IMDA denies rating to two shows in 2017 M1 Fringe Festival for 'excessive nudity'

Performance lecture Naked Ladies and interactive piece Undressing Room have exceeded the R18 rating and cannot be shown here in their current form, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Nov 25. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB/M1 SINGAPORE FRINGE FESTIVAL WEBSITE

SINGAPORE - The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival has to either cut or clothe two shows programmed for next January.

Performance lecture Naked Ladies and interactive piece Undressing Room have exceeded the R18 rating under the Arts Entertainment Classification Code (AECC) and cannot be shown here in their current form, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Friday (Nov 25).

An IMDA spokesman said: "The performances had excessive nudity which included scenes of audience-participants stripping naked, and graphic depictions of exposed genitalia.

"In regulating and classifying such events, IMDA is guided by the AECC to protect the young from unsuitable content, while enabling adults to make informed viewing choices. It is also advised by the Arts Consultative Panel."

The latter is a 40-member panel of housewives, artists, educators and working professionals, which can make recommendations on ratings for arts shows.

It is understood that festival organisers could make changes to the shows and resubmit them for classification. Festival organisers are yet to respond to queries from The Straits Times about whether they would change or drop the shows.

IMDA's statement comes after anonymous complaints posted online that the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is presenting pornography in the guise of art.

Noted for its boundary-pushing fringe performances, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival was started by home-grown theatre group The Necessary Stage. Next year will be its 13th edition, which will run from Jan 4 to 15.

The theme is Art & Skin and the festival's line-up includes shows such as Naked Ladies, Canadian Thea Fitz-James' performance lecture about the history of the naked female body in art. She strips in front of the audience and is nude for much of the show.

Undressing Room is a one-to-one encounter with Singaporean dancer Ming Poon. In a private space, he will challenge one participant at a time to literally bare all along with him.

On Nov 22, a Facebook group called Singaporeans Defending Marriage And Family highlighted these shows among others.

The anonymous post said: "Does the government deem inviting an audience to participate in the 'show' that includes undressing and exploring each other (sic) naked body not an obscene act punishable by law? If the government allow (sic) this, isn't this a solicitation for a public sex act? This is as good as prostituting the performing art sector and is downright revolting."

The post also dismissed the festival's artistic director Sean Tobin as "a foreigner who has no vested interest in Singapore's well-being", who should not be allowed to comment on divisive issues. Tobin is also the head of the School of the Arts's faculty of theatre.

On Nov 23, the festival's organisers posted a statement in response saying works such as Undressing Room and Naked Ladies "are thoughtful, well conceptualised pieces that deal with the Festival theme, through the lens of nudity and the politics behind it. They question issues of identity, and how that is formed, thwarted and reasserted. They are most certainly not acts of pornography or titillation".

Arts practitioners rallied online to the cause of the festival and festival director. R. Chandran, a veteran producer of theatre for children, said on Facebook: "As an educator he continues to cultivate fertile grounds with passion, and as a practitioner, he pours heart and soul into his work. As a parent, I find his relationship and interaction with his young son an inspiration.

"Therefore, I will stand on the frontline to defend Sean Tobin's personal and professional integrity as well as his right to practise his chosen vocation and contribute to the overall growth of Singaporeans."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.