My Mother Buys Condoms: Love, Sex And Senior Citizens?

Can society accept senior citizens falling in love (and having sex)?

Imagining one’s mother or father falling in love with someone else in their 60s isn’t exactly the thing to whet up one’s appetite, neither is watching them ‘go at it’ in theatre the most exhilarating centerpiece act. Thankfully, the latter does not take place except for a harmless peck and some hugs.

One of 8 plays put up by W!LD RICE’s Singapore Theatre Festival, My Mother Buys Condoms examines society’s attitudes towards sex and senior citizens. Written by playwright Helmi Yusof and directed by Ivan Heng, the multi-layered play with a saucy title is already sold out (sorry folks!). Starring Lok Meng Chue, Remesh Panicker, Elnie S. Mashari, Joshua Lim and Seong Hui Xian, My Mother Buys Condoms runs from 14 to 24 July 2016.

The entire play takes place in Maggie’s living room. Maggie (Lok) is a retired 63 year old literature teacher and divorcee with two grown kids. Raju (Panicker), a 57 year old owner of a local air-con servicing company personally attends to Maggie’s house call to fix the living room’s air-conditioner. Strangely, the business owner does not have any employee to perform these small jobs. Egged by comic relief friend and fellow teacher Nora (Elnie), Maggie decides to strike a deal with Raju, giving him 10 English lessons in exchange for a new air-con unit. Raju promises Maggie a new air-con unit, “I will give you all the protection you want, satisfaction guaranteed“, cringe-worthy and as though signifying what is to come.

STF2016 My Mother Buys Condoms by W!LD RICE pic 1

PHOTO: W!LD RICE

“Mrs Lee, if you are in the room, I want to be in the room.”

Upon departure of her children and best friends, deafening silence sweeps into the set as Maggie takes a seat and stares at her book in the quiet of her living room, giving hint of her loneliness. Fast forward to the sixth lesson, Raju accidentally came into contact with Maggie when he laid his hand on hers to which the latter reacted by chasing him out.

Turns out, the two had feelings for each other but Maggie had to deal with her inner struggles caused by her ex-husband who told her that he couldn’t stand being in the same room as her. Raju replies “Mrs Lee, if you are in the room, I want to be in the room.”

The two reconciled and consummated their relationship as we were led to discover – bra and panty everywhere. What followed were a series of hilarious conversations as Maggie attempts to conceal the truth behind her buying condoms by accusing her Muslim friend of having a lover.

The conversations treads between funny and awkward such as when Raju exclaims that “The Japan one (condom) too small” and when Wilfred calls Raju a literal “Mother fucker“. It all goes into the gutters when Nora and Maggie’s children all discovers the truth about Raju. Placed between a rock and a hard place, Maggie was forced to choose between her family (conforming to traditional conventions) or love and passion.

STF2016 My Mother Buys Condoms by W!LD RICE pic 5

PHOTO: W!LD RICE

The intentions behind My Mother Buys Condoms were clear. Is falling in love at a ripe old age so wrong, or is it simply because of our own bias and perception that leads us to reject everything that does not go in line with our own beliefs? It is always easy to play the condemning figure, unless we are the victims ourselves.

My Mother Buys Condoms sings a similar tune to LGBT play where the playwrights asks the question, what does it take for society to grant (one and all) the freedom to love? In one scene, Maggie asks Raju (who has never married before) if he has never been with a woman to which Raju replies “Mrs Lee, I am a man.” This reply hints that Panicker’s character visited prostitutes or has had several casual flings in his earlier years, hence the need for condoms. In spite of this, Maggie loves Raju all the same because when love comes, it comes. And love is love.

Nora, Elnie’s character represents opposition of religion where romances of such calibre are considered harem (forbidden). Maggie’s daughter Gwen played by Seong was the only empathetic one, but only because she has secrets of her own – she is a lesbian. That was perhaps the play’s way of saying that only the marginalised understands the pain of the marginalised, when it shouldn’t be that way. I did however feel that inserting Gwen’s LGBT plot-line was unnecessary.

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PHOTO: W!LD RICE

Maggie’s son Wilfred played by Lim with his ‘complete family with two daughters’ represents the majority of Singaporeans who would otherwise frown on such ‘immoral’ behavior. But is there an age limit to falling in love though? And should the opinions of others matter more to us than our own happiness?

My Mother Wears Condoms is a hilarious yet insightful take on romance and old age which I thought is so relevant to Singapore today than ever before as we continue to see increase in divorce cases between seniors age 50 and above.

What I could not wrap my head around was how a relationship could develop out of six English lessons and from a mere hand contact. I would also have preferred to see Maggie falling in love with a 20-something though. That would have been a real scandal. RW

Unfortunately, My Mother Buys Condoms is completely sold out. GRC and Hotel, the remaining two Singapore Theatre Festival plays are also completely sold out.

