One of theatre director Goh Boon Teck's best-known works is Titoudao, based on the life of his mother Oon Ah Chiam, 74, a street wayang performer. Goh now directs his mother for the first time in a concert of Hokkien songs, commissioned for Silver Arts 2017.
The festival from Sept 1 to 24 is an annual showcase of arts created and performed by seniors, for seniors and their families. Silver Arts has been programmed and supported by the National Arts Council since 2012. The budget this year is about $800,000 for 38 programmes of theatre, music, visual arts, film screenings and workshops.
The events feature nearly 70 veteran artists and senior talents, including Madam Oon and Cultural Medallion recipient Nadiputra. Ms Chua Ai Liang, senior director, engagement & participation at the arts council said it is wrong to think of seniors as "frail in health or spirit". "We want to explore how they can be bold and creative," she added.
NAC has commissioned five new events for Silver Arts 2017. Among these is the Hokkien music concert Songs Of Guidance. It runs on Sept 22 and 23 at the Victoria Theatre. Helmed by Madam Oon, it also features the musical talents of actors Judee Tan and Sugie Phua.
At a press preview on Tuesday, Madam Oon sang the number Dragon And Phoenix. Asked how she has kept a singing career going for 60 years, she said in Mandarin: "The more I sing, the more I have voice to sing."
She also said the concert was a "heaven-sent" chance to work with her son Goh, who is the chief artistic director of Toy Factory Productions.
Another new work created for Silver Arts is the revue Syair Biola or Songs From The Violin, written and directed by theatre doyen Nadiputra and produced by rising theatre-maker Saiful Amri.
Nadiputra, 71, also acts in the musical production about an inter-racial marriage in a fictional kampung. The multiracial cast includes actresses Tammy Chew and Siti Shahirah. They perform songs in different languages, from new Malay songs to oldies from Harry Belafonte, Teresa Teng and P. Ramlee. Nadiputra jokes: "We have to cater to young people like me and also younger people like the actors."
A concert featuring the sounds of the Swinging Sixties has been commissioned for Silver Fest. Rocking Good Times on Sept 10 at the School of the Arts Concert Hall features three popular Singaporean bands from that decade: Pest Infested, The Trailers and The Straydogs.
Two short films have also been commissioned for Singapore Silver Shorts, a selection of family-themed films showing at GV cinemas during the festival. The new works include Rayqal, directed by Sufyan Sam'an, about a young man who bonds with his grandfather on learning that the older man used to play in a band. The other is Happy To See You, a film about long-lost friends reunited at a doctor's clinic, directed by Yee Chang Kang and performed in Cantonese with English and Chinese subtitles.
Mandarin theatre group Nine Years Theatre also presents a double-bill of Kuo Pao Kun monologues in dialect. No Parking On Odd Days and The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole have been performed in English or Mandarin numerous times. Earlier this year, actors Hang Qian Chou and Tay Kong Hui translated the works into Cantonese and Teochew respectively for a showing under Centre 42's The Vault programme in May.
Director Nelson Chia, 45, said that viewers in May asked for repeat shows so they could bring along their parents and elders, so he was delighted when Silver Arts decided to present the double bill again. "It's introducing some of our theatre scripts to the older generation. They may not have heard of them when the monologues were in English or Mandarin." His own mother, who is Hakka, has never seen a Kuo Pao Kun play though she faithfully catches her son's work.
Tickets for Songs of Guidance, Syair Biola, Rocking Good Times and Double Bill: No Parking on Odd Days, and The Coffin is Too Big For The Hole, go on sale from Aug 4 and are available through APACTix. Refer to the Silver Arts website, silverarts.nac.gov.sg for more details.