Three new Singapore commissions at Singapore International Festival of Arts 2019

Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner by Checkpoint Theatre, one of three local works commissioned for the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2019. PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS
A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Reverie by Toy Factory Productions, one of three local works commissioned for the Singapore International Festival of Arts 2019. PHOTO: SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS

SINGAPORE - Next year's Singapore International Festival of Arts (Sifa), which runs from May 16 to June 2, will feature three new works from local artists.

These range from reimagining 16th century Kun opera to productions focused on World War II intrigue and the lives of humanitarian aid workers today.

The annual festival is presented by not-for-profit organisation Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council and the full programme for next year will be released in February.

Among the new works is The Mysterious Lai Teck, created by Singaporean media artist Ho Tzu Nyen and performed at the Goodman Arts Centre Black Box from May 17 to 19.

It explores the life of the titular character, who led the Malayan Communist Party during World War II, but also betrayed the party multiple times during the Occupation of Singapore.

Ho blends fact, fiction, puppetry and visual projections in this work which premiered earlier this year in Hamburg, Germany.

Another production, Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner by Checkpoint Theatre, is set in a refugee camp where humanitarian workers strive to keep functioning amid crisis.

The multidisciplinary production explores the reality of the aid industry and is written by Huzir Sulaiman and directed by Claire Wong, the troupe's joint artistic directors. It runs from May 24 to 26 at the Victoria Theatre.

Refugees or displaced persons have been the focus of other recent Singaporean works, including Dragonflies, presented by Pangdemonium at Sifa 2017, Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner explores the lives of aid workers.

Wong, the director, says: "The humanitarian aid world is one that the average person only has a general idea of...I was curious about the people who chose this work, who they are, why they do what they do, and what personal and professional stories they might tell."

The playwright Huzir says aid workers might share the same privileges he enjoys, including coming from a peaceful and developed country. "I wanted to critique people like me with general privilege and situational power as I'm wary of trying to evoke the refugee experience in that earnest worthy way and reproduce tropes of generalised suffering," he says.

The third Singapore commission is Toy Factory Productions' A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Reverie.

This is the second part of a trilogy that adapts a 16th century epic Kun opera play by revered Ming Dynasty playwright Tang Xianzu.

In this fantastical story, a disgraced naval officer enters a kingdom of civilised ants. The first instalment, A Dream Under The Southern Bough: The Beginning, was commissioned for last year's arts festival. Reverie runs from May 31 to June 2 at the Drama Centre Theatre.

Toy Factory Productions' chief artistic director Goh Boon Teck says the festival's backing helps the troupe "attempt works of higher artistic quality" and scale up its ambitions.

Reverie is two hours long - twice the length of last year's The Beginning - and will include all the scenes from the first instalment. Goh plans to reprise Reverie alongside the final work in the trilogy, slated for 2020.

"This three-year commission is beyond staging another production, it is a meaningful explorative journey for artists and audiences, being involved in the growth of a grand production," Goh says.

Festival director Gaurav Kripalani says: "The Singapore works are part of the Sifa 2019 line-up that epitomise the Sifa spirit of championing meaningful artistic explorations and inspiring audiences with memorable artistic experiences."

Tickets for all three Singapore works are on sale now at Sistic, as are those for headline show Dionysus, by Suzuki Company of Toga and Purnati Indonesia.

This is a cross-cultural adaptation of the Greek classic, The Bacchae, in which the god of wine unleashes havoc on a royal court.

It is directed by Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki - whose body-focused Suzuki method of actor training is internationally famous - and features Japanese, Indonesian and Chinese performers. It runs on May 17 and 18 at the Victoria Theatre.

Tickets for Sifa productions are available from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to For more information, visit

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