Singapore Theatre Festival: 8 Original Plays on Singapore’s Hot-button Issues

Let’s talk about race, religion, politics, sex and gender identity, shall we? 

This is Singapore. We are forward-looking in many aspects and we rank among the best cities in the world to live in. Yet we can also be viewed as ‘backward’ as a people. Developed and modern as we are, we approach (divisive) issues surrounding race, religion, politics, sex and gender identity either with fear or with prejudices through our own tinted lens. But it doesn’t have to be – and that is where art comes into the picture.

Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” If there is one theatre company in Singapore who is capable of exploring today’s hot-button topics through theatre, it can only be W!LD RICE!

W!LD RICE’s fifth Singapore Theatre Festival will take place in various locations in LASALLE College of the Arts from 30 June to 24 July. The annual festival is a month-long event dedicated to celebrating new local writing. Featuring the work of 9 Playwrights, 8 Directors and 4 Companies, the 8 new plays tell stories of contemporary Singapore and give voice to people from all walks of life: from the young and the old, to minorities and the marginalised, including members of the LGBT, Teochew and motorbiking communities.

Hilarious, witty and thought-provoking all at once, the plays “challenge and encourage us to imagine possibilities beyond our own biases and prejudices, giving us clues as to how we can live with one another”, said STF artistic director and W!LD RICE head honcho Ivan Heng.

I am particularly looking forward to Rodney Oliveiro’s Geylang that sheds light on Singapore’s most colourful and notorious district, and Helmi Yusof’s romantic comedy My Mother Buys Condoms that puts a cheeky spin on active ageing. Mark Ng’s Let’s Get Back Together uses the heartfelt testimony of LGBT individuals in Singapore to provide eye-opening insights into their trials and tribulations, while Alfian Sa’at’s GRC (Geng Rebut Cabinet) unearths some uncomfortable truths in a topsy-turvy political landscape in which Malays form the majority of the population.

Tickets are already available on SISTIC with 7 out of 8 plays priced at $40 or lower. Festival passes and concession tickets are also available. Be sure to buy your tickets early to avoid disappointment! See below for a brief description of the 8 plays featured during the festival. RW

1. HOTEL by W!LD RICE

Venue: The Singapore Airlines Theatre
Show Dates: 30 June – 24 July 2016
Ticket Prices: $80, $100 (click here to purchase tickets)

A hotel in Singapore is opened at the turn of the century, when the island is still a jewel in the British Crown. As Singapore morphs from British colony to Malaysian state to sovereign nation, its denizens experience profound and dramatic changes. We meet Indian mutineers, Cantonese nannies, Malay film stars, Japanese soldiers, transgender sex workers, wedding guests and suspected terrorists. They live out pivotal moments in their personal lives, even as empires die and new ones are born from their ashes.

A multi-generational epic that spans a century and unfolds in nine languages over five hours, HOTEL explores the notions of empire, nationhood, migration and identity against the backdrop of a shrinking world. Unanimously acclaimed as an instant classic and a five-star experience following its sold-out premiere at the 2015 Singapore International Festival of Arts, HOTEL is a ground-breaking theatrical event that highlights the eclectic energies born from the collisions between old and new, East and West, and tradition and modernity.

HOTEL was commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of Arts and produced in partnership with W!LD RICE. A single ticket permits entry to Part 1 (1915 – 1965) and Part 2 (1975 – 2015).

 

2. GEYLANG by W!LD RICE

Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 30 June – 3 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

Step into the neon-lit lorongs of Geylang, where a happy ending is not what you think it is. In this wicked interplay of four stories, meet those who have lived, loved and lost in Geylang. A pair of star-crossed lovers defy the river and cultures that separate them. Mediums and mamasans prey on lost souls. A single mother struggles to keep up with the relentless march of progress. A gang leader is swept up in a maelstrom of drug-fuelled violence. A civil servant falls under the heady spell of nostalgia as an iconic hawker stall is forced to relocate – or close down for good.

A potent, exhilarating brew of history and fiction,Geylang looks for truth in the past, present and future of Singapore’s most colourful district. Sexy, funny and poignant, Geylang is an electrifying, thought-provoking showcase of new Singapore voices and talent. GEYLANG was created in collaboration with the third cohort of young & W!LD (2014-2015), W!LD RICE’s youth development division.

 

3. Double-Bill:
RIDERS KNOW WHEN IT’S GONNA RAIN by W!LD RICE
HAWA by Hatch Theatrics

Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 30 June – 3 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

Riders Know When It’s Gonna Rain is a coming-of-age story of friendship that blossoms in the little-known, frequently misunderstood mat moto subculture in Singapore. It captures the bright, reckless spirit of youth: from the desire to rebel and an addiction to danger, to the fierce loyalty that springs up between kindred spirits. When their adventures take an unexpected detour, the four childhood friends learn that the road to adulthood can be bumpy and treacherous.

