Esplanade's SG50 shows

Esplanade's SG50 shows
Actress Margaret Chan acted as Emily in the Singapore's most well-known and most performed play, Emily Of Emerald Hill.

SINGAPORE - Singapore's largest arts centre is joining the SG50 celebrations with a full slate of arts events and performances next year - from recognising 50 iconic works of Singapore English-language theatre starting from the 1960s, to welcoming back the many international artists who have performed at the Esplanade over the years such as choreographers Lin Hwai-min from Taiwan and Akram Khan from Britain.

The Esplanade will be presenting a special season of The Studios, a platform that has evolved into one that develops, produces and presents local theatre in an intimate setting.

With playwright-director Chong Tze Chien co-curating the season, the Esplanade will commission five full-length productions: Stella Kon's Emily Of Emerald Hill (1984), Tan Tarn How's The Lady Of Soul And Her Ultimate "S" Machine (1993), Haresh Sharma's Off Centre (1993), Kuo Pao Kun's Descendants Of The Eunuch Admiral (1995) and Huzir Sulaiman's The Weight Of Silk On Skin (2011), which will be re-interpreted by local directors Aidli "Alin" Mosbit, Zizi Azah, Oliver Chong, Jeff Chen and Tracie Pang respectively.

The Studios will present the remaining 45 plays, to be revealed at a later date, as dramatised readings. They will be staged over six weeks in April and May.

Chong says: "We were trying to find a way to reflect a shift in terms of artistic breakthroughs for individual playwrights and the entire scene... There were several considerations, such as breakthroughs in the artist's body of work or the thematic exploration and historical significance of the play in those times."

He notes that compiling a list is "always controversial" and emphasises that these are by no means the "top 50 plays of Singapore", but the curating team has tried its best to put together a "fair representation" of plays that might be able to "chart the milestones in terms of arc and practice, and how each of these plays has contributed to the discourse of Singapore English-language theatre."

The Esplanade's music programming for next year will also include several commissions, including a full-length Chinese opera produced in collaboration with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. Based on Chinese playwright Cao Yu's Savage Land, the "concert opera" will be directed by Goh Boon Teck.

The Esplanade will also be working with The Philharmonic Orchestra and dance group Arts Fission to present a dance-theatre production featuring the music of composers from Singapore's pioneer generation. The Orkestra Melayu Singapura will be collaborating with two iconic bands of the 1970s Malay music scene, Black Dog Bone and Gingerbread, to reinterpret their songs.

Visual artists who have worked with the Esplanade, such as artists Han Sai Por and Koh Nguang How, and photographers Darren Soh and Caleb Ming, will be returning to participate in an exhibition titled These Sacred Things. On the international front, many artists who have performed at the Esplanade's various festivals will be returning. Renowned dancers and choreographers Akram Khan and Israel Galvan from Spain will be doing a kathak-meets-flamenco performance in the 10th edition of the da:ns festival, and Lin is returning with a piece for Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts.

Mr Benson Puah, chief executive of the Esplanade, hopes that audiences would be "inspired" by the programming. He said at a press briefing: "There will be a wealth of different stories that will result from this deep engagement, through our artists, with the community at large. I hope that when we are able to unlock these stories, they will touch many hearts, many minds; that we'll perhaps reflect more thoughtfully and meaningfully about what it means to come of age."

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This article was first published on November 6, 2014.
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