Home-grown theatre company The Theatre Practice kickstarted its Chinese Theatre Festival three years ago with no idea if it would be a one-off edition.
This year, the festival has got a financial fillip in the form of telco M1.
M1, a prominent arts sponsor, has come on board as a title sponsor for the festival, the same thing it has done for The Necessary Stage's M1 Singapore Fringe Festival since its inception in 2005. The Fringe has become a mainstay on the Singapore arts calendar, known for its slate of cutting-edge and intimate array of theatre, dance and visual art from both here and abroad.
While M1 declined to reveal the sponsorship amount, Mr Ivan Lim, its director of corporate communications, says it hopes to work with the group "on a sustainable, long-term basis".
He says: "We have been deeply inspired by The Theatre Practice team's vision to address the lack of variety in Chinese theatre performances as well as to make professional standard performances more accessible to both adults and children, and its perseverance in launching and sustaining the festival through its inaugural years."
Life! understands that the sponsorship for the festival will be reviewed on a year-by-year basis.
Last year, more than 7,700 people attended the festival.
This year, the M1 Chinese Theatre Festival runs from Thursday to July 20 and will be held at various venues in Lasalle College of the Arts. It features six ticketed productions and three free events, its largest showcase yet. It covers a diverse mix of genres and content.
Ms Kuo Jian Hong, artistic director of The Theatre Practice, says with a laugh: "We're being a little greedy and we want to cover the spectrum.
"It's not just an experimental theatre festival, or just a children's theatre festival, or just a festival of dramatic works - we are trying to find diversity in our programmes so that even in something smaller scale, there're still a lot of possibilities."
The festival will continue to boast family-friendly fare, such as the children's theatre production Nini In Changi Village, based on former Wildife Reserves Singapore chief executive Fanny Lai's autobiographical comic of the same name.
Audiences looking for something a little more edgy will have experimental work to choose from. For instance, three directors - Liu Xiaoyi, Cai Bixia and Eva Tang - will tackle the theatrical concept of "one table, two chairs" in various ways. This is a familiar part of The Theatre Practice's annual season, where directors have to craft a work based on this minimalist set-up.
More narrative work from Taiwan and China also features in the programme, such as Taiwanese theatre practitioner Marley Ho's The Mark Behind The Ear, a semi-autobiographical performance; and a fresh take on Chinese modern writer Lu Xun's short story Casting Sword by Chinese director Wu Xi.
Kuo hopes that the festival will become a regular fixture in the Singapore arts landscape. She cites the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - regardless of taste or quality, audiences know that they will see a good variety of work there: "That festival has become a consistent platform, a meeting place, a forum for exchanges."
She adds: "I hope that as our festival grows, whether it's the artists or the audiences, they know that there's a platform here every year, and that works are being developed on this platform every year.
"It's the spirit of exploration, so every time you come and see this festival, you know you're going to see something that's being tested out by somebody, people taking risks, people pushing themselves, each other and the audience. But I also hope that as artists, as we explore and push the envelope, we are not leaving audiences behind, especially young audiences."
For more information and a full list of programmes, go to www.practice.org.sg
Nini In Changi Village
Former Wildlife Reserves Singapore chief executive Fanny Lai has created a world of colourful characters based on her years growing up in Changi Village in the 1960s. Meet main character Nini's friends and a host of cute animals in this story of kampong life, which is full of magic and surprises. This hour-long show will be performed in Mandarin with English surtitles. Recommended for children aged five and above.
Where: Singapore Airlines Theatre, Lasalle College of the Arts When: Thursday to July 6. Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am and 3pm; Thursday at 10am, 3 and 7pm; Friday at 7pm; Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 2pm Admission: $14 to $28 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
Mo Gu Notes (Miniature Puppetry)
Taiwanese puppetry artist Hsueh Mei-hua has created a breathtaking new world in miniature (below) as she toys with the idea that "small is big". Here, a mushroom grows in a dark and mysterious place that you might eventually find quite familiar. Inspired by the Qing dynasty's miniature curio cabinets, her performance will feature shadow play, tiny objects and paper puppets. This show is performed in Mandarin and consists of a 20-minute performance and a 20-minute sharing session. Recommended for childrend aged five and above.
Where: Creative Cube, Lasalle College of the Arts When: July 9 to 13. Wednesday to Friday at 10am and 3pm; Saturday and Sunday at 11am, 2 and 5pm Admission: $28 from Sistic
Playwright and director Liu Xiaoyi, head of The Theatre Practice's Lab programme, seeks to question all notions of performance in this boundary-pushing work. Blurring the lines between the audience and the stage, the performer and plot, this work aims to explore the definitions of theatre and the fluidity of performance. The Lab focuses on actor training and development, especially in the area of devised theatre. Recommended for audiences aged 13 and above.
Where: Flexible Performance Space, Lasalle College of the Arts When: July 3 to 12. Wednesday to Saturday at 8pm, Saturday and Sunday at 3pm Admission: $38 from Sistic
Chinese director Wu Xi, who is closely associated with The Theatre Practice, created his first devised play in 1998 based on 20th-century writer Lu Xun's short story Casting Sword. This year, Wu revisits the fable with this fresh adaptation that will combine theatre, dance, multimedia and folk music. Casting Sword tells the tale of a young man who is given a precious sword by his mother, only to discover its origins and decides to seek vengeance on the emperor.
Where: Flexible Performance Space, Lasalle College of the Arts When: July 17 to 20. Thursday to Saturday at 8pm; Saturday and Sunday at 3pm Admission: $38 from Sistic
This article was first published on June 24, 2014.
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