SIFA 2019: 7 Local Theatre Productions, Music & Films To Get Inspired By

displaced persons welcome dinner sifa 2019 feature
(Credit: Checkpoint Theatre)

Fill your May and June calendar with these thought-provoking and soul-stirring local performances at SIFA 2019! The arts scene in Singapore is burgeoning with talented local artists who’ve woven enchanting stories through multi-disciplinary performances, plays, music and films that have won critical acclaim, placing them on par with international artists.

Though SIFA 2019 also features works from global artists, we’re more excited for the small but loud pool of local talent who have been itching to tell their story!

1. The Mysterious Lai Teck (神秘莱特)

the mysterious lai teck sifa 2019
(Credit: Singapore International Festival of Arts)

Many of us will be familiar with Chin Peng, the leader of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) but have you heard of Lai Teck, Chin Peng’s predecessor, head of the MCP from 1939 to 1947 and a triple agent for the French, British and Japanese? We think not and that’s because he is pretty much nowhere to be found in our history books!

Singapore-born visual artist, Ho Tzu Nyen attempts to fill in the gaps of the mysterious Lai Teck at SIFA 2019. He sets the performance in the turbulent times Lai Teck was part of and intersects history and espionage in a thrilling projector staging of a veiled ghost-like figure who often swung between life and death.

Address: SOTA Drama Theatre, 1 Zubir Said Drive, S(227968)
Date: 17 – 19 May
Fri & Sat: 8pm
Sun: 5pm
Price: From $40

2. One Day We’ll Understand

one day we'll understand sifa 2019
(Credit: Singapore International Festival of Arts)

If you love social history, then you have to go for this SIFA 2019 performance. Nobel Peace Prize photographer for 2017 Sim Chi Yin unearths the reason behind her paternal grandfather’s deportation to China and his eventual assassination by the anti-communist Kuomintang in 1949. Her grandfather was a leftist and part of a Communist guerilla army in China but he wasn’t the only local who had met a similar fate.

Through pictorial evidence and oral history, Chi Yin aims to understand the motivations of a generation embroiled in the Malayan Emergency — why they did what they did and what were the repercussions they suffered. This is one performance that’s bound to tug at your heartstrings.

Address: Play Den, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, S(179429)
Date: 24 & 25 May
Time: 7.30pm
Price: FREE

3. Displaced Person’s Welcome Dinner

displaced persons welcome dinner sifa 2019
(Credit: Checkpoint Theatre)

Playwright Huzir Sulaiman’s brainchild, Displaced Person’s Welcome Dinner focuses on a group of humanitarian workers in a refugee camp fighting to serve for justice in the face of a global migration crisis. But the world of the aid industry is not as straightforward and ideal as it looks. Amidst rising political tensions, institutional powers are tough to work with and not to mention having to negotiate with the different agendas that are strife.

From the director who gave us the funny and thought-provoking Thick Beats for Good Girls, this next production is a SIFA 2019 commissioned one, featuring local actors like Dawn Cheong and Daisy Irani. We’re sure this will be another compelling production so get ready for a raw but much-needed reality check.

Address: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place, S(179556)
Date: 24 – 26 May
Fri & Sat: 8pm
Sun: 3pm
Price: From $40

4. Oreste by Ifigenia

oreste by ifigenia sifa 2019
(Credit: Singapore International Festival of Arts)

Catch George Frideric Handel’s opera Oreste re-told from the point of view of Ifigenia. Under the directorship of Singaporean Tan Shou Chen along with Music Director Ng Tian Hui composing a dramatic score, Ifigenia is portrayed to be bold, decisive and a force to be reckoned with when deciding the fate of her murderous brother Oreste.

For those who doubt the arts scene in Singapore is worth your time, think again. With locals Cherise Tse and Countertenor Chan Wei En playing the lead roles of Ifigenia and Oreste respectively and backed by a talented production team, this one will be a real treat to catch at SIFA 2019!

Address: Chamber, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, S(179429)
Date: 25 & 26 May
Sat, 8pm
Sun, 5pm
Price: $20

5. Impulse, Varsha

varsha impulse sifa 2019
(Credit: Singapore International Festival of Arts [Cropped])
Apart from theatre and other artistic performances, the arts scene in Singapore also boasts talented musicians. Expect there to be some heart-pumping music at SIFA 2019 by local band Varsha! This four-man band has been creating rhythmic music from 2014, taking inspiration from classical Indian, popular Indian music and even jazz. Along with delivering original compositions and jazz improvisations, they’ll also be collaborating with guitarist Paul Danial and saxophonist Tim O’Dwyer for a special feature. Drop in and lend your ears to this band’s epic reverberations!

Address: Play Den, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, S(179429)
Date: 1 & 2 Jun
Time: 8pm
Price: $20

6. Singular Screens

singular screens singapore movie sifa 2019
(Credit: Singapore International Festival of Arts)

If you’re a movie buff then SIFA 2019 will be a great way to check out what local films look like! Singular Screens is a curation of short films from all over the world by the Asian Film Archives (AFA). However, what we’re particularly interested in are the feature films; Demons and Temporary Visa — directed by Singaporeans Daniel Hui and Ghazi Alqudcy respectively.

Demons is a satiric horror film depicting a young actress’ first lead role in a movie while being harassed by her sadistic director. Temporary Visa is set in Bosnia, centring around the difficulties of obtaining a visa and facing the repercussions of overstaying in a country. Has your interest been piqued? We know ours has!

Address: Oldham Theatre, National Archives Singapore, 1 Canning Rise, S(179868)
Date: 18 May & 26 May
Sat: 8pm
Sun: 2pm
Price: $12

Temporary Visa
Address: Screening Room, The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane, S(179429)
Date: 19 May & 25 May
Sat: 2pm
Price: $12
*19 May’s screening is at Oldham Theatre

7. A Dream Under the Southern Bough: Reverie

a dream under the southern bridge sifa 2019
(Credit: Toy Factory Productions Ltd – Toy 肥料厂 / Facebook)

A Dream Under The Southern Bough: Reverie is the second installation of a three-part series adapted from the Kun opera of the same name written by Ming Dynasty’s most prolific playwright, Tang Xianzu. This play follows naval officer, Chun Yu Fen as he travels into the fantastical world of Ant Kingdom where he falls in love with the kingdom’s princess while encountering other adventures.

Directed by award-winning Singaporean playwright Goh Boon Teck, this is a great starting point if you’ve been meaning to catch Tang Xianzu’s works — who is otherwise also known as the Shakespeare of the East.

Address: Drama Centre Theatre, National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street, #03-01, S(188064)
Date: 31 May – 2 Jun
Fri & Sat: 8pm
Sun: 3pm
Price: From $40

The arts scene in Singapore sure is a bustling one, isn’t it? Be sure to reserve your spot at SIFA 2019 before tickets run out! Apart from theatre productions, music and films, Singaporeans are also thriving in the literary side of things. Check out this list of must-read books in 2019 that highlight local authors as well. Or head to one of these Singapore museums for discussions on history, culture and art!