Written with an insider’s intimate understanding of the culture and lingo of Singapore’s motorbiking community, Nessa Anwar’s tough, tender play is an affecting portrait of youths living in the fast lane. RIDERS KNOW WHEN IT’S GONNA RAIN was first commissioned for and performed at the 2015 Singapore Writers Festival, as part of Checkpoint Theatre’s ‘What I Love About You Is Your Attitude Problem’.

 

4. LET’S GET BACK TOGETHER by Red Pill Productions

Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 7 – 10 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

What is it like to grow up different in a country where laws, morality and the media dictate what is normal? Who gets to determine what constitutes harassment and discrimination against minorities? Is Singapore society really as conservative as we’re often told it is? Can this country truly be a home for everyone, regardless of race, language, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity?

Based on frank, funny and sometimes fabulous interviews conducted with over 50 brave and inspiring individuals, Let’s Get Back Together is an original testimonial theatre piece exploring the realities that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face on a daily basis in Singapore. Even as the rest of the world begins to wake up to the idea that LGBT rights are human rights, Let’s Get Back Together sheds light on the trials and triumphs of these individuals as they grapple with issues of faith, identity and acceptance.

 

5. GRANDMOTHER TONGUE by W!LD RICE

Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 7 – 10 July 2016
Ticket Price: $35 (click here to purchase tickets)

In a Singapore where dialects have been losing relevance for generations, Grandmother Tongue traces a young man’s struggle to connect with his 84-year-old Teochew-speaking grandmother. He teaches her to use a mobile phone. He helps her buy her favourite brand of soya sauce. He visits her in hospital after a fall. Along the way, he begins to understand just what it means to spend decades in linguistic and cultural exile.
Inspired by Kuo Pao Kun’s seminal Mama Looking For Her Cat, Thomas Lim’s funny, insightful play examines the social costs of our mother-tongue language policy and the erasure of dialects in today’s Singapore. In ways both humorous and heartbreaking, Grandmother Tongue explores how our identities are bound up with the languages that we use and the ones that we lose.

 

6. MY MOTHER BUYS CONDOMS by W!LD RICE

Venue: Creative Cube
Show Dates: 14 – 24 July 2016
Ticket Price: $40 (click here to purchase tickets)

Sex and star-crossed love are domains reserved for the young… aren’t they? That’s what Maggie, a retired school teacher, has always believed. But everything Maggie had come to assume and accept about her life changes when she agrees to teach Raju, an air-con repairman, how to read. As their relationship blossoms into an unconventional romance, those close to Maggie begin to question her behaviour, morals and choices. Nora, her best friend, claims that she no longer recognises her. Wilfred, her son, is outraged. Only Gwen, Maggie’s daughter, seems to understand, but she has secrets of her own.

A romantic comedy that puts a cheeky spin on active ageing, Helmi Yusof’s first play examines society’s attitudes towards sex and senior citizens. Inspiring and empowering, My Mother Buys Condoms challenges audiences to re-evaluate the freedom to love for those who may no longer be young in body, but remain young at heart. MY MOTHER BUYS CONDOMS was first developed for the TheatreWorks Writers Lab’s ‘Writing From The Heart’ programme in 2014.

7. GRC (GENG REBUT CABINET) by Teater Ekamatra

Venue: Flexible Performance Space
Show Dates: 14 – 24 July 2016
Ticket Price: $40 (click here to purchase tickets)

With elections around the corner, a political party is planning to field candidates in a five-member Group Representation Constituency. On the shortlist are a Minister, a Brigadier-General, a high-flying lawyer and a grassroots organiser. But the team is not complete without a minority candidate. This candidate has to be likeable. He or she has to be a respected member of the community. Most importantly, he or she has to be… Chinese.
GRC examines what it means to be part of a minority in a topsy-turvy farcical world where the disempowered now rule, and the invisible have their faces plastered everywhere – but only during campaign season. Who defines whether someone is a member of a minority? Who sets the standards for a ‘model minority’ and a ‘problem minority’? And is the country ready for a minority Prime Minister?

The O.P.E.N. 2016 – One Pass To See It All

The O.P.E.N. 2016 by Singapore International Festival of Arts grants visitors access to more than 40 arts programmes over 18 days – for only S$45.

There was an article published in The Straits Times last Monday titled Growing pains for Singapore art market. It is really not easy at all to be an artist or an art practitioner in Singapore when her arts climate is… not the most ideal, let’s put it that way. This also gives me a greater appreciation for the good work that the various art establishments are doing to boost the local arts scene.

Speaking of which, The O.P.E.N is back! The O.P.E.N. is Singapore International Festival of Arts‘s pre-festival of ideas to get people talking about the festival’s themes and issues before the main event that is SIFA (taking place from 11 August to 17 September 2016).  The O.P.E.N. was initiated by SIFA festival director Ong Keng Sen when he took over the reins of SIFA back in 2011 – thank you good sir.

