Focusing on gender, beauty and identity at the next M1 Fringe

Focusing on gender, beauty and identity at the next M1 Fringe

Gender bender

Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Crispian Chan

The 14th edition of M1 Singapore Fringe Festival will present theatre, dance, music, visual art and mixed media works on gender, beauty and identity

What's a fringe festival without pushing some boundaries and ruffling some feathers? While the M1 Fringe Festival received flak from certain members of the public that lead to the withdrawal of 'Undressing Room' by Ming Poon and 'Naked Ladies' by Thea Fitz-James, next year's installment seeks to appeal to a broad audience and hopefully, a more progressive and open-minded society.

Artistic director Sean Tobin returns at its helm, with a theme that's borrowed from Singapore artist Amanda Heng's work, 'Let's Walk'. Revisiting the walking performances that first debuted in 1999, the festival will address the societal influences, pressures, norms and expectations that inform genders and our search for identity within. The M1 Fringe Festival will also look at the role of beauty, which was what 'Let's Walk' tapped into. In response to an issue with female employees getting laid off first during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the incidental boom of the beauty industry, Heng invited members of the public to join her in walking backwards with high heels in their mouths, guiding themselves using pocket mirrors. 


This examination of gender, beauty and identity couldn't come at a better time. We've already seen the celebration of blurred lines in fashion and beauty campaigns of the past year involving models and brand ambassadors — transgender model Hari Nef was Gucci fragrances' latest face, while Rihanna's Fenty line recently featured a male face wearing her coveted highlighters on its highly influential Instagram account.

Back home, you can expect LASALLE's Edith Podesta to retell The Little Mermaid in a dance theatre work that examines concepts of beauty, inequality and traditional women's roles. Patriarchal pressures are put into light by Pink Gajah Theatre's Hayat, which looks at a woman exploring her own mortality. Forked by local artist Jo Tan will question that a true Singaporean voice is, while local photographer Charmaine Poh focuses her lens on the visual culture surrounding professions in Singapore's beauty industry in 'All In Her Day's Work'. 

The M1 Fringe Festival Singapore will take place from 17 to 28 January 2018 at Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay, Centre 42, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, ION Art Gallery and Objectifs: Centre for Photography & Film.