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


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


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


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)


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


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


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)


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


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.

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.

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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


da:ns festival 2015: Fall In Love With Dance This October

da:ns festival 2015 celebrates its 10th anniversary with specially-curated lineup of local commissions and international co-productions.

DATE: 9 to 19 October 2015
PLACE: Various Locations in Esplanade
PROGAMMES: da:ns festival website

da:ns festival has come a long way since its inception in 2006. This year’s theme is ‘An Invitation To Move’. Pulling out all the stops for the 10th year milestone, da:ns festival presents a world of dance that inspires us to fall in love with dance all over again, with performances by dance legends; Sylvie Guillem (Life in Progress – Selling Fast), Akram Khan and Israel Galván (TOROBAKA – Selling Fast) in the fold.

da:ns festival 2015The annual dance festival also features local commissions – which I am really looking forward to watching – by Singapore veteran artists Kuik Swee Boon, Silvia Yong, Jeffrey Tan and Albert Tiong (Above 40 四十不惑 – SOLD OUT), and Choy Ka Fai (SoftMachine), and a host of free programmes such as mass dance sessions; What’s Your Move?

da:ns festival has brought many critically-acclaimed acts and performers to our shores through the years. Taking pride in its inclusiveness, the festival has given Singaporeans opportunities to engage and interact with the art form free, if not at a fraction of its original cost. Concession are also available for students, NSFs and the elderly too.

If I can be frank, dance is perhaps Singapore’s ‘least-loved’ in the performing arts category, the other two being theatre and music. So it’s quite a remarkable feat for the annual dance festival to not just survive, but flourish after a full decade.

This October, tell your friends, put on your dancing shoes and let’s dance. RW

My Top 5 Picks 

Photos and information from da:ns festival 2015. For more information, visit da:ns festival 2015 official webpage.

Life in Progress (Co-Production)

Esplanade Theatre

13 & 14 October, Tuesday & Wednesday, 8pm
Price: $40 – $120
Web Link: Life in Progress

Which ballet enthusiast doesn’t know Sylvie Guillem? No doubt one of the greatest dancers of all time, Guillem has had an unparalleled 35-year career as a ballerina and contemporary dancer.

Guillem’s illustrious career first began when she was promoted to Paris Opera Ballet’s youngest étoile (leading ballerina) at the age of 19. Since then, she has played it all; from Juliet, to Aurora, to Odette, and Giselle in ballets by legendary choreographers Kenneth MacMillan, Maurice Béjart, Frederick Ashton, William Forsythe and Mats Ek.

Life in Progress PHOTO: Bill Cooper

Life in Progress PHOTO: Bill Cooper

We are extremely privileged to have Guillem performing her swan song, Life In Progress in our shores. In the performance, Guillem will dance two new works including technê, a solo with live musicians on stage, choreographed by Sacred Monsters creator Akram Khan. The second will be a duet entitled Here & After with Italian dancer Emanuela Montanari and Russell Maliphant.

In the event that you fail to secure tickets to witness Guillem take her final bow in Life In Progress, make sure to get tickets to In Conversation with Sylvie Guillem. Guillem will be sharing her experiences on and off the dance stage. There is only one talk and the price is affordable.

SoftMachine (Festival Commission)

Esplanade Theatre Studio

Part A: Surjit Nongmeikapam (India) & Rianto (Indonesia)
17 October, Saturday, 3pm
18 October, Sunday, 8pm

Part B: Xiao Ke x Zi Han (China) & Yuya Tsukahara (Japan)
17 October, Saturday, 8pm
18 October, Sunday, 3pm

Price: $30
Web Link: SoftMachine

Driven by his personal desire to study the choreographic processes of Asian contemporary dance, SoftMachine is the end product of Choy Ka Fai’s decade-long research project. The project took him across Asia, with him 88 Asian dance-makers in that process.

PHOTO: Bernie Ng

PHOTO: Bernie Ng

SoftMachine is split into two parts. Part A is performed by Surjit Nongmeikapam (India) and Rianto (Indonesia). Breaking out of his conservative Manipuri roots, Nongmeikapam creates a dance for the consumption of European audiences while questioning the point of exoticism. Rianto explores the personal and societal tension of gender in dance-making through the traditional dance of Lengger.

In part B, Yuya Tsukahara (Japan) subjects Choy to a brutal contact improvised duet and interview while Xiao Ke and Zi han (China) reflect on the societal and political context of their environment through symbolism in dance. The result is a part-performance, part-interview spectacle that chronicled in a documentary-styled arrangement.