After past themes like 2014’s Legacy and the Expanded Classic which looks at the past and 2015’s POST-Empires which looks at the present, this year’s The O.P.E.N. (and SIFA) will come full circle with the theme ‘Potentialities’ – looking into the future. This year’s pre-festival not only celebrates change agents from around the world, but also nudges and reminds visitors that we as individuals also have the same potentiality to be change-makers.

The O.P.E.N will take place from 22 June to 9 July 2016 and once again, for a flat rate of $45 entitles visitors to all of its programmes over 18 days (concession and single entry passes are also available). I’m really excited! Here are my top 10 picks for this year’s The O.P.E.N. RW

For more information on The O.P.E.N. click here. To buy your The O.P.E.N. pass, click here.

Editor’s note: Programmes’ descriptions and photos by SIFA. The theme ‘Potentialities’ was previously written as ‘Potentiality’. The error has since been corrected.

1. I Know Why The Rebel Sings

22 June, 7pm – 10pm (Opening day)
23 June through 9 July, Tue – Sat: 11am – 10pm ; Sun: 11am – 6pm; Closed on Mondays

Venue: 72-13

PHOTO & VIDEO EXHIBITION: I Know Why The Rebel Sings strikingly highlights the impressive range of Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian. Comprising photographs from her previous series, “Look”, “Listen” and “The Blank Pages Of An Iranian Photo Album”, this comprehensive showcase includes previously unexhibited images of humanitarian tragedies around the world. It highlights the continuum in Tavakolian’s oeuvre, from art to photojournalism. With a focus on the portrait, these two genres are scintillatingly in conversation in her work.

Tavakolian’s talent for making the inner worlds of her subjects come alive is seen in her “Look” series. It captures the people in her building, each individual framed by a window and the detritus of everyday living. Her work refuses to fall into the clichés of expressing Iran today. Instead she gives complexity to these ordinary lives without resorting to narratives of oppression and freedom. This theme is continued in “The Blank Pages Of An Iranian Photo Album”, in which she follows her peers through video portraits and photo albums from their daily lives.

2. Remember 30 Years To Live 65 Minutes

SEO

30 June, 8pm (1hr 30mins, no intermission)

Venue: Drama Centre Black Box

PERFORMANCE: As an artist, how much of your life are you willing to share with your audience? “For eight years I’ve been trying to finish this play,” Marina Otero states. “This is yet another sketch of that incomplete, endless play. It’s made with parts of an old play, confused memories, past lovers and other things I already killed. I now open the doors to show those misplaced secrets, the archived documents, stolen pictures, and my first 30 years reassembled.” See Otero as a child, a teenager, a woman. See her as a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend. Then – a dancer, an actress, a playwright. Yet the query is posed, haunting, teasing: how much did she remember and how much did she invent? Weigh those questions against the undeniable honesty in Remember 30 Years To Live 65 Minutes. Otero’s mashup performance reveals a woman stripped bare, dealing with raw emotions, fighting her demons and struggling to find meaning in this affecting play about her own life.

3. Archaeology of the Final Decade

28 June, 7.30pm (1hr 15mins (inclusive of Q&A))

Venue: 72-13

LECTURE: What is the potentiality of archives for the future? Explore Iran’s rich yet lesser-known artistic past with London-based curator Vali Mahlouji, who is a writer and adviser to the British Museum. Mahlouji founded Archaeology Of The Final Decade, a curatorial and research platform that brings back to life art and culture buried under revolution and social change.

In this enlightening lecture, Mahlouji explores Iran’s cultural legacies now lost by the chaos of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. With meticulous passion and investigative energy, he dissects these ideas through the use of two cultural reference points. The first is Iran’s “Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis” that ran from 1967 to 1977, a theatre, dance and music showcase with a unique focus on Asia and Africa. Black-and-white snapshots of this arts and cultural extravaganza reveal a rich diversity and cosmopolitan sophistication not often associated with the country. The second is the seminal photographic series, “Prostitute”, by Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan. These haunting images of women from the red-light ghetto of Citadel of Shahr-e No represent an underbelly deliberately annihilated. The Citadel went up in flames as the revolution unfolded. Many survivors were imprisoned or culturally ‘reformed’; some were sentenced to death. What are the lasting ramifications when huge chunks of cultural memory are brutally erased?

What is the best way to reintroduce lost objects into the public domain, stimulate healthy discourse and encourage reconciliation? Join Mahlouji as he confronts these thorny issues of memory, history and reintegration that have lasting resonance for us all.

4. Riding On A Cloud

SEO

23 June, 8pm

Venue: 72-13 (1h 05min, no intermission)

PERFORMANCE: The brilliant performance auteur Rabih Mroué’s younger brother was shot in Beirut in 1987, as the Lebanese civil war was winding down. Although the 17-year-old Yasser did not die, the sniper’s bullet pierced his skull and caused partial paralysis and aphasia – the loss of the ability to understand and express speech.

