Expect a Grammy-Award winning multi-instrumentalist, dystopian states and even an outdoor circus in the all new 2018 SIFA lineup.
Taking on the role of SIFA Festival Director for the next three years, Gaurav Kripalani begins it with a strong lineup that includes acclaimed director Robert Icke’s 1984 and site-specific performances at the Armenian Church and National Gallery. SIFA 2018 looks set to bring in the masses and introduce them to some of the best works Singapore and the world has to offer.
Unveiled on 5th February at the newly crowned ‘Festival House’ at The Arts House, these are just some of the many local and international highlights of the 2018 Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA), headed by all new Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani and supported by an A-team from Arts House Limited. This year, the 17 day festival will feature over 20 events from theatre to music held all across venues in the Civic District and beyond. For the reveal, the Arts House was transformed into a pulsating, almost living being with lights that danced within its rooms, music as curated by a live DJ (Natalie Tan of Aliwal Arts Centre), and canapés and Prosecco in the hands of every attendee as they welcomed a new era of the festival.
In his opening address and reveal of the programme, Gaurav recalls attending the 1992 festival and being awestruck by shows such as the spectacular NINAGAWA: Macbeth, and in his stint, build on the festival’s 40 year history to continue inspiring new audiences to attend and grow their own appreciation for the arts.
Said Gaurav: “This year’s festival is all about building foundations, and owning the month of May in Singapore’s cultural calendar. We want to present work that will appeal to both first timers and seasoned arts lovers, and bring in a diverse audience who will be excited enough to try new things they never even dreamed about in the future festivals to come.”
He continues with one of the most exciting new initiatives to this year’s festival – free performances at Empress Lawn, including Cirque Rouages’ …Sodade… circus and Korean indie band Sultan of the Disco, as well as a limited number of $10 Front Row Tickets for local students at some of the biggest performances. Said Gaurav: “One of my key focuses has always been about making sure young people get excited SIFA. These ticketing options act as gateways for all kinds of audience members, and hopefully over the years, audiences will go on a journey and discover new things for themselves and for personal growth.”
On festival opening weekend between 26th-28th April, SIFA will explode onto the scene with five opening events, including Robert Icke’s critically acclaimed adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, Grammy-award winning multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, and an intimate evening of Urdu poetry with acclaimed poet Javed Akhtar and actress wife Shabana Azmi. Meanwhile, the festival is set to end off with a bang with celebrated German director Thomas Ostermeir’s production of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People, and a performance by legends of jazz the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Said Gaurav on choosing the programmes: “There are multiple thematic threads running through the festival, one of which is about maintaining an uplifting human spirit even against oppression. Bookended by both 1984 and Enemy of the People, you can even see this in shows such as Toshi Reagon’s adaptation of Parable of the Sower, combining two centuries of Black American music with a post-apocalyptic setting to tell a genre defying show about survival.”
SIFA isn’t just bringing in big names from around the world though; in the six months since the previous SIFA, Toy Factory has crafted A Dream Under the Southern Bough, an adaptation of an epic Ming Dynasty play that will premiere at the SOTA Studio Theatre. These will be followed up by the next two parts of the trilogy, set to premiere in the 2019 and 2020 editions of the festival respectively.
In addition, the open call for new works based on the theme of ‘monuments’ has resulted in new site specific projects to show at SIFA 2018, such as The Hidden, as storyteller Kamini Ramachandran enchants visitors at the historic Armenian Church, and 0600, a mixed-media project about the death penalty held at the National Gallery by new collective GROUND Z-0. Said Gaurav: “Running SRT, I know how long the gestation period can last for a new show. What SIFA can do is facilitate the space, time and resources for an artist to incubate that work over time, and what I’d love in 2020 and beyond to showcase some of the work that we were able to help with.”
One such show will be Checkpoint Theatre’s Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner (working title) which is set to premiere at SIFA 2019. For now though, playwright and Checkpoint Artistic Director Huzir Sulaiman will be previewing it with a free talk at the Festival House, entitled Tracing the Displaced. This is part of SIFA 2018’s new initiative to create a central hub within the Arts House’s various spaces for intimate dialogues, masterclasses, film screenings and even multi-sensorial experiences for deeper engagement between artists and audiences.
Gaurav concluded: “Everything I’m doing is all about continuing to build on the foundations that the past 40 years have already set up. We’re constantly growing, and in this for the long run, far beyond my three year stint. I’d love to see just how far we’ll have progressed and expanded over the next 40 years.”
Certainly, this year’s SIFA looks like a promising start to a new era of the festival under Gaurav’s direction, and with a good mix of big names and exciting fringe works, is sure to attract ever increasing numbers of arts attendees. We’ll be bringing you more features and previews of the shows we’re most excited about in the weeks to come, so watch this space for more information and insider news!
The 2018 Singapore International Festival of the Arts runs from 26th April to 12th May across various venues. For the full lineup and ticketing details, visit the official website here