As we approach Chinese New Year once again, so does the Esplanade’s annual Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts. Come the year of the Rat, often considered a symbol of wit, imagination and curiosity, Huayi is set to bring these traits to life in its programming, with a line-up of leading Chinese artists from Singapore and beyond between 31st January and 9th February 2020.
Presenting a mix of the traditional and contemporary, mainstream to downright experimental, 2020 kicks off with Toy Factory’s brand new work 7 Sages of the Bamboo
Grove at the Esplanade Theatre. Specially commissioned by the Esplanade, the work reimagines the seven sages from the three kingdoms era for today’s time, set in a surveillance state where the sages are now artists. Resisting The Organisation’s new law forbidding art, can the seven break free and liberate mankind from the grasp of this terrifying dystopia and find the elusive, paradisic bamboo grove?
Besides Toy Factory, local company GroundZ-0 has also been commissioned to produce a new work for Huayi 2020. Titled Prism of Truth, the participatory. mixed-media experience by Zelda Tatiana Ng and A Yagna takes inspiration from Japanese classic Rashomon, and has audiences tasked to decide who the real murderer is when a grisly corpse is discovered.
Other theatrical productions include the likes of The Long Goodbye, marking a return to Huayi by Taiwanese theatre company StoryWorks (after last year’s The Way of Zhuang Zi), in a collaboration with Dreamland, which follows the relationship between an accomplished author diagnosed with dementia, and his youngest son learning to care for him.
Hong Kong Repertory Theatre will also be making an appearance during the festival, with their acclaimed production Principle in its overseas premiere, as a new principal in a school espouses a rigid approach to leadership, in stark contrast to the vice-principal’s compassionate soul. Chaos ensues as the two battle it out, and as parents and students are dragged into the mix, will the principal stand by her principle?
For something a little more light-hearted, Storytellers’ Wisdom – A Crosstalk Production has Taiwan’s Comedians Workshop bringing together Chinese culture and history with clever dialogue and wit in this engaging original work that will show you the interesting relationship between Detective Conan and Justice Bao (Bao Jin Tian), ponderings over if Sun Wukong might survive in today’s world, or the philosophy of ‘three’ teased out from the stories of Jin Yong.
And for the kids, Taiwan’s Bon Appétit Theatre presents Gullinkambi – Puppetry Theatre for Children, a non-verbal performance about a little girl searching for her best friend, a polar bear named Gullinkambi, facing a mountain of challenges along the way, sure to open up your imagination and bring delight and wonder.
On the dance front, Almost 55 features veteran dancer of Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company, Qiao Yang, as she reflects on her life as a professional dancer in this solo autobiographical work, an intimate choreography by Chou Shu-yi as Qiao showcases her years of unwavering dedication to dance and commitment to daily discipline, while, exploring notions of identity and home.
The Singapore Chinese Orchestra and Esplanade come together once again after last year’s Painted Skin, to present Unspoken Melodies – Silent Film Classics in Concert. Conducted by Tsung Yeh, watch as four Western classic silent films are brought to life as the SCO plays original scores onstage with the films playing behind them, allowing the cinematic beauty tio shine once again silent film classics through brand-new music composed by award-winning duo Law Wai Lun and Lincoln Lo.
Chinese traditional music takes the forefront with the Shanghai Pingtan Troupe’s The Four Beauties, combining storytelling and ballad singing in pingtan to speak of the legendary four – Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan, and Yang Guifei. The sanxian takes centrestage in Strings of Time – A Sanxian Concert by sanxian virtuoso Jessica Lu, who brings out the expressive potential and versatility of the instrument with new compositions inspired by classic works such as Spring South of the River, Night Thoughts, and fusion jazz piece Shakti’s Dance.
22-year-old piano whiz Tony Yike Yang will also be making his Southeast Asian debut at Esplanade, performing Stravinsky’s breakthrough piece, Firebird, amongst a specially curated programme that features pieces by Chopin and more. The youngest-ever laureate at the prestigious 2015 Chopin International Piano Competition in Warsaw, Yang is known for his balance in technique and musicality, and was most recently appointed as the youth cultural ambassador to Guangzhou, China.
Finally, the Esplanade’s in::music series is back, this time bringing in ØZI (Best New Artist, Golden Melody Award 2019), Eve Ai (Best Mandarin Female Vocalist, Golden Melody Award 2017), Ann Bai (widely known for her unique vocals and quiet charm)
and indie band Tizzy Bac (back at Esplanade after 12 years with new material) for a medley of hip concerts throughout the festival.
With Chinese New Year just aorund the corner again, it’s time to take stock of life, reflect on all we’ve been through, and start anew with this brand new 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac with the Year of the Rat. As we come together for reunions and visitations, it’s time to add even more to our CNY 2020 with a dose of the arts, and let in a little joy and positivity as Huayi returns to the Esplanade next February!
The 2020 Huayi – Chinese Festival of the Arts takes place around the Esplanade from 31st January to 9th February 2020. For the full list of programmes and tickets, visit the Esplanade website here