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SIFA on Demand review: Performances worth watching from home

SIFA on Demand review: Performances worth watching from home

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Text: Eugene Chen

Image: Singapore International Festival of Arts

For performing arts enthusiasts who miss attending live shows, tune in to SIFA on Demand—a virtual arts festival happening now till 20 June

Even in the midst of a pandemic, the show must go on—safely. In response to COVID-19 restrictions, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) has gone virtual with SIFA on Demand. The festival is happening now till 20 June on Sistic Live, so there's still time to get your tickets here. Access to individual titles go for S$15 while the all-access bundle, which includes all content, costs S$60.

The SIFA on Demand lineup includes popular festival commissions, past videos, and also selected films. Among the highlights are SIFA's captivating theatrical, dance, and musical performances. In the comfort of your home, enjoy performances from New York's SITI Company and Singapore's leading production houses such as Toy Factory Productions, Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT), Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO), and Singapore’s Nine Years Theatre (NYT). 

Recently, I got the opportunity to watch a few performances. There are the ones I'd recommend making time for:

The Year of No Return

Directed by Alvin Tan, and co-written by Haresh Sharma and Rody Vera, The Year of No Return addresses the problems of climate change from different perspectives. The play is set at a global climate forum that looks incredibly realistic, with screens to show international guests and the logos of sponsors.

The different guest speakers—consisting of a Filipino representative from Green Liberation International, a Filipino governor, a marine biologist, and a Japanese CEO—share their experiences with climate change, providing the audience with a diverse set of opinions. The play does a great job of presenting both sides of the movement, exposing the flaws and hypocrisies.

At a time where many of us want to be heard by muting the voices around us, The Year of No Return is a timely reminder to have open conversations instead of speaking over each other. It is a testament to the complexities of resolving, or even slowing down, climate change.

Oiwa—The Ghost of Yotsuya

The tale of Oiwa is a classic Japanese ghost story of betrayal and vengeance. After many years of research and training, Director Chong Tze Chien has finally completed his adaptation of the classic. The Finger Players' theatre production uses “human puppets” and actors to retell this horrific story.

Chong does a fantastic job of humanising Lady Oiwa by telling her backstory, instead of diminishing her to a vengeful ghost. As the story unfolds, the audience slowly starts to sympathise with Lady Oiwa—more so when she's revealed to have been abused by her husband, Tamiya. We learn to not judge the characters by their appearance or by what they are.

Puppets are the perfect tool to bringing out the horror in Oiwa—The Ghost of Yotsuya; their uncanny movements are enough to send chills down your spine. The traditional Japanese costumes, music, and techniques reflect the amount of research done to bring this production to life. It is an excellent adaptation of the classic—filled with horror, comedy, and grief.

Sound Social Series: Did you want more sleep?

Did you want more sleep? is the brainchild of Singaporean artist Weish and visual artist Marc Gabriel Loh. The extraordinary project is a combination of sounds, live performance, visuals, and text—reflecting Weish’s complex relationship with sleep.

“I can wake up a billion times and not know whether I’m really awake. It happens to quite a lot of people, like a false awakening,” she said in an interview with Arts Equator. This phenomenon is displayed in the performance when Weish repeatedly wakes up to the same question—“Did you want more sleep?”—when she’s actually still asleep.

In its unique way, Did you want more sleep? raises awareness of an issue that isn’t widely discussed. The reality is that many individuals struggle with some type of sleeping disorder that affects their daily lives. As Weish’s mood changes throughout the performance, we realise how taxing these sleep afflictions can be on a person.

Overview

Nothing can completely replace the feeling of going to a theatre and watching a live performance. However, SIFA on Demand does a good job of trying to bring that experience to you virtually with some of the performances. For example, with Oiwa—The Ghost of Yotsuya, you can click to enter into a virtual theatre and choose which camera angle to view the performance, as if you're picking a seat. Although it's prerecorded, the performance can't be paused, just like an in-person experience. If you miss catching quality theatrical productions, try tuning in to SIFA on Demand. 

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