In celebration of SG50, this year’s Singapore Night Festival promises even more wonder and spectacle.
TEXT BY JO TAN
Published on 18 August 2015
TEXT BY JO TAN
Where in this city-state can you see sparkling, curious creatures come out under cover of darkness? The Night Safari? Nope. Try this year’s bedazzling Singapore Night Festival. More than half a million visitors attended last year’s Night Festival and even more are expected at this eighth edition of the annual event, which sees over 30 glittering international and local artists inundating the Bugis/Bras Basah precinct with super-spectacular sights, including the ever-popular sound-and-light show at the National Museum of Singapore’s lawn. This year, it features aerialists sailing around the Museum’s façade and showering gifts on the waiting crowd.
The concert line-up at the Festival Village stage on the Singapore Management University Green will feature local busking heroes such as The Lost Hat and HubbaBubbas, serenading visitors as they check out the hipster flea market or sample special snacks at epicurean food stalls. Also expect elaborately-outfitted performers to spice up the scene within the National Museum, Peranakan Museum, Singapore Philatelic Museum and Singapore Art Museum, to which there will be free entry for all.
“Everybody is celebrating SG50 and so are we — in our own way. The theme this year is ‘Glitz and Glamour’, in reference to the country’s ‘Golden’ Jubilee,” says Christie Chua, creative director of the festival. “Everything is very celebratory and fun, and of course, glamorous. Even audiences are encouraged to come all dressed up.”
In line with that, certain characters are going big on boisterousness and scaling up on sequins. For the first time, the Night Festival will feature the House of Glamour, a brand-new venue premiering at the festival this year. A plain white tent by day, it is beautifully illuminated at night.
“The House of Glamour will feature only local artists, with free and ticketed performances of not just music and theatre, but everything in between. We have ventriloquism, stand-up comedy, puppetry and even the quintessential Kumar, just to name a few,” explains Chua. “The Night Festival has always been about being an all-inclusive platform for very different types of art you might not normally see.”
Speaking of puppetry, don’t imagine sweet, sanitised kiddy amusement, especially in the sparkly spirit of the Night Festival. “This preconception of puppetry as children’s entertainment is one barrier all puppeteers have been trying to break. Different puppetry can be for different ages — don’t forget many Star Wars characters and Jurassic Park dinosaurs are also puppets,” reminds Frankie Malachi, puppeteer extraordinaire who has won awards for puppet performance and design all over the globe.
“My Night Festival performance is called Lost Vegas and it’s a puppet cabaret featuring everything from puppet belly-dancers to those performing a striptease-inspired number. But mainly, it’s about acts that get lost in Vegas — acrobats, including high-wire performers, plus nostalgic figures Elvis, Michael Jackson and Carmen Miranda.”
Of course, classic Night Festival programmes featuring light installations will continue to have a strong presence. Local group Starlight Alchemy, one of this year’s highlights, will be performing a 75-minute epic (broken up into three segments) told through various flow arts, art forms that integrate dance and creative movement with manipulation of props. Look out for a variety of aerial and large, custom-made fire props and LED performance props. After their performance, the group will also leave behind their installations for audiences to view.
“The nature of our performances has always been both performance art and visual art, so creating these installations is an extension of what we’ve always been doing,” says Johari Kazura, a driving member of Starlight Alchemy. “In any case, every single element you see in our shows — the costumes, the fire and light props — we have to design ourselves. They’re certainly not on the open market — nobody else readily makes flamethrowers. So we make all these fire props for the show which you see for five minutes, and now, to let audiences spend more time with and get a feel for them, we are adapting them into art pieces like light helixes.”
The high-spirited Inuits in ‘The Anooki Celebrate Singapore’ (below) are another crowd-pleasing light installation. Join them as they bound around the National Museum façade, celebrating the nation’s Golden Jubilee with their special new performance.
While this year’s artists are stunningly diverse, the festival aims to attract audiences just as varied. Says Chua, “It’s for people of all walks of life, attracted by the different sights and performers. It’s working — we even see families with children out and about at 1am. The audience has been growing year by year because it’s a unique experience and there’s something for everyone.”