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  M1 SINGAPORE FRINGE FESTIVAL 2011 : www.singaporefringe.com
« on: December 28, 2010, 02:26:39 AM » by alvintck
Life!
HOME > LIFE! > LIFE ARTS > STORY

Dec 23, 2010

Watch and learn
Works in this M1 Singapore Fringe Festival not only empower the
audience but also take the audience on an educational trip
By adeline chia, arts correspondent

'Alain said, 'Making theatre performances is writing off your demons.'
I agree. You think about the things haunting you'

Belgian performer Helmut Van Den Meersschaut on what famous Belgian
choreographer Alain Platel once told him

THE MA(R)KING OF NANKING: 1937

What: This is the third version of a one-man show written, directed
and performed by Nelson Chia. He will assume the role of an artist
trying to make sense of the historical event that saw Japanese
soldiers killing and raping thousands of people in Nanking, the then-
capital of China, during War War II.

Where: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore

When: Jan 7 and 8, 8pm

Admission: $19 and $30

MODEL CITIZENS

What: An Indonesian maid wants to get married and become a Singapore
citizen. Her employer is reeling from her son's suicide. An MP's wife
takes control after her husband gets stabbed. Are they model citizens?
An acclaimed play, first staged in March this year, directed by Alvin
Tan and written by Haresh Sharma.

Where: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore

When: Jan 11 to 15, 8pm, with 3pm show on Jan 15

Admission: $19 and $30

WHAT DID YOU LEARN TODAY?

What: Theatre educator Sean Tobin will draw on his own experiences as
a drama teacher to create a work about learning in different facets of
life. The script is co-written with Cake Theatrical Productions
artistic director Natalie Hennedige and the show will star husband-and-
wife team Neo Swee Lin and Lim Kay Siu.

Where: Play Den, The Arts House

When: Jan 13 to 15, 8pm, with 3pm show on Jan 15

Admission: $19 and $30

PHOTOS: NELSON CHIA, TOM VERBRUGGEN, JASON WEE, THE NECESSARY STAGE

ENTRE NOUS

What: Performer Helmut Van Den Meersschaut transforms a crisis of
confidence in his career into a work of art. He asked friends to fill
up forms with difficult questions about himself and presents his
findings in this dance-drama.

Where: Esplanade Theatre Studio

When: Jan 7 and 8, 8pm

Admission: $19 and $30

All tickets are available from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go towww.sistic.com.sg
)

In his one-man show, The Mar(r)king Of Nanking: 1937, Nelson Chia
(top) plays an artist who wants to make sense of the massacre there
during World War II.
======================================================

Most artists will feel a degree of trepidation taking on a massive and
bloody historical event such as the Nanking Massacre. But not Nelson
Chia.

The performer-director is exploring the mass murder and rape that
occurred when Japanese soldiers captured Nanking, then the capital of
China, in 1937.

The 38-year-old says that he had felt some initial anxiety taking on
such complex material - historians are still quarrelling over the
scale of the event - but resolved it by telling himself that he is an
artist, not a historian.

'So I shouldn't be so fearful of using my own interpretation.'

Besides, sensitivity is key. 'The fact is that people suffered, both
the victims and the aggressors. I am very aware that I'm invoking the
dead and I need to pay them due respect.'

His one-man show, titled The Ma(r)king Of Nanking: 1937, is part of
the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival happening from Jan 5 to 16.

This is the seventh edition of the festival which aims to stage
alternative and experimental works usually not included in the bigger
arts festivals. Organised by The Necessary Stage, the festival
includes 18 programmes from 10 countries.

The theme this year is summed up in writer Henry Miller's quote: 'Art
teaches nothing, except the significance of life.'

Broadly, the works in this year's line-up, which cost $550,000 to put
on, will showcase the power of art to teach and empower both the
artist and the audience.

Some of the offerings are set in classrooms, such as the play What Do
You Learn Today?, while others are a little more loosely linked to the
theme, such as in local artist Felicia Low's community project where
shop merchants take special needs adults on an educational journey
through a mall.

Chia's Nanking piece will show how the arts can offer valuable history
lessons for both the artist and audiences.

