Best of the Fest Issue 23

Published on 18 August 2015

The 2015 Singapore International Festival of Arts dazzles with confidence and diversity. Here are our fortnightly festival favourites.

BY JO TAN

Cabinet of Curiosities

27-29 August, SOTA Studio Theatre

Margaret Leng Tan will play many instruments at this curious concert, but not ones you might expect. A teapot, an alarm clock, microtonal call bells as well as toy pianos, are all part of her instrumental line-up that features everything from the Beatles to Chinese opera-inspired pieces. Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The 70 year-old, Singapore-born, New York-based

musician/recording artist has long garnered fame by drawing surprisingly sensitive music from unexpected sources, beginning with the tiny toy piano that’s short on stature and keys. Having first tried out the petite instrument more than 20 years ago playing her mentor John Cage’s ‘Suite for Toy Piano’, this internationally-acclaimed Queen of the Toy Piano was struck by how one could create subtleties on the toy piano. “That’s when I realised this little unassuming instrument with a sweet, sinister sound had the potential to be a real instrument.” And from this concert, it looks like she’s realising the musical potential of other surprising objects too.

Cabanons

2-6 September, open field opposite Bugis Junction @ Tan Quee Lan Street

You may have seen circus acts, but probably not in the diminutive spaces of cabanons, or small circus tents that hold a very limited number of people. Designed by French installation artist Daniel Buren as artworks in themselves with minimal internal structures, get up close to aerialists, tightrope walkers, acrobats, hoopers, jugglers, musicians and even the ringmaster, as you see their vulnerability, intimacy and struggle that is usually overwhelmed in a normal circus setting by glitz, glamour and distance.

The Revolutionary Model Play 2.0

2-4 September, The Singapore Airlines Theatre, LASALLE College of the Arts

While artists are often wary of censorship, some art forms are practically created by censors, namely the yangbanxi, or Revolutionary Model Play, created by Jiang Qing (wife of Mao Zedong) from a combination of Peking Opera, ballet and pure propaganda for the sole purpose of glorifying the Chinese Communist Party. These were the only stage performances made available to the entire Chinese population throughout the decade-long Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Now, Wang Chong, a leader in Chinese experimental theatre, has created a mockumentary on the form, brought to life through fictional interviews with key politicians, leading artistes, die-hard fans and scholars obsessed with the art form, all performed by young actors from LASALLE College of the Arts.

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