Preview: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Cultural Extravaganza 2018
Ever since its opening a year ago, the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC) has seen a steady stream of programmes and an ever rising number of visitors as its visibility increases month on month. With the arrival of its first anniversary, the SCCC ushers in the second edition of the SCCC Cultural Extravaganza, as they celebrate and showcase the diversity and vibrancy of local Chinese culture, and takes place from 18th May to 10th June.
At the press conference, held this week, newly appointed SCCC CEO Low Sze Wee emphasised the importance of the Cultural Extravaganza in keeping local Chinese culture dynamic, and ensuring a vibrant living legacy for future generations. Says Low: “At the Cultural Extravaganza this year, expect to see innovative new collaborations with local arts groups, and fresh, inspirational works of Chinese arts and culture.”
One of these groups will be local theatre company Toy Factory, who will be kickstarting the entire festival with an all new theatre performance paying tribute to iconic Singaporean comedians. Directed by Goh Boon Teck, Masters of Comedy will take the form of a talk show/crosstalk performance, and reminisce the stories of comedians such as jack Neo, Mark Lee and Hui Ge.
Says playwright Johsen Ong: “We focused on the comedians from the 80s to early 2000s, and took inspiration from shows they used to do and even some familiar ads they appeared in, which people who grew up watching them may recognise. There’ll be a lot of resonant moments with audiences, and its proof that these comedians really have a lot of staying power.”
The cast of Masters of Comedy will be headlined by some familiar faces in the local theatre and film industry, namely Sugie Phua, Judee Tan, Jo Tan and Wang Wei Liang, while the ensemble will comprise Jey Lim Jun Jie, Vanessa Phang, Soki Wu and Shu Yi Ching. Says Shu Yi on her role: “I was surprised when I was approached to be a part of this project. I never imagined myself doing comedy onstage, let alone in Chinese, and it’s a very new experience for me. It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with a different kind of medium and all these wonderful people, and I guess some people do think I’m quite funny!”
Although Jo Tan is better known for her English language theatrical roles, 2018 seems to mark a return to her Chinese roots, having last been seen in The Theatre Practice’s Four Horse Road. Says Jo: “When I went to France to study, I thought a lot about my place in the world. I’ve been running away from my Chinese-ness for a long time, but you can’t run away from it forever. I’m glad I’m getting more involved in the scene, and I’ve discovered so many different factions of the Singapore theatre community since.”
On the challenges of bringing across humour in a different language, Jo explains: “It’s something I need to get used to, as I’m still not entirely fluent in it. My Mandarin has been improving though, in fact, I even hosted a conference completely in Mandarin recently! I’ve started to feel more and more like a Chinese Singaporean lately, and think that this bilingualism is really something to be proud of.”
At the tail end of the festival comes Ruth Ling and Jimmy Ye’s Sing.Lang Concert. Taking place on 9th and 10th June, the concert is completely free of charge, and will feature both classic singers such as Maggie Teng, as well as new local talents such as Sing! China finalists Joanna Dong and Olinda Cho, and even a surprise appearance from self-proclaimed ‘jiak kantang’ Sam Willows singer Benjamin Kheng.
Says co-creative director Jimmy Ye: “We want this concert to show that there’s life after xinyao, and the title of the show in Chinese is inspired not only by how we have different waves of artists coming together, but also to highlight the fact that over the years, we’ve had so many artists and songs making waves overseas. All the songs that will be showcased during the concert are either composed by a Singaporean or made famous by one, and many of them should be recognizable by audience members.”
Besides these two performances, visitors to the Extravaganza can also look forward to an entire cultural feast of offerings, from a new classic-contemporary performance by Dance Ensemble Singapore, an wushu class by Singapore Martial Metropolis, and even an escape room style game within the SCCC premises by The Escape Artist.
Says SCCC Programmes Director Mr Lee Ee Wurn: “Besides the fact that the festival has expanded to three weeks from last year’s eight dayss, now that there’s more awareness of the SCCC and what we do, the festival should attract a lot more people this year. People are always looking for more opportunities to engage with Chinese culture, and as our team expands, we’re constantly looking to do more and more each time and fill the calendar with programmes.”
Whether you come down to return to your roots or discover something new, head on down to the 2018 SCCC Cultural Extravaganza to find out just what gives these centuries old traditions so much staying power, and be surprised by its innovation and fresh take on traditional Chinese cultures.
The SCCC Cultural Extravaganza runs from 18th May – 10th June at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, 1 Straits Boulevard, Singapore 018906. Admission is free, except for Masters of Comedy, where tickets can be purchased here. For the full lineup and schedule, visit the SCCC website here