Arts festival teams up Singapore and international stars

Among the shows running at this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts is a collaboration between Israeli architect Ron Arad and Singaporean Brian Gothong Tan.
Among the shows running at this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts is a collaboration between Israeli architect Ron Arad and Singaporean Brian Gothong Tan.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM WWW.SIFA.SG

Continuing last year's theme of showcasing commissioned work, this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts has 15 new creations in its line-up of 20 shows.

Among the shows running between Aug 11 and Sept 17 are eight collaborations between Singaporean and international artists, in keeping with the festival theme of Potentialities and the potential inherent in the individual in today's world.

Israeli architect Ron Arad and Singapore's Brian Gothong Tan create a cinema-theatre hybrid at Gardens By The Bay in Tropical Traumas: A Series Of Cinematographic Choreographies. It will be screened in Arad's giant outdoor installation, 720 degrees, a perfect cylinder 18-m in diameter made of 5,600 suspended silicon rods that serve as the screen for film projections.

Argentina's Fernando Rubio and Singapore's Oliver Chong build a house at Marina Bay Sands Event Plaza and invite viewers in for conversations and performances in Time Between Us.

Rubio also works with Singaporean actress Margaret Chan - best known for the one-woman show Emily Of Emerald Hill - in Everything By My Side, a work where 10 actresses from 10 different countries share beds with viewers and whisper childhood memories while lying next to them.

Acclaimed Chinese-American composer Huang Ruo partners Beijing Olympic ceremonies designer Jennifer Wen Ma and Singapore's T'ang Quartet in Paradise Interrupted, an evening of music theatre inspired by a classic love scene from the 16th century Kun opera The Peony Pavilion.

Festival director Ong Keng Sen says: "We are moving towards an entirely creation-driven festival. We are refusing to be a glamorous shopper going around the world shopping for productions but instead we're investing in the artists and the process."

The focus on the future follows from the 2014 theme of examining 20th-century legacies such as apartheid and last year's theme, Post-Empires, which had 12 critically acclaimed homegrown productions re-examining Singapore's history and present-day issues such as immigration and housing woes.

He adds: "We've looked at global issues in the last two festivals. In this edition we have to bring attention to the individual who is changing the world in his context. This is very important in Singapore which always talks about the large, engineered plan but not the individual in this large, engineered plan."

The $5 million festival also features Asian premieres of headline acts from American choreographers Bill T. Jones and Trajal Harrell, who also present new work for Singapore.

"It's a lot of international work with a deep local presence," Ong says.

Making its Asian debut is Egyptian play The Last Supper, a comedy about a family after the Arab Spring, the wave of protests that started in Tunisia in 2010 and spread through the Arab world. Ong says that among the potentialities the festival addresses are the post 9-11 fears of terror and the Arab world.

Then there are innovations in traditional theatre from Canadian theatre-maker Robert Lepage's Hamlet Collage with Russia's Theatre Of Nations. This adaptation of the Shakespeare play is a one-man show performed by Evgeny Mironov in a spinning, suspended open-sided cube.

In keeping with Shakespeare's 400th death anniversary, Ong will direct Sandaime Richard (Japanese for Richard III), a playful take on the Shakespearean play in which the Bard himself is put on trial for defaming the royal schemer through his works. The cast includes Singaporean Janice Koh and professional Kabuki onnagata  (female impersonator) Kazutaro Nakamura as Richard Sandaime. The script is from well-known playwright Hideki Noda, whose play about xenophobia, Red Demon, has been staged here at least twice.

Before the main festival is the pre-festival programme The O.P.E.N., featuring exhibitions, performances, concerts, talks and forums plus film screenings from June 23 to July 9.

The speakers and perfomers include Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian and Perhat Khaliq, a rock star from the mainly Muslim Uyghur community in China.

Ong says: "We are looking at individuals who are change agents and role models. Potentialities looks at the seed, latent, dormant and what comes after."

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