhaps higher than ever.

"Yet we continue to see ground-up efforts by ordinary people who are taking the initiative to offer assistance to others around them. What sustains the helpers among us during this gruelling journey? How is the wider society treating these helpers, and are we providing them with adequate support beyond appreciation?"

Overseas works include OK Land by Thailand's Circle Theatre, in which a hungry auntie takes herself hostage in a convenience store.

There are two shows from Britain - Borderline by Psychedelight, a tragicomedy inspired by a refugee camp in France; and Imago, a dance film performed and choreographed by Travis Clausen-Knight and James Pett.

Those interested can also tune in to an online conversation titled Kampung Spirit, Mutual Aid, Whatever You Call It, which will run on instant messaging platform Telegram in collaboration with the Channel NewsTheatre group. A panel of festival artists and community organisers will discuss if mutual aid is a sustainable way of responding to systemic inequalities in Singapore.

The festival is again working with its accessibility partner Equal Dreams to make the event more inclusive - for instance with plain English versions of text on the website, as well as captions for in-theatre shows and videos on demand.


    WHERE Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay; Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts; online

    WHEN Jan 12 to 23, various timings

    ADMISSION $27 (in-theatre); $15 (video on demand) via m1sff.bigtix.io. Tickets for videos on demand only go on sale from Dec 7.

    INFO singaporefringe.com/fringe2022

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline 'Spotlight on helpers at next year's M1 Singapore Fringe Festival'. Subscribe