We’re already coming to the end of 2021, and we all know what that means – the announcement of the brand new lineup for the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, running from 12th to 23rd January 2022.
Organised by The Necessary Stage (TNS), with artistic direction from TNS Artistic Director Alvin Tan, similar to the 2021 edition, the upcoming edition of the Fringe will be a hybrid one, featuring both live theatre and online streaming. Limited yet inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic, this time around, the Fringe will take on the theme The Helpers, selecting work that emphasises the importance of human kindness and care for each other amidst the near-constant pandemic fatigue.
Rather than focusing on COVID-19 and pandemics specifically though, the festival quite aptly looks at people living on the fringe of society, those on the margins left forgotten, with an ever-growing gap in access and privilege. What helps then, is the persistence of individuals and groups who continue to do their best to help in any way possible, when traditional institutions are simply not enough.
With that, a total of nine events have been curated for the festival, with 5 live productions from Singapore, 3 international productions that will be livestreamed, and one event that will be held over chat app Telegram. Even with the ongoing pandemic, these artists have continue to create work sensitively amidst the lockdowns and restrictions, tackling and grappling with seemingly impossible overarching topics such as the climate emergency, doxxing, and the refugee crisis, all responding to the theme The Helpers in their own way, and the pandemic’s effects on people and the environment.
The Fringe has always supported young and upcoming arts groups, and this edition is no different, with local companies The Second Breakfast Company and Bound Theatre featuring during the festival. Screen. Shot. by Bound Theatre examines doxxing and cancel culture when a child disappears, and an adult in power in accused of being a paedophile. With everyone having their own opinion and no two truths align, fake news rapidly spreads out of control amidst the seemingly lawless online world, and it become nigh impossible to tell hard fact from clout chasers.
The Second Breakfast Company presents The Essential Playlist, a metatheatrical piece about a group of millennial comedy content creators attempting to to seriously review and revamp their brand image to take on more social issues. Pitching ideas for a new series called The Essential Playlist, the play shines a light on the real-world problems faced by essential workers in Singapore, while also using the creative conflicts that arise between members as a prime source of drama.
Rupa co.lab impressed us earlier this year with their production Pandan (at Fringe 2021), and returns with new play Rindu di Bulan (明月千里寄相思). Written by Raimi Safari, the play (which translates to ‘missing the moon’) juxtaposes the Chinese myth of Chang-E with a mother’s relationship with her adopted son, and examines how hope and love can transcend biological familial ties. Look out for an adult-sized poetry-spouting rabbit, but also get ready for an emotional journey it’s bound to take you on.
In the Fringe’s annual collaboration with Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, dancer/choreographer Goh Shou Yi and theatremaker Rei Poh come together to present 0.01. Responding directly to the disconnection we are facing in this COVID-19 era, the two artists will work together with the pioneer student cohort of BA (Hons) in Performance Making to present an intimate performance about the collective loneliness and estrangement we are experiencing, especially through lockdowns in an urban environment.
New collective 微 Wei Collective comprises theatremakers Neo Hai Bin and Liu Yong Huay, and together with their collaborators, are set to present Being: 息在. Combining performance and spatial design, the production examines ideas of rootlessness and the need to find our centre, using light, sound, and textures to reconnect us city-dwellers back to nature and our breath.
On the international front, IMAGO, co-choreographed and performed by partners Travis Clausen-Knight and James Pett (United Kingdom), is a dance film that questions if we are what we say we are, or if we become reconstructed in the hopes to hold onto some idea of happiness, as it explores the complexity and toxicity of abusive relationships.
Thailand’s Circle Theatre presents OK Land, an entertaining, sardonic look at Thailand’s current socio-political climate in where a hungry aunty at her wits’ end resorts to taking herself hostage in a cheery convenience store, begging the question of why people are still haunted by poverty, inequality, and ghosts in the land of smiles, if there are already givers, helpers, and philanthropists.
In the last of the international productions, PSYCHEdelight (United Kingdom) presents the premiere of its digital version of their critically acclaimed play Borderline. Inspired by the situation in the refugee camp in Calais, the ensemble of refugee and European performers devised a tragicomedy to rewrite the narrative about the refugee situation from their own points of view.
The Fringe will also present a conversation on Telegram. Titled Kampung Spirit, Mutual Aid, Whatever You Call It, the conversation is held in collaboration with Telegram channel ChannelNewsTheatre, which looks at the efficacy and sustainability of mutual aid in Singapore.
With limited tickets available for the live shows due to COVID-19 restrictions, be sure to book your tickets early to ensure you catch these forward thinking productions that’ll leave you pondering over the new wave of issues arising in the wake of the pandemic.
The 2022 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival: The Helpers runs from 12th to 23rd January 2022. Tickets and full line-up available here