Over a good half of this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is a stellar line-up of local productions. SIFA has steadily grown its identity and assert what it wants to highlight. As a paying member of the audience, I appreciate the curation and programing.
I began my support of SIFA with commissioned work 'Art Studio'《画室》presented by Nine Years Theatre (九年剧场). This eponymous play directed by Nelson Chia (谢燊杰) takes its inspiration from Singaporean novelist Yeng Pway Ngon's (英培安) 2011 Chinese novel that has been translated by Goh Beng Choo and Loh Guan Liang in 2014. I think the play keeps true to the book's intentions, and the director's skill shone through in the play's concise portrayal of relationships versus life, hopes and regrets, and the eternal search for self-identity.
Different characters who lived through Singapore in the 1970s to 2010. People who came together in an art class hosted by an elderly painter Yan Pei. Artists whose lives are presented as works on stage. We have an aspiring poet, classical singer, a gangster, a Communist fighter lost in the jungles, an exile, lovers and friends.
I was a little reluctant to get my tickets, only because it was going to be a three-hour show in Mandarin. But I managed. There were English surtitles. After watching Utter《优剧》in 2012, I had to plough through the novel 《画室》itself. A bit painful to read because there're so many details to pore over, but it's so well written. There were the expected fairly complicated human stories. I gotta say it isn't quite my usual genre of reads, but it was nice watching it play out on stage. I suppose they had to clock in at three hours to stay faithful to the book.The first half was very very slow. The second half fared much better. A Cubist canvas brought to life.