Catch Singapore International Festival Of Arts shows at old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station & Bukit Brown

The Singapore International Festival of Arts is moving beyond traditional theatre spaces this year. Performances will be held in places such as the old Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Bukit Brown Cemetery and even open spaces in heartland areas.

"As a national festival, we want to be all around the island," said festival director Ong Keng Sen on April 8 at The Arts House, during a media preview of the festival.

It will run from Aug 6 to Sept 19 this year.

This year's theme is Post-Empires, from post-colonialism to living in a post-globalisation world where people wear the same brands of clothes, and might live away from the country of their birth.

There are 65 events in both the main festival and the O.P.E.N. pre-festival series of talks and performances from June 16 to July 4. This year O.P.E.N. inaugurates a new feature, a keynote address on the main theme, to be delivered by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito. He will speak on the role of tomorrow's architects and his reconstruction work after the earthquake and tsunami in East Japan in 2011.

O.P.E.N. also features "the young and restless", or the work of those who butt against the establishment, such as Lu Guang, who photographs pollution in China, or Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi, who attempts to resist censorship in Iran.

Of the 19 main productions anchoring the festival in August and September, two-thirds are commissions from local art groups. Chinese theatre troupe Drama Box, looks at the fight for space in land-scarce Singapore and from Sept 9 to 12 will perform It Won't Be Too Long: The Lesson at Toa Payoh Central, outside Toa Payoh Public Library, inviting members of the public to discuss what should be demolished to make way for a fictional MRT station.

It also looks at the development of Bukit Brown cemetery in It Won't Be Too Long: The Cemetery, a two-part play performed at the cemetery itself and at the School Of The Arts Studio Theatre.

Comedian Kumar and four others offer a comic take on living cheek by jowl in the stand-up comedy routine Living Together, performed in amphitheatres and multi-purpose halls in Serangoon, Tampines, Marsiling and Jurong East. Meanwhile, 25 families across Singapore are throwing open their living rooms and allowing them to be transformed into theatres in the Open Homes project.

The old railway station at Tanjong Pagar will host a "dance marathon" of the works of 14 choreographers, from Aug 21 to Sept 5, as well as festival director Ong Keng Sen's 310-minute performance about migration and crossing borders, The Incredible Adventures Of Border Crossers.

Audiences are also invited to take guided tours of the station between June 17 and July 4 using the 15 Stations app, developed for O.P.E.N. to start the discussion on the theme of "augmented reality" and a world where people see social media and things online as more relevant than what is around them.

"This is also part of the post-empire world," says festival director Ong.

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