There’s always something going on with the arts scene in Singapore. Here are our top picks of theatre and dance shows that are worth the effort this May!
Throughout May, Singapore’s stages are literally buzzing! It’s been particularly hard narrowing it all down to just a few this month, but I think we’re there, just! Even though we have slightly cheated by giving The Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA) a little slot all to themselves (it actually covers many show in one hit), besides that, there’s beautiful, colourful stories for the kids and some controversial, meaty ones for mamas, too.
This sounds like it will be enchanting and a wonderful theatrical experience for little ones, or for anyone of any age, really, who still enjoys that sense of wonder when they hear the magical words… once upon a time!
The theatre company And So Forth has created an immersive theatre show which sounds intriguing to say the least! There’s a series of spaces which it calls ‘story realms’ which the audience will move through, very much in their own time and their own pace. You’ll be in a desert with Ali Baba one moment and then a rabbit hole with Alice the next, or you may find yourself going down a beanstalk, in a mermaid’s shell, or taking a ride on a pumpkin carriage!
The whole experience has a modern twist, too! Whilst the tales are the traditional ones we all know and love, each realm is bright and playful with lots of modern takes on the oldies. The experience is being badged as an ‘Instagram museum’, a concept that has done really well in the US but it’s the first time it has been tried here. Where as in traditional theatre we are all told to turn our phones off, the creators of 22 Stories are actively encouraging everyone to keep them on, snap away and share as many great pics as possible!
It sounds like a fun concept, for big kids as well as small, and something for the whole family. And in addition to feeding your imagination, you can also feed your stomachs as the And So Forth team have collaborated with Farm Appetit to offer audiences “Food Wonderland”: a space where you can rest and eat, and I’m sure always go back from more (food or theatre!) at any point, too!
When: 1 May 2019 – 30 June 2019 (Fridays to Sundays)
Timings: 5:30pm-9:30pm (Fri, Sat, Sun); 10am-2pm (Sat to Sun)
Where: 200 Pandan Gardens Singapore 609336
How much: $38 for tickets click on the link here
Best for: Young families
If you are a mama who enjoys contemporary dance then I expect you’ll already have tickets to this and you’ll need no convincing of Cloud Gate’s brilliance and the likelihood that this show, a retrospective of the esteemed choreographer Lin Hwai Min’s work, will be beyond beautiful!
If, on the other hand, you have never quite ‘got it ‘and maybe think contemporary dance isn’t for you, then this would be the time to think again, give it another chance, and go and get some tickets, too. Experiencing a performance of this scale and calibre really is one not to be missed!
Cloud Gate is regarded as one of the leading dance companies in the world; you just need to have a quick look at photos and YouTube to get a measure of how stunningly incredible their work is. The company is so legendary in Taiwan, its birth place, that it even had a street named after it – ‘Cloud Gate Lane’ – and August 21 is named ‘Cloud Gate Day’ in its honour! Never before has a living artist or active artistic organisation in the country received such an accolade.
The New York Times wrote, “Cloud Gate affirmed the glory of beauty itself” and Time Out in London claimed, “when you are talking about Cloud Gate, magic is not too strong a word.”
After nearly five decades at its helm, Lin Hwai Min is stepping down as its Artistic Director at the end of this year. This show features excerpts from nine of his most acclaimed pieces and really is a must-see, for so many reasons, with unmatchable magic and beauty at the top of that list!
When: 3- 4 May
Timings: 8pm and 3pm
Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore 038981
How much: $30 – $120; click here to purchase tickets
Best for: 12 and up; or a mamas’ night out
This is one of those really sweet shows, mamas, and a lovely, special way of introducing theatre to tiny tots. There are large cuddly puppets, great songs, a silly storyline, and lots of toe tapping along the way as well! Whether you fall in love with Elmer himself, the frogs, the lion or any of the other many colourful characters, you and your children are likely to leave this show smiling and singing a tune!
The creator of Elmer, David McKee, is perhaps most famous for creating Mr Benn, but the story behind Elmer is incredibly moving. McKee was inspired to create the lovable patchwork elephant almost 30 years ago after experiencing racism first-hand. Walking down the street with his wife and daughter, both of Indian decent, a young boy verbally abused them in the street.
