5 reasons to catch an M1 Singapore Fringe Festival show

Updated: Apr 30

“Thought-provoking” is how I’d describe the annual M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. “Different” and “moving” too.


It’s not surprising, given each year’s theme. (The previous one was “Let’s Walk”.) In 2019 – their 15th instalment – it’s “Still Waters”. What does it mean? You’ll just have to wait and see. (Actually, you’ll get an idea when you check out the programme, and when you buy your tickets at Sistic. Your views will change and evolve with each artist, which in turn will make things more interesting.)


What I do know, though, is that the events and performances will introduce us to new perspectives; encourage us to question the world around us; and leave us impressed by Singaporean and international talent. And we have from 16 to 27 January 2019 to discover and enjoy all of it.


“I look forward to shows that I know will bring a unique experience for the audience – arts experiences that engage, challenge, stimulate, excite and leave people reflecting, discussing and debating,” agrees Sean Tobin, the festival’s artistic director.


This is Sean :)

“Often Fringe works are small and intimate. The artists aren’t always well-known. They rely purely on the mastery of their work, innovation and contemporary relevance. Their works take us out of our day-to-day rut, and connect us to something larger.”


Sounds promising. But with our packed schedules, how do we choose which ones to watch? I got Sean to act as our guide, and he’s provided us with five good points for considering and pursuing a Fringe Festival show. :)


#1 The person behind the piece

“Strong artwork comes from artists who are super dedicated. They give themselves completely to the piece they’re sharing. There’s a sense of abandonment, discipline and dedication in all that they do. The artist needs to have a reason to call all of us there to give them our time and money. They need to have something to say and show that will be important to us, and they need to say it in a way that commands attention. It’s not just something to pass the time or fill the silence.”


Hanane Hajj Ali of JOGGING: Theatre In Progress (Photo by Marwan Tahtah)

#2 It takes you out of your comfort zone

“I want a work to challenge me – to make me uncomfortable, give me something new to think about, and send me off into the night to take it further in my own heart and mind. We all have to process a lot in our day-to-day life, and good arts experiences can often help us make sense of things. Show us new perspectives, shed new light, remind us of important things we’ve forgotten about.”


This Is Where (Photo by Sean Cham)

#3 It’s not all serious; it can be unusual and fun

“Playfulness means a great deal to me – that sense of play, curiosity and spontaneity that we can often lose along the way with the pragmatism of adult life. Sometimes it comes with humour, but not always. It’s a gift we’re given as children, and we’re always in danger of losing it. I believe that play is a weapon for living well, and good art sometimes helps us engage with that weapon and walk away bolder and stronger. It can rejuvenate us.”


Kaspar (Photo by Ryan McGuire)

#4 There’s skill, versatility and adaptability

“Regardless of how full or empty the stage or gallery is, I like to see how artists are masters of their material. Unforgettable images and atmospheres can be created with very little, or with a great deal of, materials and elements. The magic happens when we see how they use that one item, or that overwhelming array of items. There’s a mastery in manipulating the senses to create unforgettable experiences. In Fringe works, very often we see artists doing a great deal with very few things, but they often mesmerise and blow our minds with their innovation and mastery.”


precise purpose of being broken (Photo by Tuckys Photography, courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay)

#5 It speaks to us and our experiences today

“I love works that are current, both in terms of the subject matter they’re exploring and the methods that the artists are using to create their work. There’s a sense of urgency, immediacy and progressiveness to what they’re doing.”


yesterday it rained salt (Photo by Mark Benedict Cheong)

Be open too

I’m sure you won’t just stop with one show, or two – not when there’s so much to see, explore and do.


“I’d really encourage people to try and experience a few works,” Sean suggests. “Come catch the talk with (Australia-based Singaporean artist) Suzann Victor and open yourself up to being challenged by her thoughts and her works. Open yourself up to how different artists, both local and international, have responded to her work.


“I think our festival is best experienced when you can watch at least two or three shows and make connections between them. A great deal can be gained by considering the different responses to the theme,” he stresses.


It’s a good plan. :)


Get updates and more information on the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2019 here.

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