M1 Fringe Festival: An Interview with Singapore’s Director, Alvin Tan

by Guo Wei Ho on February 13, 2012

After having had a sold-out run at the Singapore Arts Festival last year, the Necessary Stage brings back the crowd-roaring production of ‘Singapore’ for this year’s M1 Fringe Festival!

Commissioned for last year’s Singapore’s Arts Festival, ‘Singapore’ is a production that is honestly, truly Singaporean. The theatre production doesn’t follow a specific storyline, but in fact, 3 ‘acts’ by 3 different ‘companies’, bringing to the audience diverse views and opinions of the Singapore we live in today.Covering a multitude of issues, the production brings historical characters back to life, to examine the birth of Singapore. Factual and fictional characters then merge with and imagine events to create a theatre that makes the impossible possible. Looking at themes of Migration, Harmony and Identity, Singapore probes deeply into a country’s history and, and along the way, the psyche of the people occupying it. Featuring a very politically-correct multi-racial cast, the play is seriously funny, bluntly cutting and deceitfully truthful.

To understand what made ‘Singapore’ a success, we snuck up to Director, Alvin Tan to suss out more.

The production of Singapore is back again, how excited is the cast the production crew?

They are excited to see and work with each other again. They had great fun putting it together the first time and it is meaningful to re- visit the work a year later.
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Are there any chances to the production or is it still the same winning formula shown at the Singapore Arts Festival last year?
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Haresh has made some tweaks. Creatively restless, and being the perfectionist that he is, every re-staging of a work is an opportunity to improve the work. The actors welcome the changes and we’re aiming for a better work this time around.
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How do you think Singaporeans have changed since last year?
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More of our complaints are appearing on cyber. We are beginning to experience the diverse opinions amongst ourselves in terms of our responses to policies. Social network is making that more possible – that we become in touch with a continuum of responses and how we also change our minds and positions as more information is revealed.
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We are learning more about freedom of expression; what it is about, how we have different thresholds, does freedom mean we don’t have to be accountable about what we say, how we say what we say? We are becoming more aware about how we fit in the global landscape, our role, our nationality especially in this era when our social conditions is determined by more immigrants present and how to negotiate to co-exist in such a small space.
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We know that The Necessary Stage has no qualms about giving us the hard truths but how far will ‘Singapore’ go?
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We will go as far as the work needs us to go but not so far till the work collapses into a reductive one which means we do not like it if the work polarises eg. pro vs anti-establishment. Then the work stops us from thinking or reflecting deeper.
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How does ‘Singapore’ build on the theme of Art & Faith that the M1 Fringe Festival is promoting this year?

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It addresses the conviction or faith in multiculturalism which was once useful, as expounded in Rajaratnam’s Pledge in search for our national identity when addressing the beginning of a post-colonial era. Today, our beliefs and worldview needs to be challenged. To further Rajaratnam’s invaluable work, we have to further it by exploring more deeply the more useful instrument i.e. interculturalism. Interculturalism is a concept and/or viewpoint or even belief/faith in the interaction of difference (different cultures co-existing in one geographical space). Multiculturalism is the recognition of different cultures but does not promote the interaction of different cultures/sensibilities.
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Interculturalism would pertain to hybrids such as the Peranakans and Eurasians which are categories that accommodate or embrace the cross-pollination of different cultures. Singapore, unlike China, Japan, Indonesia or many Asian countries have constructed and hybridised identities. The play “Singapore” addresses that viewpoint, and we have to find new inspiration to move on and a theatre piece, through art, we will be enabled to revise how we see ourselves in the global village era we live in today.
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Do we stand to learn from the past or to look ahead in the future?
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We have to do both. We have to be able to stand and see the moon and the sun at the same time. We have to be able to see the past and our future from the position of the present. Only with simultaneous access to this double vision can we redeem ourselves from ignorance and being limited.
The Necessary Stage’s ‘Singapore‘ will run at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 15 February to 19 February 2012. Ticket sales start from $19 and are available now through SISTIC’s hotline at 6348 5555, via the SISTIC website at www.sistic.com, at all SISTIC authorised agents islandwide & iNETS Mobile. For further details on discounts or the entire lineup for festival, please log on to www.singaporefringe.com

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