It was this seminal moment that gave birth to Riding On A Cloud so many years later. This mixed-media theatre piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and imagination, truth and subjective perspective, especially with Yasser himself at the centre as the sole performer.

Yasser as victim in a political struggle that riveted the world for decades, Yasser as actor in a fictionalised narrative, Yasser as a character invented by Mroué’s imagination, Yasser as victor in his struggle with language and meaning.

Through the flickering images on stage, the video clips and disjointed fragments of music, Mroué plumbs depth and meaning in shifting narratives, explores possibilities for a post-war Lebanon and, more universally, strikes the chords of memory, representation and the elusive search for truth in all of us.

5. Ibsen: Ghosts

SEO

8 July, 8pm

Venue: SOTA Studio Theatre (1hr 40min, no intermission)

PERFORMANCE: In Henrik Ibsen’s original “Ghosts”, the character Oswald asks his mother to help him commit suicide. It is this theme that German theatre collective Markus&Markus have chosen to focus on in their version of Ibsen: Ghosts. But don’t expect to see any acting. “We don’t want to see any more actors who pretend they want to die. So we cast a person who really wants to die as our Oswald,” explained the boundary-pushing group. With their radical political performances dissolving the lines between the stage and real life, this theatre company has been one to watch in Europe since 2011.

Markus&Markus find their own “Oswald” in 81-year-old Margot. She travels to Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal, to die on her own terms. They first meet her in April 2014, spending almost every day of the month with her. On May 1, they accompany her to an euthanasia organisation; they attend her funeral on May 22.

In Ibsen: Ghosts, Markus&Markus reanimate their deceased protagonist through videos, photos and letters. The work is a gut-wrenching and poignant reflection on life’s meaning. Does faithful documentation and ritual celebration of someone’s life ensure a kind of immortality? Maybe. As Margot says: “As long as my story is being told, I am not really dead.”

6. Homeland (Iraq Year Zero)

SEO

2 July3pm (Part 1) & 6pm (Part 2)

Venue: The Projector (334 min)

FILM: Iraqi filmmaker Abbas Fahdel’s Homeland is a richly detailed, unsentimental and yet, unexpectedly cheerful depiction of the everyday hardships in his own family over the one-and-a-half years before and after the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq.Before The Fall (Part 1) focuses on a group of Iraqis, mostly members of Fahdel’s own family, on their fears and expectations of the coming war. After The Battle (Part 2) picks up after the American invasion and shows its harrowing consequences on the characters. Homeland (Iraq Year Zero) won the Grand Prize at the Visions du Réel festival and Montreal International Documentary Festival, as well as the Award of Excellence and Citizens’ Prize at Yamagata International Documentary Festival.

7. A Syrian Love Story

SEO

1 July, 7.30pm

Venue: The Projector (76min)

FILM: Amer and Raghda met 15 years ago in a Syrian prison. They fell in love and, when released, got married. A Syrian Love Story tells the poignant tale of their family torn apart by the Syrian War. When British director Sean McAllister first meets them in 2009, Raghda is back in prison, leaving Amer to look after their four boys alone. But as the Arab Spring sweeps the region, their fate shifts irrevocably. Filmed over five years, the film charts their incredible odyssey to freedom. McAllister (“Liberace Of Baghdad”) received the Grand Jury prize at last year’s Sheffield Documentary Festival for this “Bergmanesque portrait of a relationship and love”.

8. Embrace Of The Serpent

SEO

3 July, 5pm

Venue: The Projector (123min)

FILM: Karamakate, a powerful Amazonian shaman, dwells in the jungle alone. Decades of solitude have turned him into a chullachaqui, an empty shell of a human, devoid of memories and emotion. His hollow life is shaken with the arrival of Evan, an American ethnobotanist searching for the sacred plant Yakruna, capable of teaching people how to dream. Together they embark on a journey into the Amazon in which past, present and future are intertwined, and in which Karamakate will begin to regain his lost memories. Since receiving the top Directors’ Fortnight prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Embrace Of The Serpent has continued to win acclaim, including an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film this year.

9. Invisible (Imbisibol)

SEO

6 July, 7.30pm

Venue: The Projector (132min)

This heart-wrenching film weaves together stories about undocumented Filipino workers supporting themselves and their loved ones in the Philippines with under-the-counter work in Japan. Middle-aged lovers Benjie and Edward fall for each other in Japan, but keep their love secret from their families. Ageing gigolo Manuel finds it difficult to make ends meet. The saintly Linda lives in Japan legally, but fights with her Japanese husband because she rents rooms to undocumented Filipinos.Imbisibol is directed by rising talent Lawrence Fajardo and produced by Cannes award-winning filmmaker Brillante Mendoza. It has swept seven awards, including prizes for Best Film and Best Director, at Sinag Maynila Film Festival before premiering at Toronto International Film Festival last year.