Since then, the world’s most colourful elephant has been opening children’s minds to accepting differences, seeing people for what they are on the inside and stressing the virtue of being oneself. The Guardian even named him a LGBT hero for his work on addressing so beautifully the differences we all have!
The show has been touring the world and has been seen and enjoyed by thousands already. If your children know the book, or if you’d just like to take them to experience and enjoy a wonderful story with a much-needed message, this is definitely the one for you this month!
When: 9 – 12 May
Timings: Thurs & Fri, 5pm; Sat & Sun, 11am, 2 & 4.30pm
Where: KC Arts Centre – Home of SRT, 20 Merbau Road, Singapore 239035
How much: $42 – $62, click here to buy tickets
Best for: Little ones up to age 7
Singapore confronts ‘Me Too’: This is what happens to pretty girls
It’s extraordinary to think that less than two years ago, #metoo was a largely unknown term. Although it actually began back in 2006, the movement gained worldwide prominence when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted it following the now infamous Harvey Weinstein scandal in October 2017, and then other celebrities retweeted it and, as we all know, it went viral.
Milano said she had wanted to encourage other victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it to “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem” however I expect no one could have estimated the massive global movement that it spurred.
In response comes a bold new work This is what happens to pretty girls. It looks set to be a punchy and provocative world premiere and is the first time anyone in Singapore has addressed the issues the movement espouses on stage. Ken Kwek, who wrote the piece, carried out over 100 interviews with victims and has drawn from true-life stories of sexual trauma. He describes it as having been ‘a journey of his own reckoning’ and believes the topic to be as much a man’s issue – if not more so – as it is a woman’s one.
Pangdemonium is a theatre company that’s no stranger to tackling meaty and controversial issues on stage and describes this as one that will “pull apart preconceptions, confound conspiracy theories, and make you question yourself and the people you think you know.” Given the subject matter plus the fabulous cast it has assembled to bring Kwek’s words to life, it will undoubtedly be a show that’s going to get the whole town talking, not just a theatre. And as advocates of female empowerment and gender equality, mamas, this is a timely and important piece and definitely one to be part of!
When: 10 – 26 May 2019
Timings: Tue – Sat 8PM; Sat – Sun 3PM
Where: Drama Centre Theatre – 100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064
How much: $25 – $75; click here to purchase tickets.
Best for: 16+ (given the themes and language anyone 15 and under will be refused entry); or mamas’ night out
SIFA continues to grow in breadth and depth and the line-up of international and local artists alike for this year’s event is literally a feast for the senses! There are shows of every genre, many that will push you out of a comfort zone and take you to new and exciting places. For anyone who loves the arts, it is like one of those amazing free flow brunch buffets where you just don’t know where to start, but you know for sure you’d devour it all if you could!
However, knowing there’s never enough time to do it all, I’ve picked some of best, the biggies, the ones that I’m pretty sure will be the show stoppers! But do have a flick through the full program yourself too, mamas, as there is so much to experience. Very excitingly, there are many great events that are free, too!
Beware of Pity is a co-production between two of the world’s most exciting theatre companies, using actors from Schaubühne Berlin in Germany, directed by one of the UK’s most acclaimed directors, Complicité’s Simon McBurney. Whilst the show itself sounds really interesting and looks at ‘complex themes of moral paralysis and psychological guilt’, the cast and creatives are amongst the best of the best and so are worth going to see, just to watch what they do and how they do it!
Bedtime Stories by URLAND from The Netherlands looks rather weird and wonderful. It’s part radio play and part theatre, and uses stunning sound and lightscapes to build a world which is real but fuelled largely by your imagination.
Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner is a new work created by the wonderful Singapore company, Checkpoint. It’s described as multi-disciplinary and looks at humanitarian workers caught in the crosshairs of a crisis. It will undoubtedly be a challenging piece and will pull no punches, posing vital questions about the world we all live in.
Whilst many are for adult audiences, there are some great shows for kids, too and Peter and the Wolf is one! It was first written in 1936 with the ambition to teach children about all the different instruments in an orchestra but it has now been adapted and modernised. The orchestra is replaced with a six–piece band and the story is told as a visual spectacle through the use of live animation and puppetry. It sounds so enchanting I expect it will delight those aged 5 to 55 in equal measure!
When: 16 May – 2 June 2019
For more info on all SIFA events, click here
Hero image by Liu Chen-Hsiang. Image #4 (Pangdemonium) via Facebook