The production is the third incarnation of a project which started in
2007, when he was invited by the Substation to put on a solo work.

'I was intrigued that such a massive historical event was considered
controversial even after 1970,' he says.

'People pay a lot of attention to the Jewish Holocaust but
comparatively, there is little interest in the other holocaust
happening at the same time in China.'

In the first version, he spliced together five accounts from Japanese
soldiers for the show and added that 'my stand in the play was pretty
clear - the Japanese should apologise for what they did'.

He put on a second, more nuanced version last year, where he
questioned the accuracy of historical accounts - taking material from
a Japanese director of a film on Nanking, a movie reviewer and other
accounts of the massacre.

In the latest version, he says he will play an artist who wants to
make sense of the event. It will take the form of a travelogue as he
journeys from Tokyo to Nanking to Singapore.

Another highlight of the festival is written by an actual drama
teacher, Australian-born Sean Tobin, who has worked in education for
more than a decade, and playwright Natalie Hennedige.

Both of them used to be resident directors in The Necessary Stage in
the early noughties.

Titled What Did You Learn Today?, the production stars husband-and-
wife duo Neo Swee Lin and Lim Kay Siu.

Tobin, 38, who is the School of The Arts' head of drama, had written
in to the theatre company with a proposal for a play when he found out
about the theme of the festival.

On the work, he says: 'It's a personal response to educational
experiences, and it explores notions of learning in different facets
of life.'

These include situations outside the classroom, such as in a segment
exploring how a married couple mould and change each other in the
course of their relationship.

A lot of his personal experiences - both as a teacher and student -
will be woven into the script, which has several narratives running
through it.

A cold-hearted and manipulative teacher from his childhood will make
an appearance, as well as a passage by his three-year-old son vividly
describing his first day at school - Tobin had quoted it verbatim.

It was fatherhood that gave Tobin the impetus to write the play and to
reflect on education. 'I'm very conscious about what I'm teaching and
what's going to be entering the heads of students.'

In general, he believes that a good education system should be 'rich,
challenging, dynamic and diverse'. His education in Australia, he
feels, was 'isolated and did not give a sense of the wider world'.

If a good liberal arts education can expand one's horizon about the
world outside, it can also open one's eyes to oneself. Belgian
performer Helmut Van Den Meersschaut's work will showcase the way art
can be used for self-education and self-knowledge.

The 36-year-old is working through his demons in Entre Nous (French
for 'between us'). The work was sparked by a 'personal crisis' in 2007.

'I didn't know if I wanted to keep going as an artist or stop. There
was a lot of uncertainty. I didn't know if it was possible to continue
making a living as an artist,' he tells Life! over the phone.

Thirty-three was a bit early for a mid-life crisis in 2007, so he
decided to channel his energies into creating a work around himself
and his sense of uncertainty.

He sent out questionnaires to friends asking them questions such as,
'Name five points about Helmut, good or bad', 'What would you like to
see Helmut do?' and 'If he were a movie character, who would he be,
and how would he die?'

He collated the responses, which would form the patchwork text of the
autobiographical performance. The show takes the form of a post-
funeral reception, where the old Meersschaut is dead and the audience
is invited to talk about him. His best friend, also an artist, even
films himself giving a eulogy.

While the work may be centred on him, there is a degree of
universality about it.

The artist says: 'It starts from a very simple departure point: 'What
to do with the rest of my life?' People really identify with that.'

The process of making the work was a 'life lesson'. 'Art is about
finding out who you are.'

He recalls something that famous Belgian choreographer Alain Platel,
with whom he worked for two years, told him. 'Alain said, 'Making
theatre performances is writing off your demons.' I agree. You think
about the things haunting you.'

chiahta@sph.com.sg

---

The M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is Back!
Featuring 19 exhilarating works from 10 countries
5 - 16 January 2011
Get involved.

Join us as we explore the myriad facets of the theme of Art & Education.

Tickets are now on sale at all SISTIC authorised agents, via the
hotline at 6348 5555, online at www.sistic.com and at iNETS Mobile.

For more information, visit www.singaporefringe.com

* Terms and conditions apply
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