Between you and me, I want to remember our lost poems.

This year, the Singapore Arts Festival presents the final instalment of a trilogy that brings with it the myths and legends of past and present in “Our Lost Poems”. Be prepared for sacred rituals and mythical creatures, ancient tales and urban legends as the festival completes its journey from intimacy, to reflection and finally, reclamation.

Pray tell, Jade Bird, will you stay or fly?

This writer was lucky to be present at the Singapore Arts Festival Special Preview of The Flight of the Jade Bird. A National Arts Council commission by the multi-talented local artist Mark Chan, this is a tale born of a love for Jade and inspired by the cultures across Asia-Pacific that hold this mystical stone with special significance.

The Flight of the Jade Bird is an operetta that shares the fable of a Jade Bird that is close to expiry and irrelevance, and is faced with a decision – to leave the realm of man in despair like his counterparts, or to courageously remain and resist the sacrilegious commercialisation of his sacred Jade Palace (they want to turn it into a theme park, no less).

Misty and dimly light, the concert hall rings with music, at once magical and majestic, as the singers and a dancer enter the stage with hands cusped, as if performing a ritual. A man steps out and introduces himself as the narrator, but reminds the audience that he is not the only storyteller – every person on stage is equally engaged in the telling of this tale, in a dialogue between spoken word, sung text, dance and music.

These storytellers come from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, yet they come together in a surprising manner to deliver this story. The ensemble of Chinese instruments complimented the opera and, together with the movement of dance and narration, carried the story of the Jade Bird. Amongst the accomplished opera singers was Matthew Supramaniam, who was discovered in an open casting call to play the part of the boy who intrigued the Jade Bird. Though young, he is a leading boy soprano who already has an impressive resume, having sung with one of the foremost choirs in the world both as chorister and solo boy treble. These experiences are telling from his confident delivery, as he held his own alongside a stellar line-up of musicians. Another interesting singer is Phua Ee Kia, the counter tenor who lends his falsetto to the Jade Bird, giving the title character an air of mystical wonder.

The Jade Bird flies to Hong Kong next, where it will show at the Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

 Other Poems, Lost and Found

The festival also boasts several other exciting productions that span across theatre, music, dance and everything in between. They’ve also brought back the experiential shows for the adventurous amongst us, or those of us who simply cannot stand being stuck in a seat for a couple of hours. We check out a couple of shows that you’d likely to find us at! (In no order of merit, of course.)

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Murakami fans must be thrilled. This multi-media stage adaption of the book of the same name, authored by Haruki Murakami (the man behind Norwegian Wood), brings to life the compelling characters under the auspices of American filmmaker Stephen Earnhart, who promises to apply his “visual storytelling” techniques to bring cinematic magic to the stage. Check it out here.

2. They Only Come at Night: Pandemic

While Left 4 Dead may have been left for dead for some time now (the recent release of Diablo 3 certainly sealed its fate), zombies are not known to die easily. This is an experiential piece where a sophisticated vampiric strain is taking over the world. You are part of a group of resisters and it is up to you to stop them. Take down those Team Edward groupies! That this valiant attempt at preserving mankind happens at Old School at Mount Sophia makes it all the more meaningful, as most of the place is slated to be torn down. Fight the vampires, save the world, save old school! Take a sneak peak here.

 

3. End of the Road

The [email protected], an age-defying group of passionate music-makers, take on Red Hot Chili Peppers, Velvet Underground and Bon Jovi. They are the elders with the street cred you wish you had. If you behave, perhaps they may even throw in a Coldplay number for good measure. You have to take a look at this.

You may also be interested in the documentary on them–it’s a free screening!

4. The Best Sex I’ve Ever Had

They say sex sells. What about a bunch of over-65-year-old ladies talking about doing the naughty-naughty? According to the banner on the festival website saying “selling fast”, it seems that sells like hot cakes too. Be ready to have your mind blown by older women as they teach you a thing or two about, well, life’s important lessons. Admission for female audience only. Bummer.

 

5. Ciudades Paralelas (Parallel Cities)

Enter into the lives of someone else. Another experiential piece, this one brings you into the parallel dimension as you slip into the shoes of another. This consists of three shows: Roof – Review, Hotel – Hotel Maids, and Factory – La Fabrica. We hear that the roof and factory editions are pretty much sold out, although there is some vacancy in the hotel edition. Portraits of cleaning staff built into installations within hotel rooms. You’ll never look at a hotel room the same way again – that’s what we’re told.

Hanging with Friends

The festival is not just about going to the theatre or concert halls, the Festival Village is the place to hang out with your friends and enjoy free performances by the likes of T’ang Quartet, Budak Pantai, PennyLane, ShiLi & Adi and also Singapore Arts Festival 2011 poster boy Eli T. You can also get in touch with your multi-racial, multi-cultural side with some dikir barat and Theyyam.

Special Singapore ArtsFest Discounts for Justified Readers!

We want to thank the good people at the Singapore Arts Festival for extending a 20% discount to all Justified readers! Simply ring them up at the festival hotline (63469430), tell them Justified is awesome, show em some sexy love and you get a 20% discount off all your ArtsFest tickets!

 

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Article contributed by: Desmond Chng (Law 1)
Photos Courtesy of Singapore Arts Festival