Impulse (Festival Commission)

Esplanade Backstage

9 & 16 October, Friday, 7.30pm & 10.30pm
10 & 17 October, Saturday, 3pm & 9pm
11 & 18 October, Sunday, 3pm & 7pm

Price: $30
Web Link: Impulse

Some people take the ‘The world’s your stage’ quite literally. In Imuplse, T.H.E Dance Company resident and master choreographer Kim Jae Duk (South Korea) turns Esplanade’s backstage into the playground for dancers.

PHOTO: Bernie Ng

PHOTO: Bernie Ng

Known for his attention-grabbing and innovative works that are often thought-provoking and dynamic, Kim is a rising star in the dance world. In Impulse, no two performances are the same. The dancers engage and react with the natural condition of Esplanade’s backstage spaces, creating an experience that is unique to every performance.

Expect fast-paced choreography and one-of-a-kind dance performance as Impulse takes you on a ride through Esplanade’s hidden spaces.

Do note that there will not be any latecomer’s entry for this performance. Travel light and put on comfortable footwear as you will be standing throughout the entire performance.

Here’s Clocker, one of my favourite performance by Kim Jae Duk:

TOROBAKA (Co-Production)

Esplanade Theatre

16 & 17 October, Friday & Saturday, 8pm
Price: $20 – $100

Torobaka means duet in Latin. Collaborating together for the first time, Kathak dancer Akram Khan (UK) and Flamenco dancer Israel Galván (Spain) – both celebrated dancers in their own universe – will perform in this epic duet-of-a-performance which defies genre and culture.

TOROBAKA PHOTO: Jean-Louis Fernandez

TOROBAKA PHOTO: Jean-Louis Fernandez

Accentuated by the rhythms from Khan’s ankle bells and bare feet and Galván’s flamenco shoes, the dance masters are accompanied on stage by Spanish and Indian musicians who provide stunning live vocals and music.

Who could have taught that Indian classical dance can share the same stage as Spanish dance Flamenco? Guess we will have to wait and see. It’s gonna be one epic duet. Tickets are limited, be quick.

What’s Your Move? (Mass Dance)

Stage@Powerhouse (Esplanade Waterfront)

Dates and timings listed below
Price: Free
Web Link: What’s Your Move

Fancy dancing under the moonlight with hundred others by the Esplanade Waterfront? Join one of the What’s Your Move? mass dance sessions this October. What’s Your Move? is da:ns festival’s staple and most popular dance programme year after year.

PHOTO: Jeff Low

PHOTO: Jeff Low

Always wanted to try out Waltz? Or are you a Hip Hop fan? Maybe a little Lindy Hop? How about some Bollywood? With three themed nights over two weekends, there’s a dance (or two) for you and your companion to enjoy. These easy-to-learn dance routines will be taught and conducted by professional dance instructors.

Friday I’m in Love

What better way to stoke the flames of love than with some tantalising Tango and groovy Jazz? Embrace the moment as you and your partner dip and float through an elegant Waltz.

9 Oct, Fri
Waltz by The DanceSport Academy, 8pm – 9pm
Tango + Milonga *new!* by Tango Del Sur, 9.30pm – 11.30pm

16 Oct, Fri
Lindy Hop by Jazz Inc, 8pm – 9pm
Charleston by Jazz Inc, 9.30pm – 10.30pm

Saturday Night Fever

Burn up the dance floor with some sizzling Salsa and Bachata moves on the first weekend. Turn it up a notch with some pumping music and high-energy dance styles like Hip Hop and K-Pop on the following weekend.

10 Oct, Sat
Salsa by ACTFA, 8pm – 9pm
Bachata by ACTFA, 9.30pm – 10.30pm

17 Oct, Sat
Hip Hop by Danz People, 8pm – 9pm
K-Pop by Caius Coalition, 9.30pm – 10.30pm

Sunday Funday

Cut loose and kick off your shoes! You don’t need to be in your Sunday best to enjoy our groovy party. With fun dances like Jive, Flamenco, Lindy Hop and Bollywood, these sessions are perfect for people of all ages.

