Virgins and vets put their bums on seats in Singapore

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 January, 2007, 12:00am

Theatre audiences in Singapore have been growing in recent years, but small troupes with more esoteric works can still find it difficult to fill seats. The third annual M1 Singapore Fringe Festival is taking a more targeted approach to get audiences to sample challenging work.

Last year, the festival's 51 shows attracted an average attendance of 50 per cent, but this could have been higher had there not been so many shows at the same time. 'We were offering so much last year, we found we ended up competing with ourselves,' says playwright Haresh Sharma, co-artistic director of the festival.

Alvin Tan, director of The Necessary Stage, says they took it for granted that there was an audience for fringe events. 'Maybe we need to cultivate our audience slowly. We still need to educate and cultivate an audience that's willing to be challenged. It's a long road ahead, but we're at a point where we can start.'

This year, the festival has been scaled down to 21 events and a rating has been devised to help audiences decide which performance to attend, depending on their willingness to be challenged. 'A 'virgin' rating means anyone can enjoy, while a 'veteran' rating means it's a little tougher to swallow,' says Sharma.

The theme of the festival is Art and Disability. Briton Tim Jeeves performs using his body, scarred by cancer treatment, to explore notions of physicality, while Gerda Koenig, who has muscular dystrophy, choreographed a dance, titled Skinbetween, which she performs in her wheelchair.

In the virgin category will be Survivor Singapore (above), a co-production by the Necessary Stage and Cake Theatrical Production, which pokes fun at life in Singapore, touching on issues of identity and community. 'It's about how students here are disabled by the way their education is prescribed,' says Sharma.

M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 07, Jan 30-Feb 2. For listings, go to