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Preview: Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2023 by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

The Esplanade’s Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts has always been a gateway to the region’s best Chinese arts, from China to Hong Kong, Taiwan to of course, Singapore. In the next edition, running from 27th January to 5th February, the festival coincides with the Year of the Rabbit, full of positivity and wit, as the Esplanade welcomes audiences to discover new worlds, make memories and have a good laugh to find relief from the stress of life, and celebrate a post-pandemic world.

The festival kicks off with ART, by Taiwan’s Godot Theatre Company. Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, popular TV personalities Pu Hsueh-liang, Chu Chung Heng and Tseng Kuo Chen step into the shoes of three long-time friends who are in danger of falling out over an expensive ‘artwork’, as the play explores male friendship through humour and satire when one of them makes an extravagant art purchase, to the shock and confusion of the others.

A more poignant look at friendship is the dance production Two men, ten years later, featuring Taiwan dance artists Chen Wukang and Su Wei-chia who have been friends and working partners for over 30 years. Both the founders of HORSE, one suave yet boorish, the other stout yet refined, Chen and Su met as dance students in National Taiwan University of Arts, without knowing that it would be the start of their 30-plus years of friendship and artistic collaborators, as they confront and cross-examine their relationship with stark honesty and reconsider the ways their lives have crossed and ran parallel with each other.

Laughter masks some bittersweet home truths in the acclaimed one-man show Every Brilliant Thing by Singapore’s Oliver Chong. When we reviewed it earlier this year, we praised Oliver Chong’s brilliant performance. Now back with full capacity, watch and join Oliver as he takes you on a healing journey, navigating the struggles of life with abundant laughs.

Travel with the famed Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan to the bustling Bangka district of its artistic director Cheng Tsung-lung’s Taipei childhood in 13 Tongues. Previously performed at the 2018 Macao Arts Festival, 13 Tongues references street artist and storyteller known as Thirteen Tongues, who would effortlessly concoct tales and vividly conjure up the many inhabitants of Bangka in all their shapes and forms. From this fascination birthed the inspiration for 13 Tongues, for which Cheng transformed his childhood memories of Bangka into dance. 13 Tongues then takes you on a journey that mesmerises just like the stories told by Thirteen Tongues. 

Over at the newly-opened Singtel Waterfront Theatre, look out for La Cie MaxMind’s The Drought Goddess · Dream of the World, a contemporary theatrical take on the creation of the world told through Nanguan and Beiguan music, dance and puppetry. Inspired by the ancient Chinese myth of Hanba, the goddess of drought, after fighting an exhausting battle, the mythical goddess searches for a way to return to her home Kunlun, as it explores and examines modern conflicts between humans and the environment, and individuals and their communities.

In Singapore we have “Ang Moh Pai”, in Hong Kong they have “Tri Ka Tsai”! What is the strangest English name you have ever heard? Why is a tall-sized latte not tall at all? The multitalented artists Yuri Ng, Anna Lo and Rick Lau are going to tell you the funniest part of the languages in their city, as they explore their cultural identity in Tri Ka Tsai – A uniquely trilingual Hong Kong cabaret.

Not to be missed too is Earl Grey Teh C – Gah Dai!, a fun concert by Singapore’s very own Lorong Boys and world champion Hong Kong harmonicist Gordon Lee, who deliver original musical arrangements of popular Chinese favourites. Having risen to fame and favour for their easy and accessible Western classical musical mashups and covers, Lorong Boys now step up their game and stride confidently out of their comfort zones to enter the world of original music arrangements.

Completing the eclectic musical line-up are An Evening with Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, Taiwanese indie darlings ANPU (formerly known as Deserts Chang), Accusefive and Elephant Gym and SINMAHUI “Hip Hop Night” featuring Mandarin hip hop artists from Singapore and Malaysia such as ShiGGa Shay, Tosh Rock, Dato’ Maw and more.

Bringing back overseas artists for the first time since the pandemic, Huayi 2023 is a warm welcome back to a full-fledged festival, with a thorough celebration of the Chinese arts across the region, and showcasing both the traditional and contemporary, and the evolution of art forms to fit a 2023 audience. Ring in the Year of the Rabbit with the arts, as Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2023 arrives at the Esplanade this January.

Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2023 runs from 27th January to 5th February 2023 at the Esplanade. Full programme and lineup available here

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