10. The Bacchus Lady

SEO

7 July, 7.30pm

VENUE: The Projector (110min)

Feisty 65-year-old So-young is a prostitute who approaches clients with Bacchus, a popular Korean energy drink and the offer of sex. With no savings or family, So-young is one of South Korea’s ‘Bacchus ladies’ – older women in South Korea who turn tricks to make a living. She meets little Min-ho and takes him in when his mother is detained by the police. The boy, who speaks only Tagalog, becomes kin to her, motivating her to work harder. When her disillusioned clients ask her for one last favour, So-young must decide whether she will help them. Never sordid or gratuitous, The Bacchus Lady tells a warm and humorous tale of South Korea’s controversial problem of senior prostitution.

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS 2016
The O.P.E.N

Multiple Locations

Opens 22 June to 9 July 2016

A pre-festival of ideas, The O.P.E.N. is a public engagement initiative from the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) that offers 18 days of exploration. It raises fascinating questions and offers eye-opening insights about our world and humanity.

The O.P.E.N. connects you with SIFA four weeks before the opening of the Festival. It directs you to consider a breadth of issues and perspectives inspired by SIFA’s annual festival theme. Styled as a popular academy, it presents a curated selection of events through diverse platforms.

Ticket Pricing: $10 (Single entry), $25 (Concession pass), $45 (All programmes pass)

Web Link: The O.P.E.N.

Affordable Art Fair: A Peculiar Exhibition

Interesting, and otherwise unusual artworks can all be found in the 2016 Spring Edition of Affordable Art Fair.

Held once again at the F1 Pit Building from 21 to 24 April, this year’s Affordable Art Fair showcases an assortment of artworks from 41 local and international galleries representing 300 artists.

As with past year’s theme, the objective of the biannual exhibition was to make contemporary art accessible to the general public. Find artworks from paintings and sculptures to photography priced between S$100 to S$10,000. Also in line with this is the popular Charity Feature Wall ‘Let Art Speak’ which showcases artworks priced at S$500 – half of the monies raised goes to charity partner Woodbridge Hospital Charity Fund. Catering to both the young and old, there are plenty of art tours for the adults and hands-on workshops for the little ones.

Despite just returning from an overseas trip on Saturday and nursing a [really] bad cough, I decided to head down to review Affordable Art Fair on the last day nevertheless (hence, I was not in top form when visiting the exhibition).

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A visitor admiring an artwork by Bui Van Hoan.

I love this oil-on-canvas paintings (~S$7,000) by Vietnamese artist Bui Van Hoan (above). There does not seem to be anything going on in the painting above but if you look closer, you can see Bui’s subject (a fisherman) subtly placed in the background. According to Bui’s bio published by representing gallery ArtBlue Studio, Bui’s work is inspired by his serene and peaceful approach to life, often referred to in Vietnamese as ‘Thien’, roughly translated as a particular Vietnamese school of Zen Buddhism.

 

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PHOTO: AAF | Visitors getting introduced to Gary Pereira’s artwork

Why wouldn’t anyone want to glaze out into beautiful landscapes? English artist Gary Pereira makes this possible, transporting us to his hometown in Norwich England through his ‘window’ paintings. Pereira is inspired from the waves and dunes of his native Norfolk coast. Pereira is represented by UK-based gallery Quantum Contemporary Art and is priced around S$3,000.

 

PHOTO: Pagesdigital.com | ‘Asphyxiate’ | Photograph on Print | Ted O’Donnell & Nicki Lee

Australian artists Ted O’Donnell and Nicki Lee prove that two is indeed better than one through this utterly gorgeous photography series ‘Asphyxiate’. A collaborative piece between the two, Lee dons the flowers in colours and emotions while O’Donnell captures that in one single shot – no retakes as I was told by O’Donnell. Obsessed with the rhythmic movement of nature and passion, the two were first inspired by Robert Browning romantic-tragic poem,  ‘Porphyria’s Lover’. Interestingly, the two lovers first met at a organic fruit and vegetable store in Spring 2011. Comes in editions of 10 or 20, and priced at approximately S$2,500.

PHOTO: Barnabashuang.com | ‘Wilton’ | Acrylic on Canvas | Monica Dixon

I love this simple painting that exudes serenity by American artist Monica Dixon. Dixon is represented by Singapore based art gallery, Barnabas Huang.

In my opinion, the most important mindset an art buyer should bring to an exhibition is that of whether we like the painting, and whether we are comfortable with these paintings as decorative pieces in our homes. Every art connoisseur and expert agree that we should never buy art sorely for the potential investment value, or simply because we were intrigued by it at the whim of the moment.

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PHOTO: AAF | Featured artist, Max Zorn creates stunning lightbox artworks using nothing but packing tapes and a scalpel.

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PHOTO: AAF | A great place to see beautiful people.. I mean art.

