Friends’ Season
Opening Exhibition

For its 25th year, TheatreWorks is giving its new and long-time audiences an opportunity to encounter some of its landmark productions in the Opening Exhibition held at 72-13 in Mohamed Sultan Road.

Filmed footage of iconic works like 3 Children (1988), Lao Jiu (1993) and Geisha (2006), where Eastern and Western cultures met in dialogue, will be displayed on a plethora of flat screen televisions and wall projections. TheatreWorks has entertained Singapore (Private Parts 1992), has negotiated local censorship boundaries (The Lady of Soul and the S Machine 1993) and has challenged accepted social mores (Mergers and Accusations 1993). The company ambivalently provided a mirror to Singaporeans about castration (Descendants of the Admiral Eunuch 1995) and about their attitude to Indian foreign workers (Workhorse Afloat 1997).

Endlessly hungry for fresh experiences, TheatreWorks played with time and space creating 48 hour festivals such as Insomnia48 at The Arts House in 2004.  The company pioneered new sites of performance such as the Suntec City Fountain (audiences wore raincoats to brave the floods of water in Destinies of Flowers in the Mirror 1997), a Chinatown shophouse (The Yang Family 1996) and an underground bunker used by the besieged British forces in World War 2 (Longing 1994). Fort Canning Park has never looked back since Broken Birds (1995), a documentary performance about the Japanese ladies of the night or karayuki-sans, not only has it become the site for ballets, concerts, screenings, Shakespeare; the karayuki-sans were finally acknowledged with a place in the history of Singapore in the National Museum. Perhaps for this reason alone, it was necessary to perform their narratives, a recognition that Singapore was also the home to these foreign workers who died far away from their birthplace. Moving beyond local obsessions, this production provided evidence that Singapore was global long before.

However unknown to many, TheatreWorks is probably the most widely studied Singapore theatre company in international universities through its intercultural Asian productions. Productions such as Lear (1997) are still actively discussed, critiqued and emulated.

TheatreWorks was the first company to collaborate extensively with Asian artists from 1991 - it started the Asian contemporary wave which revolutionised the presentation of international works in Singapore, making popular ‘New Asia’ as a branding.

Emphasis for the Opening Exhibition has also been put into the productions that Singapore audiences have never seen before from the home-grown company that put Singapore on the international art map in diverse performance festivals from New York City to Paris to Istanbul. Material such as the company’s helming of the In-Transit festival created by Ong Keng Sen in Berlin 2002; Search Hamlet (2002) created site-specifically for the famous Kronburg castle, the ‘original’ Hamlet castle in Denmark; the recent Vivien and the Shadows (2008) about acts of copying, in this case copying Vivien Leigh in the film The Streetcar Named Desire.

The Opening Exhibition draws primarily from the 1990s, being that the 1980s often had inadequate video documentation and that the last ten years are still recent memory. Rather than nostalgia, Ong talks about the necessity of cultivating a sense of history about the company’s artistic journey in the last 25 years. There is a sense of urgency, not so much to preserve but to pave the way for future generations of artists.

Ong: “These productions have disappeared as the nature of performance is ephemeral but its ‘dust’ is recycled in a circular manner into new gestures, new attitudes by generations after; who may not even know where their sources have come from. Recently Lady of Soul was given a new dusting by the National University of Singapore. The student performers were about 5 years old when we premiered this work but there were continuities which have subconsciously remained like traces, evoking memories, a sense of déjà vu. In a sense we are dusting out the drawers of TheatreWorks. This historicising is only useful for the future, not for the past.”

Event Information

Opening Exhibition
Date: 9 April to 11 April 2010.
Time: 12pm to 10pm
Venue: 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road Singapore 239007
Admission: Free

Please call 6737-7213 or email to purchase tickets or register your attendance.

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