M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019: All you need to know about next year's theme and key performances to catch

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019: All you need to know about next year's theme and key performances to catch

Fresh gaze

Text: Aravin Sandran

Image: Marwan Tahtah
Image: Tuckys Photography,
Courtesy of Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay

Continuing its streak of building its programme around an iconic Singaporean artwork — this year's edition was inspired by artist Amanda Heng's 1999 street performance Let's Walk — the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019 programme is curated around the theme, Still Waters, which is a reference to Australia-based Singaporean artist Suzann Victor's site-responsive performance in 1997. Even though there was a de facto ban on performance art between the years of 1993 and 2004, she managed to find a way to present it at the Singapore Art Museum. Using customised glass dams, Suzann filled a drain on the second storey of the museum with water that reached above the ankles. In her own words, the piece was looking at the "fugitive" status of performing artists, very much in response to the ban. More than 20 years on, Still Waters retains much of its resonance and relevance around the politics of art in Singapore. 

With more than 13 events performed by artists from over six countries, there are loads of reasons to be excited about the upcoming edition in January, so here are three key performances worth getting out of bed for.

Performance #1
JOGGING: Theatre in Progress by Hanane Hajj Ali (Lebanon & France)

This is a masterful one-woman performance by Hanane, a fifty-something year old Lebanese who describes herself as an 'artivist'. Centred around the veiled life, oppressed identity and multi-faceted perspective of the Arab woman, this piece has been performed over sixty times in sixty different venues all over Lebanon in non-conventional spaces as a way of circumventing government censorship.  M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019: All you need to know about next year's theme and key performances to catch (фото 1)

Hanane refused to submit the script for JOGGING to the general security department in Lebanon to be authorised for a performance permit, drawing similarities with Suzann's Still Waters, which questioned the notions of censorship and creative freedom when performance art is restricted to carefully regulated designated spaces. 

8pm, 16 to 17 January 2018, Esplanade Theatre Studio, 80 minutes with no intermission

Performance #2
A Fortunate Man by New Perspectives (United Kingdom)

A stage interpretation of John Berger's 1967 book of the same name, this piece captures the life of English general practitioner John Sassall, his day-to-day practice and his interactions with his patients. 15 years after the book's publication, Sassall committed suicide. Part theatre-lecture, part expressionistic performance of the book  A Fortunate Man is an interrogation about the passions and pressures of being a doctor and the future health of our society.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019: All you need to know about next year's theme and key performances to catch (фото 2)

Sassall's untimely death raises urgent and timely questions about mental health, especially of healthcare professionals who devote their lives to taking care of others, an issue that will only be further exasperated by Singapore's increasingly ageing population and the spike in medical tourism.

8pm, 18 to 19 January 2019, Esplanade Theatre Studio, 60 minutes with no intermission

Performance #3
precise purpose of being broken by Koh Wan Ching (Singapore)

First presented by Esplanade  Theatres on the Bay as a work-in-progress for The Studios: RAW in 2017, the piece weaves together nine texts by playwright Haresh Sharma. Some of the texts have been performed, some have not, and a few have not even been published. Director Koh Wan Ching edited out all parts that were supposed to be performed by men and then roped together a diverse all-female cast of newcomers. Performed in English, Malay, Tamil and Hokkien — previously disconnected characters meet for the first time in this non-linear piece to explore their distinct narratives, cultural voices and respective place in time.

various timings, 24 to 26 January 2019, Esplanade Annexe Studio, 80 minutes with no intermission

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival runs from 16 to 27 January 2019 at various locations.