That said, I do question AAF’s curatorial direction. While there are some interesting artworks exhibited, it is puzzling how some artworks actually make the cut to exhibit at the AAF to begin with. Some of the artworks go from peculiar to downright awful. I cannot imagine people putting [some of these] artworks in their homes. Similarly, I was not very impressed by the artworks presented at the Charity Feature Wall (S$500 artworks) – but it could also be because the nicer artworks have previously been snapped up by art buyers.

Maybe I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate the exquisiteness of these artworks, but I do feel that the AAF curatorial team should step up a notch in the choosing of galleries and artworks to be represented here. After all, visitors may flock to AAF to find affordable artworks, they should not have the feeling that the artworks presented are in any way substandard to the likes of bigger art shows like Art Stage and Singapore Contemporary Art Show (see my review here).

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PHOTO: AAF | Fun art tours for the children

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PHOTO: AAF | Art buying starts early for this young one.

 

Amazingly, I was told by AAF insiders that some of these questionable artworks were bought up by art buyers very quickly. Well, whatever rocks your boat.

Overall, I do feel that AAF is a good place for new art enthusiasts to get acquainted with art and to understand the various art forms that they either like or dislike. Art collectors may also find one or two artworks that they fancy. Because of its ‘affordable’ branding, artworks found at the AAF are generally cheaper than those exhibited at other Singapore art fairs. But don’t write off a visit to AAF just yet, you might just unearth an exquisite piece of art there. RW

Disclaimer: Reuel Writes attended the Affordable Art Fair on media pass. However, Reuel Writes retains full editorial direction of this blog entry.

FUTURE WORLD: ArtScience Museum’s Funnest Permanent Exhibition To Date

Imagine, play and explore in ArtScience Museum’s new permanent exhibition, Singapore’s largest permanent digital art gallery.

Funnest is a very troublesome superlative adjective to use, but I really can’t find a better word to describe my recent visit to the ArtScience Museum’s latest permanent exhibition. Enter FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science. The permanent exhibition which also happens to be Singapore’s largest permanent digital art gallery marks the ArtScience Museum’s fifth anniversary and runs from 12 March 2016 onwards.

True to the ArtScience Museum title, the exhibition is the culmination and interplay of art and science; despite both being commonly acknowledged as opposite ends of the spectrum. Collaborating with ultra-technologist group teamLab, the two establishments have created a massive digital playground (1,500 square metres or a quarter of the museum’s total gallery space) consisting of 15 major art installations for both adults and children to play and explore.

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The museum also sought to create an exhibition for visitors to reflect and contemplate their own position relative to the natural world, other people and the universe. I was given a guided tour by ArtScience Museum associate curator Jerry Gunn.

Unlike most exhibitions where any attempt to come into contact with the artworks warrants a boot out of the exhibition space, Future World invites the young and old to engage and even co-create art. Future World is organised into four themes: Nature, Town, Park and space.

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The adventure begins – in Nature – with a stroll through an interactive world of flora and fauna created entirely by digital technology. Once in the garden of sorts, flowers begin to form at the flooring where I stood. When I trample on the flowers, the petals begin to dislodge from the flower bud. I was also told by Gunn that any contact with the butterflies on the animated walls will ‘kill’ them. While many people simply come to the gallery to snap photos, the broader objective is for visitors to reflect on the intricate relationship we share with our surrounding environment.

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In Town, kids and adults are invited to collaborate and create their own artworks. In a fictitious town based on Singapore, we are invited to fill the landscape with cars, buildings and spaceships of our own design. The kid in me emerged and I got to work with colouring my own spaceship in ridiculous hues. Upon doing so, we can have our drawings animated on screen, and turned into paper craft patterns! How cool is that? Occasionally, a dragon pops out to destroy the city. Visitors can collaborate to defeat the dragon by touching on the spaceships.

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Moving away from the Town into Park, I was mesmerised by the Universe of Water Particles – a seven-metre tall waterfall created by digital programming. I was told by Gunn that this installation was made possible after months of programming and collaboration among physicists, programmers and artists.

The water particles are digitally programmed to produce an accurate water fall simulation that flows in accordance to the laws of physics, hence the uncannily real waterfall.

Finally, I ventured into the most-talked-about section of the exhibition – Space. In many ways, outer space has and will always be mankind’s final frontier (I quote Star Trek). Step into the heart of the universe in Crystal Universe and witness from within, the illusion of stars and galaxies in an elaborate light show. This installation is powered by 170,000 LED lights. Think Interstellar and imagine yourself in it. Thanks to teamLab’s interactive 4-D Vision technology, visitors can also ‘change the fabric of the universe’ using their smartphones.

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Standing before the artwork, I found myself drunk as I lapped up every detail in the Crystal Universe. It’s one of those moments where you feel so insignificant in the vastness of the universe, so tiny in the grander scheme of things. But I’ve never felt more alive, and filled with hope. A quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist came into my mind; “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Frankly, I can’t think of any reason to dissuade readers from visiting the Future World exhibition. Catered to both kids and adults alike, there’s something to interest all age groups. This could be the best S$16 you will be spending, but be sure to read the descriptions at each of the installations so that you can have a deeper understanding and appreciation for this remarkable exhibition.

