Arts Preview Singapore

Preview: Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2022 by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

With Christmas now over, our next major event on the horizon is without a doubt – Chinese New Year. And as with every Chinese New Year, Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay is back with the 20th edition of Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts, to ring in the new Lunar New Year.

This time around, the festival kicks off on 11th February, with five commissions and a co-production from Singaporean artists, that reflect on what really matters, in the wake of living with a pandemic over two years. The festival opens with Nine Years Theatre’s Between You and Me, written and directed by Nelson Chia, and featuring actors Goh Guat Kian, Sharon Au, Mia Chee, Jean Ng, Johnny Ng, and Liow Shi Suen. The story focuses on familial bonds, as a celebrated actress and a mother of three daughters come under the spotlight once again after winning a prestigious film award. But with such celebrations, a long-buried family secret is also unveiled, as decades of hurt and pain are dredged up again.

Artwave Studio presents You’re Invited, an interactive virtual reunion dinner for family, friends and strangers alike, as audiences learn how traditions can adapt to the tides of change in a mindful, connected and sustainable way, even with constant changes in the air.

Music has always featured prominently in Chinese culture, and Huayi 2022 presents 5lements by Ding Yi Music Company. The concert explores the concept of Five Elements, and applies them to traditional Chinese music, as well as Traditional Chinese Medicine, coming together in this work that celebrates the shared connection between music and the human mind and body.

Besides physical health, one should also take care of our mental health, with Get in Touch – A Theatrical Music Concert. In her 30s, despite a passion for singing and playing the lute, B wishes fervently to feel like she’s part of something bigger. She cannot help but feel aimless; opportunities to be connected keep eluding her. As her world comes apart and she faces her inner demons, her life becomes intertwined with the deeply intimate stories of five complete strangers. Featuring pipa artist Gildon Choo and ruan musician Leah Lo, amongst others, the concert brings audiences on a musical journey that shines a light on mental issues and the importance of feeling connected.

And in a single blockbuster concert, XingPop 2.0 brings the very best of our local talents to celebrate our Mandarin pop over the years, in this sequel to the first XingPop concert held as part of Esplanade’s Opening Festival in 2002. Similar to how its predecessor paid homage to iconic tunes from the ’80s xinyao era until the early 2000s, XingPop 2.0 traces the creative journeys and innovations of musical trailblazers in the past two decades. Look forward to homegrown talents including Olivia Ong, Nathan Hartono, The Freshman, Hong Junyang, Desmond Ng, Ruth Kueo, StellaVee, Nat Wu, Tingzhi Hz and Isaac Yong.

Veteran Singapore theatre practitioner Tan Beng Tian revives Karung Guni Boy, an original production for children, first presented in Esplanade’s PLAYtime! series, that teaches all of us to look out for the people around us. The production is being performed for the first time in Mandarin, and uses the power of imagination to transform everyday objects around us.

The Singapore Chinese Dance Theatre presents the bittersweet stories of women from different eras fighting against traditional female stereotypes in dance performance If It’s Now. Co-produced with the Esplanade, the production is co-choreographed by acclaimed dance practitioners Neo Jenny and Benedict Soh, and reflects on the role and identity of a woman through an exploration of traditional female stereotypes and a celebration of femininity.

In addition to these exciting live performances, audiences can also look forward to film screenings of Read Sing Eileen Chang and Reading Dreams, Talking Narratives by Zuni Icosahedron (Hong Kong). Singapore’s Chinese theatre veterans take the spotlight in All The World’s A Stage, now given an online re-presentation, while kids will be delighted by Paper Monkey Theatre’s The Universe According to Niu, a puppetry production for children as one man learns about courage, resilience and the importance of doing the right thing at the right time. 

Having survived two long years of the pandemic, artists have shown resilience and strength in forging on regardless of the circumstances, and in this year of the Tiger, Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2022 sets the Esplanade up for a roaring year in performing arts ahead.

Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2022 runs from 11th February to 6th March 2022 at the Esplanade. Tickets and full programme lineup available here

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