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Virtual reality, secret spies and more at Singapore International Festival Of Arts 2019

This year’s edition, which kicks off in May, will feature productions by international artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, while other works will employ VR headsets or put the spotlight on the Malayan Emergency.

Virtual reality, secret spies and more at Singapore International Festival Of Arts 2019

Dionysus by director Tadashi Suzuki at SIFA 2019. (Photo: Dian P. Susilaradeya/Purnati Indonesia)

A virtual reality-fueled murder mystery tale, a multimedia show about the enigmatic leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP), and performances by the Oscar Award-winning composer of The Last Emperor are just some of the productions audiences can expect at this year’s Singapore International Festival Of Arts.  

The 42nd edition of the annual event will run from May 16 to Jun 2, and the lineup includes some of the biggest names in the international performing arts scene, as well as innovative productions that tap on technology, history and storytelling.

Organised by Arts House Limited and commissioned by the National Arts Council, the festival is the second one under festival director Gaurav Kripalani.

Ryuichi Sakamoto will be performing at SIFA 2019. (Photo: SKMTDOC, LLC)

Among the iconic artists gracing the festival are Ryuichi Sakamoto, who is best known for his work on the movie about the Chinese emperor Puyi. The Japanese composer will be collaborating with Shiro Takatani, the founder of Japanese experimental collective Dumb Type, for two shows: ST/LL and Fragments.

Meanwhile, English director Simon McBurney will be presenting the stage adaptation of the World War I novel Beware Of Pity; while acclaimed Japanese director Tadashi Suzuki is presenting Dionysus, an adaptation of the Greek tragedy The Bacchae that will incorporate Indonesian elements.

“When I started my three-year journey as SIFA’s Festival Director, my goal was to identify individual artists around the world who have been ground-breaking in their respective art forms, and persuade them to come to Singapore," said Kripalani in a media release.

“To each one that I spoke to, I painted a picture of the Singapore we live in, and how rapidly our arts landscape was evolving. Artists who are ground-breaking in their fields have always inspired me. My hope is that they will also inspire both Singaporean artists, as well as audiences. As I am sure we will inspire them.”

Ho Tzu Nyen's The Mysterious Lai Teck. (Photo: Ho Tzu Nyen)

Two blast-from-the-past shows put the spotlight on the history of the Malayan Emergency. With the use of animatronic puppets and visual projections, Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen’s The Mysterious Lai Teck looks at leader of the MCP during the 1940s; while Nobel Peace Prize photographer Sim Chi Yin will hold a reading titled One Day We’ll Understand, which tells the story of her paternal grandfather, a leftist who was deported to China during the Malayan Emergency.

Other Singapore productions include Checkpoint Theatre’s Displaced Persons’ Welcome Dinner; Tan Shou Chen and Ng Tian Hui’s Oreste By Ifigenia; Varsha’s Impulse concert; andToy Factory’s A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Reverie, the second in a three-part series that began at last year’s SIFA.

Checkpoint Theatre's Displaced Persons' Welcome Dinner. (Photo: Joel Lim/Calibre Pictures)

Interactive technology will also play a big part in other shows. We Can Dance, a collaboration between Canada’s Daily Tous Les Jours and Singapore’s ScRach MarcS, will invite audiences to step inside a recording booth to follow a particular dance choreography – which will be projected on the walls of the National Library Plaza. Meanwhile, an installation by Dutch artist Arjan Kruidhof, titled De Relaxerette, invites audiences to put on headphones to hear sounds and stories from Singapore and the Netherlands.

Alternatively, one can check out what 100 keyboards sound like in Japanese avant-garde artist Asuna’s installation, or revel in old-school storytelling similar to radio plays in Bedtime Stories by Dutch collective Urland.

100 Keyboards by Asuna at SIFA 2019. (Photo: Minoru Sato)

Virtual reality will play a part in the murder mystery production Frogman by UK company Curious Directive as well as VR_I, a dance piece by Swiss choreographer Gilles Jobin where audiences are equipped with headsets and motion-capture gear.

For more family-friendly fare, SIFA is also presenting the musical fairytale Peter And The Wolf as well as the closing concert by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

SIFA 2019's closing concert will be held at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. (Photo: SIFA)

Last year’s popular S$10 front-row tickets for students incentive is also back, and The Arts House will continue as the Festival House, where it hosts various talks, exhibitions and even sneak-peeks into works for the 2020 edition, including those by The Necessary Stage, The Finger Players and Nine Years Theatre.

The Singapore International Festival Of Arts 2019 will run from May 16 to Jun 2. For more information, visit


Source: CNA/mm