Be prepared to have your ImagiNAT!ON stimulated next year!
On 17 August 2014, our Artistic Director Ivan Heng gave members of the public a sneak peek at our thrilling 2015 season during Singapore Prepares!, an open dialogue between artists and audiences ahead of next year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA). We chat with him about the electrifying shows that you can expect to see in 2015.
“Next year, of course, is SG50 – a year-long celebration of what makes us uniquely Singaporean,” Ivan points out. “We plan to do that, too, in our own very W!LD way. With our thought-provoking ImagiNAT!ON season, we want to explore how we now view ourselves as a community – how, as per Benedict Anderson, we imagine ourselves to belong to a nation. It has to do with our stories, our songs, our music, the food we eat and how we sound.
“But,” Ivan cautions, “We’re not setting out to tell some safe, sanitised version of the Singapore Story. Our goal is to shine a spotlight on the alternative narratives and viewpoints that are also woven into the very fabric of our country – stories that might otherwise get lost in the hustle and bustle of SG50. We want to look at different, unexpected ways of celebrating and reflecting on what it means to be Singaporean, because, you know, having a dissenting opinion on an issue doesn’t mean we love our country any less.”
The inspiration for the year-long season comes from our flag and the values represented by each of its five stars – Democracy, Peace, Progress, Equality and Justice.
Kicking off the season in April 2015 is PUBLIC ENEMY (Democracy), directed by Glen Goei and based on Henrik Ibsen’s classic 1882 play Enemy Of The People, which tells the tale of a concerned citizen who comes under vicious attack when he points out the deleterious effects of the spa on which his country’s economy is founded.
“We think that Ibsen’s canon of work is particularly resonant in Singapore today,” Ivan says. “This play is about the tyranny of the majority – it looks at how the beliefs and ideals of a well-meaning individual can be compromised by the will of the majority. In much the same way, Singapore’s so-called ‘community standards’ can, at times, be very oppressive towards minorities.”
Following in June 2015 is TIKAM-TIKAM (Peace), a collaboration between Singapore artists and our counterparts from across the Causeway. Alfian Sa’at, W!LD RICE’s resident playwright, will curate a set of Singaporean texts to be interpreted by a Malaysian cast led by director Jo Kukathas. Meanwhile, Ivan will direct a Singaporean cast in interpreting the corresponding set of Malaysian texts selected by Malaysian playwright Leow Puay Tin.
“It’s never presented in this way, maybe because it might come across as ‘unpatriotic’ to do so. But our 50th year of independence also represents the parting of two ‘siblings’ – a separation of Singapore from our closest and dearest neighbour,” Ivan muses.
“In a year all about embracing our nationhood and sovereignty, we thought it was also important to celebrate what we have in common with Malaysia. If we can understand and empathise with each other’s stories, then there can be peace between our two nations.”
Come August 2015, W!LD RICE will be inviting you to check into HOTEL (Progress), a production commissioned by SIFA. The play, written by Alfian and directed by Ivan and Glen, will be set in a single room in a hotel in Singapore that will serve as our window into a hundred years of Singapore history, culture and progress – or the lack thereof.
“The idea of transcience – of checking in and out of a hotel – is very symbolic of life, in general, and of Singapore,” Ivan points out. “What does it mean to settle down in Singapore when there is such rapid change, not just in terms of the physical landscape but also our demographics? From 1915 to 2015, we check in every decade on a revolving cast of characters who will give us insights into the Singapore in which they lived – and we’ll find, perhaps, that some things never change, or have, somehow, regressed when you would expect the opposite.”
W!LD RICE will ring in the holiday season in November 2015 with our annual pantomime, a cheeky, brand-new production of THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES (Equality). Based on Hans Christian Anderson’s classic fairy tale about an emperor whose embarrassing but quite unintentional nudity goes unchecked because his subjects don’t dare to tell him the truth, the pantomime will be written by Joel Tan and directed by Pam Oei, with music by Julian Wong.
“Expect our very W!LD brand of irreverence and – as you can imagine given the premise! – a healthy amount of political satire,” Ivan teases. “There are characters in this play called Grassroots – whose voices reflect, quite literally, the voice of the people!”
Last but not least, COLD STORE (Justice), written by Marcia Vanderstraaten and directed by Glen Goei, closes out the ImagiNAT!ON season in March 2016. The play is based on a series of recently declassified official documents that shed light on Operation Cold Store, which saw the Singapore government moving to clamp down on dissent by detaining over a hundred anti-government activists ahead of the planned merger with the Federation of Malaya in 1963.
“We will try to illuminate a dark chapter of our history in this piece – a chapter that was hidden for so long but which we think needs to be brought out into the open and dissected and discussed,” says Ivan. “But rest assured that we’ll be doing it with a touch of humour and wit.”
That, as it turns out, is very much the ethos of our entire ImagiNAT!ON season.
“We wanted to reflect on the aspirations represented by the stars in our flag in our typical W!LD way – which means looking at Singapore through fresh eyes, different perspectives, and alternative viewpoints,” Ivan says. “We think that, in a year so focused on SG50, this will make for an incredibly exciting season. We can’t wait to see you at the theatre!”