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Visit HDB homes, have a picnic at Singapore International Festival of Arts 2017

This year’s edition brings back the popular Open Homes programme. And along with film, food and comics-related shows, the festival also features a play based on a classic Singaporean novel and another one that looks at Singapore in 2021. 

SINGAPORE: From home cooks welcoming visitors to their kitchens to families opening their doors to strangers, this year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) will have a decidedly inclusive and participatory vibe when it kicks off in June.

The festival’s full line-up of events was announced on Wed (Jan 19), and it will include the return of its popular Open Homes programme, which saw Singapore residents welcoming visitors into their homes for a unique theatrical experience back in 2015.

And for the first time, the 30 participating homes will include those from HDB public housing estates.

“There’s a certain assumption that those in HDB flats are either young families or retirees, but quite a number of the folks opening up their homes are young, middle-aged professionals,” said Open Homes director Jeffrey Tan, who said that the participants range from artists to homeschooling groups to even an inspirational speaker and a public administrator.

“Each of the 30 homes will have charming stories to tell and a lot of them will surprise audiences,” he said.

The Open Homes programme is one of two SIFA events that involve encounters with strangers in domestic spaces. Another event, called OPEN Kitchens, will see audiences cooking meals with 20 home cooks. 

And for those who want to partake in a more public, communal setting, a pop-up culture-meets-food event called OPEN Picnic will also be held at the Malay Heritage Centre.


K Rajagopal's short film Lizard On The Wall will see audiences take part in the filming process. (Photo: Akanga Film Asia)

A FESTIVAL BOX WITH DIFFERENT GIFTS

Revolving around the theme of Enchantment, this year’s SIFA edition will run from June 28 to Sept 9. It will feature 16 commissions focusing on Singapore artists and local collaborations with international artists, and seven international productions.

As the fourth and final instalment under the leadership of theatre director Ong Keng Sen, organisers decided to combine SIFA and its pre-festival experimental series The OPEN into one seamless experience. Previously, there was a one-month gap between the two events.

“It seems hefty, but it will be a well-paced programme through a number of weeks, where in a sense, you unravel a festival box with many different sorts of gifts,” said Ong.

Prior to announcing the full line-up, organisers had already revealed some of the festival highlights.

These included offerings from directors K Rajagopal and Lav Diaz, from Singapore and the Philippines, respectively; Lebanese food activist Kamal Mouzawak; and Singaporean artist Sonny Liew.

Liew, who will be making his live performance debut, will be collaborating with local director Edith Podesta for a piece called Becoming Graphic. It will be based on a short graphic novel he is currently writing, which will use the superhero genre to talk about issues such as ageing and mortality.

“The show will tell that story in part, but it will also capture the aspect of what comics are as a medium,” he said, adding that there will be a live drawing element to the show.

One of the previously announced events has also been tweaked.

The previously titled Open Parliament is now called Art As Res Publicae. The event, which will see public discussions about art, was originally envisioned to feature newly commissioned works by Singaporean playwrights. Now, it will feature previously written texts, such as Wills & Secessions by local playwright Eleanor Wong.


Trojan Women by the National Theater of Korea and Ong Keng Sen. (Photo: National Theater of Korea)

SINGAPORE’S PAST AND FUTURE ONSTAGE

This year’s edition will also see two local theatre groups making their debut at SIFA.

Mandarin theatre company Nine Years Theatre (NYT) will be presenting an adaptation of Art Studio, a novel by Singaporean writer Yeng Pway Ngon about the struggles of young artists set against the backdrop of 1960s Singapore.

“We’ve seen a lot of (international) novels being adapted to the stage and film, but not so much here. We actually have a lot of great writing in Singapore but there’s very little interaction between genres like theatre and literature,” said NYT co-founder Nelson Chia, explaining his decision to adapt the novel.

Meanwhile, Pangdemonium will be presenting a new piece called Dragonflies. Set in 2021, it follows the story of a family that moves back to Singapore from the UK.

“Brexit is in full force, Trump has been re-elected for a second term and climate change has made a huge impact on the world, and the family is trying to reclaim their sense of home in Singapore, where there’s now a lot of fear and paranoia.” explained Pangdemonium’s co-artistic director Adrian Pang.

Elsewhere, the festival also includes a contemporary musical take of Trojan Women by Ong Keng Sen and the National Theater of Korea; performances by famous string group Kronos Quartet, which last performed in Singapore two decades ago; and nature-themed installation-performances by Singaporean artists Zai Tang and Robert Zhao Renhui.

More details about the festival line-up can be found at www.sifa.sg.