The arts are coming to your neighbourhood

Wayang kulit, or traditional puppet shadow play, usually tells stories from traditional folktales, but when local troupe Sri Warisan performs, there are superheroes flying across the cotton screen.

The group's managing director, Adel Ahmad, 41, says: "We usually have the traditional wayang kulit elements, but it isn't relevant and people can't relate."

So in recent years, the group has added superhero characters to its storylines.

Adel is one of the many artists at this year's edition of Arts In Your Neighbourhood, organised by the National Arts Council, putting a contemporary spin on traditional artforms.

The series has more than 30 events, including music, dance and theatre performances, scattered across the island at 12 locations.

Sri Warisan will perform Wow! Wayang, an updated version of the traditional tale of Hang Tuah, with characters from comics superhero team The Avengers joining forces with the hero to save the day.

"Superheroes are universally recognised and loved by kids," Adel says, adding that incorporating contemporary elements has allowed the group to reach out to younger audiences.

Local dance collective P7:1SMA (pronounced Prisma) is also offering audiences a traditional twist to contemporary dance with District 27.

Norhaizad Adam, 29, artistic director of P7:1SMA, is the brains behind the routine.

"It is a contemporary dance, but you can still see the essence of a traditional Malay dance," he tells The Straits Times. "You can see the resemblance to silat stances in some of the moves."

Gambus player Ismahairie Putra, 32, will be performing in Arts Imprints Around My Neighbourhood at Chong Pang Amphitheatre.

He is one of many performers along a musical trail that will take participants through the Yishun neighbourhood on a musical journey inspired by the town's heritage.

"Often times, people are still not comfortable in formal theatre settings," says Ismahairie. "Having it (in Yishun) gives the traditional music greater access."

He will be joined by the other musicians in a special finale segment, which will include a performance of a medley of familiar Disney tunes, played with traditional musical instruments.

Ms Chua Ai Liang, director of arts and communities at the National Arts Council, says: "Arts In Your Neighbourhood continues to highlight new works inspired by Singapore's cultural heritage, showcasing the relevance of our rich history and evoking a greater sense of place."

In its eighth edition, Arts In Your Neighbourhood allows artists to connect with the community in different ways.

Ismahairie says: "It's always interesting to play in a community theatre because it is my way of giving back to the community."


WHERE: Various locations

WHEN: Till March 26

ADMISSION: Free. Registration required for some programmes


This article was first published on Mar 17, 2017.
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