Sifa 2018: Fewer events and viewers but 11 shows sold out

Eleven shows, including a stage adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (above), were sold out at this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts.
Eleven shows, including a stage adaptation of George Orwell's 1984 (above), were sold out at this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts.PHOTO: ANDI CROWN

SINGAPORE - The Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa) 2018 closed last Saturday (May 12) with a reported 55,000 people attending events over 17 days.

That is only 25 per cent of last year's 218,000 viewers and the second smallest since 2014, when a rebranded Sifa returned after a year's hiatus and attracted 22,000 viewers.

The annual festival, organised by Arts House Limited and supported by the National Arts Council, has its roots in the Singapore Festival of Arts which began in 1977.

However, unlike last year, organisers of this year's Sifa did not include data for those who caught the festival's Facebook Live video streams of full events.

It was also a shorter, leaner festival this year, with new festival director Gaurav Kripalani programming 44 performances and panels in the 17-day period from April 26 to last Saturday.

Last year's programme under former festival director Ong Keng Sen included 111 unique events over three months.

Under Ong, Sifa also included a pre-festival programme of exhibitions, film screenings, panels and performing arts events in end June and early July, before a main festival season in August and September.

Ong's first edition in 2014, which attracted 22,000 viewers, featured only 12 productions over six weeks.

This year, the festival under Kripalani included small-capacity commissions such as 0600 by Singapore arts collective Ground Z-0, an immersive and theatrical tour of the National Gallery Singapore.

Meant for only a dozen viewers at a time, 0600 took ticketholders through the stories of prisoners and government officials at the former Supreme Court.

The show was among 11 productions at this year's festival which reported sold-out shows or at least 90 per cent ticket sales.

British jazz musician Jacob Collier's concert at the arts festival was sold out within two weeks of tickets going on sale in February. An extra concert added for fans sold out too.

Other sold-out or nearly-sold-out shows were 1984, a stage adaptation of George Orwell's novel by Robert Icke and Duncan Macmillan; Jazz At Play I, II and III, three nights of jazz concerts by performers from Singapore and the region; and dance shows OCD Love by Israel's L-E-V Dance Company and American choreographer Michelle Dorrance's The Blues Project.

Popular musical performances included Temporal by Singaporean artists Intriguant + Flex and the audio-visual concert Anticipation Of One, featuring six local artists.

The arts festival this year started a new initiative to encourage student buyers, with seats in the front row of most ticketed events reserved for them at $10 each.

Organisers say 85 per cent of these $10 seats were taken up.