Literary festival Textures explores the common language of love and loss

The performance by renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran is part of A Night of Terrifying Tales produced for this year's Textures literary festival, from March 7 to 10.
The performance by renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran is part of A Night of Terrifying Tales produced for this year's Textures literary festival, from March 7 to 10.PHOTO: ARTS HOUSE LIMITED

SINGAPORE - When people are ushered into the dimly lit Play Den at The Arts House on the night of March 9, they will be greeted by the sight of a lone woman sitting on the ground, surrounded by candles, an apple, a mirror and a knife.

That solitary figure is renowned storyteller Kamini Ramachandran, 49, who for the next 15 minutes will bring to life the spine-tingling tale of young girls who engage in a supernatural ritual in the hope of discovering their future soulmate, to shocking consequences.

The performance is part of A Night of Terrifying Tales - a five-part live adaptation of stories from local writer Russell Lee's iconic True Singapore Ghost Stories series - produced by MoonShadow Stories for this year's Textures literary festival from March 7 to 10.

Ms Kamini, founder and director of MoonShadow Stories, says that the session is a gateway into Singapore literature.

"I'm using Russell's books as inspiration. I've completely adapted the stories and done things like amalgamated two stories into one, so definitely the stepping point is through True Singapore Ghost Stories as a canon of work."

Co-commissioned by The Arts House and #BuySingLit and supported by the National Arts Council, the sophomore outing of the literary festival will feature more than 45 programmes centred on the Singapore literary scene.

Says Ms Lisa Lip, senior manager of programmes at The Arts House and the producer of Textures: "We tried to programme with a wide audience in mind, so there is something for people who've never been to an arts festival, those who've only had to read one book of Singapore literature in school, and regular attendees of arts festivals."

For example, there will be exhibitions based off local works for festival-goers who prefer visual art, and stage adaptations of Singapore literature for those who enjoy theatrical productions.

One such stage production is Samping, part of Spare Room Productions' The Page on Stage series.

Adapted from local poet Cyril Wong's short story The Mistake, the one-man play will take the audience on a young Malay boy's journey through bereavement and persecution, and his first steps into manhood.

For playwright and director M. Raihan Halim, the production was his first time adapting something for the stage. The 37-year-old is usually known for his work for television.

"It was scary, scary, scary. I felt totally out of my element as I'd never written anything that didn't have editing or cinematography involved. I did, however, have a lot of fun," he says.

Raihan chose to adapt the short story because it moved him.

"It's strange because the events in the short story didn't happen to me but I somehow felt the pain, sadness and embarrassment that the character went through," he says.

The play also ties in with the festival's theme of Love and Loss (and some things in between).

"As we follow the character's journey, we experience grief, longing and affliction with him. It's also a personal journey for each individual as they connect with the play, taking away with them their own interpretation of it," he adds.

For Ms Lip, this is exactly what the theme of the festival embodies.

"In times of these heightened emotions (of love and loss), sometimes turning to words can help us. Whether it's writing or reading the story of someone going through something similar, it helps us cope and make sense of our world," she says.

"And all of this is found in Singapore literature. It's wonderful to read international writers, but our writers are writing in situations that we can relate to, with language that we can relate to, so I think it's more comforting."


BOOK IT / TEXTURES 2019

WHERE: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

WHEN: March 7 to 10, various times

ADMISSION: Free and ticketed programmes

INFO: www.theartshouse.sg