11 Oct, Sun
Jive by The DanceSport Academy, 8pm – 9pm
Flamenco by Flamenco Sin Fronteras, 9.30pm – 10.30pm

18 Oct, Sun
Street Dance by Jazz Inc, 8pm – 9pm
Bollywood by Bollybeatz, 9.30pm – 10.30pm

da:ns festival 2015

Opens 9 to 18 October 2015

Celebrating the spirit of movement since 2006, da:ns festival2015 presents a world of dance that inspires and makes you fall in love with dance all over again. da:ns festival invites you to release and to discover, through movement, your true self.

Ticket Pricing: Varies according to Production

Web Link:

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.



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

Hello Goodbye: Safe And Predictable Romantic Comedy

Hello Goodbye proves that a man and woman should never be left alone in an apartment.

Singapore Repertory Theatre presents Hello Goodbye, the first romantic comedy staged in 15 years not since 2001’s Barefoot in the Park. The play will be staged at the DBS Arts Centre from 2 to 26 September 2015. Hello Goodbye is written by Peter Souter and directed by Lisa Spirling.

“Who the freezing fuck are you?” exclaimed the vulgar damsel upon discovery of a man in her supposed newly rented apartment. Gold 905 radio DJ Denise Tan plays outspoken and fiesty Juliet whose life is in a mess while heartthrob Shane Mardjuki plays introverted toy collector Alex whose life is about to become one.



Turns out, there has been a mistake on the side of the side of Juliet’s property agent, leaving her in distress. However, our heroine is not be outdone, exchanging snappy banter and witty one-liners in an attempt to lay claim on the apartment as her rightful birthright.

Despite being threatened that a beating by Juliet’s muscular boyfriend ensures should he not vacate the apartment, Alex doesn’t buy it. The two begins a narrative exposition where Juliet reveals she is in a crisis after being caught red-handed for a serious case of infidelity with her flatmate’s husband-to-be on the wedding day itself.

Temperatures rising as Juliet takes off her top and makes out (and proceeded onto you-know-what) with Alex who in an earlier moment, swore off being interested in the former. Fast forward by 10 years, the duo is filing for divorce. Old and new issues surfaced in one climatic scene that unsurprisingly does not derail the narrative which ends with a happily-ever-after.

A romantic comedy that runs on the typical Hollywood-prescribed formula, it’s difficult to dislike Hello Goodbye. But I’m not saying that it is the ‘Romantic Comedy Play of the year’. The dialogue overladen with witty banter and wordplay was well-thought-out and funny on many occasions. Eg. “The moment I drop my front (meaning her emotional barrier), you’ll want to see my front (meaning her chest).” Yet I find myself grasping for air – and for something different for a change – by the end of the first act.



Tan did a stellar job with Juliet but I would reckon that audiences find it hard to sympathise with the female protagonist. Her infidelity becomes a recurring topic in the play as was the case with us audiences since she did indeed have an affair with her flatmate’s husband and later with some dude who drives a Aston Martin behind Alex’s back.

Although Tan and Mardjuki had great chemistry on stage, it was a stretch to find any compatibility at all between Juliet and Alex other than the fact that they are both warm-blooded and they both enjoy a good sex. The narrative was advanced through dialogue a tad too recklessly as both went from complete strangers and mortal enemies, to can’t-take-my-lips-off-yours lovers in a matter of 40, or 39 minutes to be exact. Blame the pheromones!

There were some sweet moments in the play though. I liked the part where soon-to-be-single Alex hands Juliet a piece of bubble wrap because she loves to “pop the bubbles” and when she discovers that the locked chest actually contains a collection of all things Juliet – including her passport?

But the story plot goes critically thin when issues like Juliet’s desire to have babies, Alex’s lack of verbal affection is brought out again after 10 years. A newlywed’s honeymoon phase would have worn out by a year and those issues should have surfaced 10 months into marriage and not 10 years after.

However, if you get logic out of the way, Hello Goodbye is every bit of the feel-good romantic comedy that it positions itself to be. Both Tan and Mardjuki did a wonderful job in their roles. In the end, Hello Goodbye leaves you feeling everything is going to work out just right – if the baby comes. RW

Many thanks to SRT for the media passes.

Hello Goodbye

DBS Arts Centre

Opens 2 to 26 September 2015

After a sell-out run at the Hampstead Theatre in London, SRT is delighted to bring Hello Goodbye, the hottest romantic comedy of the year to Singapore. Featuring a star cast including Shane Mardjuki (Shakespeare in the Park – Twelfth Night, Unlucky Plaza) and Denise Tan (Dim Sum Dollies, Gold 90.5FM DJ).

