Come its 43rd year in 2020, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) returns with a slew of new works from both local and international artists in the month of May. The festival has released the first wave of tickets for five productions that will be making their debut next year, with local theatre companies Nine Years Theatre, The Finger Players and The Necessary Stage, along with Toy Factory Productions
“I have always sought to make SIFA an artist-led festival, providing a platform for artists to realise their dream projects. As part of the first wave of shows being launched for SIFA 2020, I am proud to announce four Singapore commissions that are all fruits of this vision. These include work by some of the best artistic talent in Singapore – Haresh Sharma and Alvin Tan (The Necessary Stage), Chong Tze Chien (The Finger Players), Goh Boon Teck (Toy Factory Productions), and Nelson and Mia Chia (Nine Years Theatre). With SIFA’s support, these artists have spent two to three years developing and incubating work that is now ready to be shown to the world” says Festival Director Gaurav Kripalani.
The first of the locally commissioned works kicks off with The Necessary Stage’s The Year of No Return. Bringing the timely issue of climate change to the fore, The Necessary Stage brings together artists from Japan, Malaysia, The Philippines and Singapore, to create an interdisciplinary performance that reflects on our responses to the ongoing crisis, from an Asian perspective.
The Year of No Return is set to present the environmental crisis from the perspective of different individuals and discourses, as conversations with researchers and scientists are translated into a dramatic constellation of light, sound, and multimedia elements on the stage. Peeling back science and statistics, this intensely relevant new offering underscores the role of the arts as a site for a collaborative reckoning with critical social issues.
Toy Factory Productions will be presenting the final part of the the world’s first modern theatrical adaptation of Tang Xianzu’s famous Kun opera A Dream Under the Southern Bough. After two years of development and presentations over the last two editions of SIFA, the production finally reaches its final form in 2020, with Existence. Crafted by Toy Factory Chief Artistic Director Goh Boon Teck, audience members should prepare for an immersive and fantastical dreamscape, incorporating the motif of reflection into its set design to represent the mirroring of reality, as SIFA bids farewell to A Dream Under the Southern Bough at last.
The Finger Players’ will present Oiwa – The Ghost of Yotsuya at the Victoria Theatre, in a collaboration with Japanese artists, as they stage a classic ghost story with their signature use of puppetry while paying respects to the myth’s cultural origins and its expression in Japanese performance. Directed and written by Chong Tze Chien, the Japanese-language work will see both Singaporean and Japanese actors play disembodied parts of a whole, as a voice emanating from one while movement arises from another to elevate the ghostliness of the production.
Based on blood-tingling real-life events and historical figures from the Edo period, the tale of Oiwa tells of a jilted wife who haunts her murderer and continues to be retold time and time again. With this new interpretation, expect to see shadowy puppeteers manipulate human puppets, with techniques inspired from Japanese Bunraku, haunting as the line between actor, agent, and autonomy is blurred. Actors imitate the
movements of puppets in an adaptation of the ningyo buri technique of Kabuki, while the traditionally disembodied voice of the “puppeteer” takes on an uncanny physical presence on the stage.
Nine Years Theatre rounds off the local commissions with a new, multilingual adaptation of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters ,jointly created together with New York-based SITI Company. Driven by the visceral connections formed on the stage, the work utilises the idiosyncratic style of movement informed by the Suzuki Method of Actor Training, and bridges the gap between the diverse languages and actors, this timeless naturalist narrative of humans confronting an incoherent and unforgiving world is juxtaposed against a performance where the body becomes a common language.
This collaboration between Nine Years Theatre and SITI marks the first time the two are working together, with the latter having formerly presented their production of Death and the Ploughman at the 2006 Singapore Arts Festival, marking a pivotal moment for Nine Years Theatre artistic director, Nelson Chia. Incorporating both the Suzuki Method of Actor Training and the Viewpoints method conceptualised by Bogart into Nine Years Theatre’s training regimen, Three Sisters marks a long-awaited reunion of kindred artistic spirits between both artists, and also represents Chia’s journey as an artist and
director coming full circle as he works alongside his former mentors, testament to SIFA’s vision of being a space where artists from all over the world meet and collaborate.
In addition, SIFA will also be bringing in Canadian contemporary dance company Kidd Pivot, who will be making their Singaporean debut with their internationally acclaimed production, Revisor. A theatre-dance performance from Kidd Pivot’s Artistic Director Crystal Pite and Playwright-in-Residence Jonathon Young, Kidd Pivot’s remarkable international cast of dancers are poised to deliver an astounding multidisciplinary performance in Revisor’s Asian premiere.
Revisor is based off Nikolai Gogol’s farcical play, The Government Inspector, with choreographer Crystal Pite translating the themes of corruption and conflict into a kinetic masterpiece of tragicomedy. The constant flux of this performance – featuring a dizzying number of costumes, set changes, and dance genres – is synthesised into a coherent narrative with a colourful cast of characters. Writer Jonathon Young’s sharp and quirky dialogue is animated through Pite’s highly visual form of storytelling as the dancers’ movements reflect the characters they play, embodying their traits with deliberately exaggerated movements and expressions. “This is a wonderful coup for SIFA, and for Singapore. It is a sensational work not be missed” adds Gaurav Kripalani.
Low Eng Teong, Assistant CEO (Sector Development), National Arts Council, says, “SIFA, a
key fixture in Singapore’s performing arts calendar, is a significant platform for our leading home-grown groups and practitioners to present their latest works. SIFA 2020 promises to be an exciting season featuring a unique line-up of Singaporean commissions that will challenge our artists and bring them to greater heights, as well as renowned international companies. We are confident artists and festival-goers will continue to embrace SIFA as a ground-breaking and leading performing arts festival.”
“Looking ahead, the diversity in our arts landscape will continue to shape our unique identities and shared experiences. SIFA embodies this spirit and has over the years, grown to be a beacon that illuminates Singapore as an international arts and culture destination. The month of May is an opportune time to celebrate Singapore’s position as a leading arts destination where visionaries take to the stage.” adds Sarah Martin, CEO of Arts House Limited.