Possibly offering one of the most eclectic collection of works in Singapore, the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is a bubbling foam of revelry that constantly pushes over the edge to expose, provoke, and examine. Framed by an overarching theme annually, this year’s M1 Fringe, which opened Wednesday (Jan 13) and runs till Jan 24, is probably on its most daring venture yet.
Titled ‘Art and the Animal’, the festival is seething with a spectrum of acts from local to international involving theatre, music, dance, and visual arts to confront humankind’s evolving relationship with the wild. We find out what’s lurking amidst the island’s wilderness. /cue cacophonous safari sounds/
The act: The Shape of a Bird
Who: Saga Seed Theatre. Written by Jean Tay and co-directed by Mei Ann Teo and Benjamin Ho (Paper Monkey Theatre) starring Tan Kheng Hua.
Animal(s) of undertaking: “Birds and cicadas… It’s like even though you may be physically confined, it’s about what the imagination can do to free you. How the imaginary world and art can influence real life and how real life influences art.”
The inspiration: “It was from this documentary from this writer in China. He was talking about how during the cultural revolution, you couldn’t write directly about things. So, say if you wanted to write about a bird, but you’re not allowed to, you would write around a shape of a bird. And I found that to be such a beautiful metaphor to use. I created this fantastical world in which birds came to life.”
The unstageable: “I ask for a lot of impossible things. You fold a paper cicada and that comes to life. Eyes turn into chestnuts and fall out of the boy… With [The Shape of a Bird], the puppetry was essential because of the magic involved. Just to have a piece of newspaper in front of you and within a few short movements to create something and then bring it to life? That is what theatre can do. I wanted to go back to that.”
Seeds to sow: “This is a start; [Saga Seed Theatre’s] first production. We are hoping to provide a platform for Singaporean stories and voices because I think there are a lot of stories in Singapore that are buried or forgotten but I think, need to be told.”
The act: The Chronicles of One and Zero: Kancil
Who: Zeugma featuring actress Gloria Tan and NADA (Rizman Putra and Safuan Johari), with media design by Brandon Tay.
Animal(s) of undertaking: A mouse deer called Kancil.
“Back in the 80s, there were only four channels and this cartoon, Kancil, was on constant airplay. The moral values learnt from that particular animation was very important to us.. When we were younger, there were a lot of children programmes on TV showing folklore. But they are disappearing somehow. We’ve been bombarded with a lot of Western influences like Barney and what-have-you. So these Asian folk stories are important to us.”
The inspiration: “From each other. When we get to the space, we just get the energy from each other. Brandon will come with his animation. Then, Gloria will respond to it. Then, I’ll direct it, then there’s the sound and music. It’s a very organic process.”
Animal meets animation: “The piece is quite interactive. There’s an animation world and the real world. The movements have a Kinect fixture where the animation captures Gloria’s movement and there’s a moment where Gloria will break into the animation world. It is so easy to get five different people to tell a story but to get one person to tell a story with all these things… It’s a challenge.”
If I were an animal, I would be (Guess who’s who): “A baboon. They are fierce, aggressive and rude.” “A cat. It ignores its surroundings and lives in its own world. It just comes to you when it needs food.”
The act: Human Bestiary
The inspiration: “Everyday we read about wars, famine, natural disasters, species dying out, and we knew that somehow, everything was connected. Human Bestiary is a play that was born from a deep concern about how our kind has been exterminating animal species throughout the world, and how the same attitudes that have led to the extinction of those species are also leading to our own destruction.”
Using projections and a live DJ set: “You just have to go with the flow. This job was basically done by Diego, Daniel and Isai. The actresses were pieces of the puzzle. Our job was to be really aware of the music, listening to the beats, not falling out of rhythm; to be aware of the space, to stand exactly where it was needed, so we could be part of the projections…Like a big wave. You just need to swim with it so you won’t get lost in the sea.”
Hear us roar: “We come from a country where more than half of the people live in extreme poverty. Technology makes life easier, but our civilisation is built over the shoulders of thousands of millions of workers that won’t ever benefit from it… We know one of our plays won’t change the world, but we believe that an idea can be spread like an infection. And so does the will to change. “
If we were animals, we would be: “A lioness. They are hunters, and as hunters they are always alert, always conscious of their environment. They do the exact moves to capture their preys. They select a target and they won’t stop until they’ve got it.”
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2016 – Art and the Animal
Dates: 13–24 January 2016
Ticket purchase: www.sistic.com.sg