Ticket Pricing: $15 – $60

Web Link: Hello Goodbye

Exclusive: Interview with Dick Lee The Mad Chinaman

Reuelwrites speaks to the Mad Chinaman himself in an exclusive email interview.

Reviving his legendary show, The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman, the one-night only concert to be performed at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 22 September will see Dick Lee bringing back his sold out show.

Singapore’s favourite singing sensation is a name befitting the music juggernaut known as Dick Lee. Lee first gained regional prominence when his 1989 album The Mad Chinaman achieved platinum status in Singapore. Lee chalked up accolades after accolades since then.

Lee composed songs for Asia’s top singing talents such as Jackie Cheung, Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, Anita Mui and Stephanie Sun. Lee was also the brains behind the tunes for sellout musicals like Beauty World (1988), Fried Rice Paradise (1991, 2010), Forbidden City (2003) to name a few.THE MAD CHINAMAN

It was also the Cultural Medallion recipient who composed the heart-stirring 1998 National Day Parade song, Home (家) performed by local singer, Kit Chan. The song remains as Singaporeans’ top favourite NDP song of all times, with it being sung most recently by Chan at the SG50 National Day Parade. Lee also composed the songs for the 2015 sold-out show, The LKY Musical starring Adrian Pang and Sharon Au.

The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first performed in 2011. The concert performance recounts his incredible musical journey from his childhood in the ‘60s to the debut of his 1989 alter ego, The Mad Chinaman. Reuniting with renowned director Jonathan Lim from the show’s debut staging, the upsized version will be greater and grander than ever before.

Check out my interview with the man himself below. RW

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

PHOTO: Joel Low Photography

Hi Dick,

It’s a pleasure to interview you. Before we proceed further, I would like to extend a big CONGRATULATIONS to you for a resoundingly successful The LKY Musical! The music scores were a perfect fit for the musical.

  1. Dick, we have seen you as a singer, composer, songwriter and even a playwright. You’re a man of many talents. But if you could only choose one ‘talent’, which would you choose and why?

The first three you named are all linked to music, so I’d say music, as its my first love, and my most reliable means of expressing myself.

  1. Tell me something about you which nobody knows about.

I can’t ride a bicycle.

  1. The adventures of the Mad Chinaman was first staged in 2011. What has changed since then? What other adventures did the ‘Mad Chinaman’ go through in the past 4 years?

The first production ended in 1990 when I went to Japan, but this year’s show goes further to reveal my exploits in Japan and Hong Kong. I still end the show at around the late nineties so that I have more material for my next run.

  1. You started this musical journey since the 60s – way before many of us yappies were even born – and came up with the alter-ego ‘The Mad Chinaman’ in 1989. How did the idea of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ came about?

The whole show is about how that came to be, so I suggest you watch the concert to find out. (You can also read my autobiography upon which the show is based). Anyway, the Mad Chinaman is the name of my breakthrough album released in 1989.

  1. Tell me about one production you were involved in which you felt was the ‘defining moment’ in your career. What was your role in that production?

The release of ‘The Mad Chinaman’ was the turning point in my career. After its success, I was able to go full-time into music (I ran an events company prior to that), and it also launched my career in Asia.

  1. 40 years is a long time. Were there any moments that you felt unsure about this career path? Where would you be if you haven’t pursue music?

There have been several moments in my career when I was unsure if music was the right choice for me. However, these moments forced me to re-invent myself, and opened up new doors and broadened my experience.

  1. Finally, what can we expect from this Upsized, musical version of your life story? (raw, personal, intimate, etc)

The 2011 production was very intimate as it was held in a much smaller venue. This time, I need to fill the Esplanade Concert Hall with my songs and story, and I have a nine-piece band to help me with the music. But as for the story-telling part- well, I’ll just have to rely on my personality to pull it off.

Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized

Esplanade Concert Hall

Opens 3 September 2015 (One day only)

Dick Lee brings back his sold out show which recounts his musical journey from his childhood in the 60s to the debut of his alter-ego The Mad Chinaman in 1989. Illustrating his story with songs from his 40-year career, the UPSIZED version features a band of Singapore’s top musicians and an extended storyline which includes his adventures in Asia as The Mad Chinaman.

Ticket Pricing: $38 – $78 (Discounts available – visit the web link)

Web Link: Dick Lee The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman Upsized