One of my takeaways from this exhibition was also the intrinsic relationship between art and science. American playwright Wilson Mizner once wrote “Art is science made clear”. Science can be used to create art (as seen in Future World) and at the same time, there is a certain artistic aspiration in mankind’s pursuit of science. Hence, we see that both art and science have roles to play in their respective habitat – they are not mutually exclusive.

Many thanks to ArtScience Museum associate curator Jerry Gunn for taking time off to give me a private tour. I enjoyed it terribly and I’m sure everyone else would.

P.S. I got over my embarrassing post and did eventually meet Julia Vasko in person. She seem to have gotten prettier. I shall not embarrass myself further (Laughs).

Ticket Pricing:
Adult : S$16
Concessions and discounted prices available for Singaporeans, senior citizens, students and children. Visit ArtScience Museum’s official website here for more details.

 

Six Characters In Search Of An Author: A Bizarre French Madhouse Play

Ironic, Bizarre, Provoking and Brilliant is Six Characters in Search of An Author.

By Abigail Tee

French dramatist Luigi Pirandello’s eccentric play, Six Characters in Search of An Author is part of a Singapore International Festival of Arts 2015 lineup. Staged by Director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota and his Parisian company, Theatre de la Ville, the play is performed at the Victoria Theatre from 10 to 12 September 2015.

Having read and studied this play, my anticipation for Six Characters In Search of An Author was pretty high. Coupled with the fact that I have learnt French, I thought that this play was the perfect opportunity to test my skills as a French student and feed my inner geek as a Literature student. Indeed, it went far above my expectations.

PHOTO: JL FERNANDEZ

PHOTO: JL FERNANDEZ

Premiered in Italy in 1921, Six Characters In Search of An Author is a play written by Luigi Pirandello, who won the Nobel Literature Prize. During its first premiere, the audience was so displeased that Pirandello had to leave through a side exit. This play has been considered by many, academics and avid theatre goers, as a perfect allegory for the theatre. Irrationally thoughtful, Six Characters aims to highlight the contentious relationship of reality and illusion.

The plot of Six Characters was bizarre. Kick-started with a stage manager mechanically painting a sky-like backdrop, I immediately felt an eerie and haunting vibe. Suddenly, this vibe was cut short with an outburst of people on the stage – the Actors. They were running around in preparation to stage Pirandello’s The Rules of the Game. With this, I was immediately cued to understand that this is a play within a play.

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

The music and lighting made me focused on the rustic, subpar but somewhat comical acting of the Actors who are trying their best to beat eggs. Out of the blue, the spotlight shined on Six Characters, standing in the middle of the stage ominously. They felt like dead people begging to come alive. One of the Six Characters, The Father, asked around for an Author to which, the disgruntled Director shooed them away. However, instead of going away, the Six Characters, began to slowly intrude the stage and establish their stage presence.

They launched to tell their tragedy and managed to convince the Director to be their Author to stage their story. Compelled by the exciting plot, the Director told his Actors to abort the initial rehearsal of The Rules of the Game and start afresh with the 6 Characters’ tragedy.

What left an impression on me in Demary-Motta’s interpretation was the stark portrayal of the paradox of the theatre. It became absurdly comical and confusing when the Actors mimicked the Six Characters in hopes of making their acting more realistic. However, when they tried to re-enact certain points of the tragedy told by the Six Characters, I realised what was real and illusory became blurred.

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

PHOTO: JL Fernandez

At that moment, Demary-Motta brilliantly portrayed the heart of theatre where actors and characters have to often bleed into one.  It was even more amazing when The Brother, one of the Six Characters, came off stage and ran near the audience. The fourth wall was broken and it struck me to think if I was truly an audience of this play.

If there were any downside to the play, it would be the surtitles. It was easy to follow when speech was slow but when the play was punched with heated exchanges between the Characters and the Actors, this was when I relied on my French so as to enjoy the scenes on stage.

With no intermission, this 2-hour play would give you a peek to an absurdist’s take on theatre. What is theatre? Who are really the actors? And who is really the audience? It was a fabulous brain-teaser for my upcoming long weekend which left me astutely questioning the reality of theatre and falling in love once again with the French language. AT

 Six Characters In Search Of An Author

Victoria Theatre

Opens 10 to 12 September 2015

Thoughtful and chaotic, real and imagined, spiritual and metaphysical, Six Characters In Search Of An Author asks fascinating questions about the ever-shifting relationships between authors, characters, actors and audiences. This dynamic, startling and emotional production from one of the most famous theatres in France makes its Asian premiere with a big bang.

Ticket Pricing:  $25 – $75

Web Link: Six Characters In Search Of An Author