Poems inspire works in other media

Poet Farhanah Diyanah (centre) invited (from far left) sound artist Bani Haykal, visual artist Ila, designer Azy Alias and actor Norisham Osman to be part of Alamat Baharu.
Poet Farhanah Diyanah (centre) invited (from far left) sound artist Bani Haykal, visual artist Ila, designer Azy Alias and actor Norisham Osman to be part of Alamat Baharu.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Five artists transform poems by Malay writers into their chosen media - theatre as well as sound, installation or performance art - at The Arts House from today to Saturday.

Alamat Baharu, or A New Address, is the debut production of poet and playwright Farhanah Diyanah and her ad-hoc ensemble, -wright Assembly. The group is named after the suffix in words such as "playwright" or "wheelwright", to indicate that an art maker from any discipline can join it.

Farhanah, 28, has written and presented two plays in 2010 and 2013 under drama troupe Teater Artistik's Epilog programme for budding talent.

She decided to broaden her artistic scope this year and invite artists whose work she respects to reinterpret texts she finds deeply moving.

Text-to-theatre projects are not new, an example being the Singapore Writers Festival's Utter project transforming poetry and prose into theatre in 2011 and 2012.

However, for Alamat Baharu, sound artist Bani Haykal will turn Rafaat Haji Hamzah's Pabila Kita Menjadi Terlalu Takut (When We Become Too Fearful) into soundscapes and visual projections.


    WHERE: Gallery II, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

    WHEN: 8.30pm, today to Saturday

    ADMISSION: $25 from www.bytes.sg or The Arts House box office

    INFO: Performed in English and Malay, with English surtitles

Designer and installation artist Azy Alias is creating a set for Suratman Markasan's Jalan Permulaan (The Beginning).

Farhanah says: "There are words, phrases and symbols in each poem that I desired to see the artists transform into objects, movements, sound, performance, lights. I chose Suratman's Jalan Permulaan for Azy because his text talks about redevelopment and how one has to give in to it. I wanted to see it turn into a set that would act as a 'cause' and would have an 'effect' on the other four artists."

Similarly, for Bani's work, she wanted to see his visual and sonic take on a text "that sounded so loud and bold in words".

Visual and performance artist IIa takes on Mohamed Latiff Mohamed's Tentang Hak (About Rights). Actor Norisham Osman works on the late Masuri S.N.'s Bertahan Dalam Makna (Surviving Within The Meaning) while theatre student Henrik Cheng, who is at the Intercultural Theatre Institute, will transform Rasiah Halil's Warkah Untuk Ibu (An Epistle for Mother).

Over four rehearsals, the artists and producer discussed and analysed the poems and decided on how they would interpret them.

It might seem that the theatre practitioners had it easiest, but Norisham, 31, says that was not the case. "It was kind of hard for us to find the right way of delivering the poems and, at the same time, keeping their meanings. What we did was combine all the poems and then rearrange it to come out with new possible narratives, using it as dialogue."

None of the artists asked to swop or change their assigned poems.

Farhanah says: "They were up for the challenge."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Poems inspire works in other media'. Print Edition | Subscribe