Gateway to the Arts

Published on 26 June 2017

Bukit Merah welcomes a glittering new performing arts complex to the neighbourhood.


Performing artists in Singapore are always on the lookout for new spaces where they can mount their work, and as a result, more companies and collectives are moving their work out of the downtown belt. This July, the official opening festival of Gateway Theatre at Bukit Merah heralds a new performing arts venue that looks set to be both a buzzing community space and valuable platform for Singapore’s explosive performing arts industry.

Operated by Gateway Entertainment, the complex contains a handsome 930-seat theatre, a 230-seater black box, a sleek gallery, as well as numerous outdoor venues. The space also comes outfitted with a dance studio and a small rehearsal studio, making this privately run performing arts venue a prime spot for Singapore’s ever-busy performing arts industry, which is keeping existing venues practically bursting at the seams.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT Gateway Theatre houses a black box, theatre, gallery and mix of outdoor venues.


To mark its grand debut, Gateway has commissioned a multi-genre opening festival in July, programmed by theatre director Samantha Scott-Blackhall, who has worked closely with the venue to dream up long-term possibilities far beyond the opening events. Scott-Blackhall says that while the locale is primarily a venue-for-hire space, she hopes that in the long run, it will become a vital arts hub for the surrounding community, especially nearby schools and residential areas.

“I’m encouraging Gateway to think about how to fill the gaps in the arts community, how to reach out to the people around Bukit Merah,” says Scott-Blackhall, adding that this long-term vision has influenced the way she has programmed the opening festival, which features a line-up of independent artists and collectives alongside more established companies. “It’s an opportunity to offer artists space and encourage this mission to support local work,” she says, adding that down the line, with its own internal programming and festival programming, Gateway could become a valuable new asset for space-strapped, small to mid-sized performing arts groups in Singapore.


Beyond providing space for performance, Gateway was also designed to be a meeting point for the neighbouring community. Public garden spaces within the complex are open from 9am to 9pm, and are meant to be ‘open use’ spaces, ideal for jamming, studying, and even rehearsal, in a pinch. “There’s a lot of potential in the building. It’ll develop its character and personality when artists, students, and people from the community come to be inspired,” says Scott-Blackhall.

Scott-Blackhall’s opening festival aims to give the neighbourhood a taste of what could soon be regular fare at the complex. Its headliner events include Hansel & Gretel, a family show put up by children’s theatre veterans Players Theatre, and As It Fades, a contemporary dance performance by T.H.E Dance Company. Both events are ticketed, but a bulk of the festival comprises free programmes, featuring a mix of everything from photography exhibitions, rock concerts, children’s theatre, and live graffiti painting. Apart from the above, there are also free workshops, like hip-hop and B-boy dance classes, and a Festival Market with vendors selling craft wares, artisanal food, and books.

“I want to encourage people in the area to check out what Singapore artists have to offer. We don’t want to present atas [high-class] forms that they can’t connect with, that’s why the ticket prices are very low,” says Scott-Blackhall. “We want to say, ‘Hey, it’s not hard to get in touch with the arts.’ ”


Comedy, children’s theatre, live graffiti painting! It’s all happening at Gateway Theatre’s opening festival.

Main Events


Hilarious husband-and-wife stand-up duo, Sharul Channa and Rishi Budhrani, are joined by guests Samuel See and Jacky Ng. They take to the stage with their customary wry insights on everything from marriage and art to Singapore drivers.

7-8 July, 8.30pm, $10.
Tickets at


From the company that brought us the wickedly theatrical, spellbinding musical production of Coraline comes this spin on evergreen fairy tale Hansel & Gretel. Promising an especially dark and enchanting turn at the hands of Players Theatre and Players Workshop, this staging is directed by Carina Hales.

30 June, 8pm; 1-2 July, 1.30pm & 4.30pm; 8-9 July, 1.30pm & 4.30pm; $15 (students), $20 (adults). Tickets at

Free Programmes


Actor-musician Erwin Shah Ismail performs this conversational monologue that centres on the leather industry, consumer culture, and luxury goods, all the while conducting a live leather-crafting demonstration. 9 July, 7pm.


Catch screenings of local hit films like Army Daze (7 July, 10pm), Ilo Ilo (9 July, 4.30pm), and Long Long Time Ago (8 July, 10pm) at the Gateway black box.


Singapore graffiti artist and self-described “visual anarchist” Clogtwo! is known for his brand of dark-humoured street art. He will create a mural on a side of the theatre building, working live for several hours over two days.
8-9 July, 1pm-5.30pm.

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