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Edith Podesta (above) explores the complex meaning of the word "bitch" in Bitch: The Origin of the Female Species while Christophe Canato's arresting photographs look at how animals figure in childhood imagination.
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Edith Podesta explores the complex meaning of the word "bitch" in Bitch: The Origin of the Female Species while Christophe Canato's arresting photographs look at how animals figure in childhood imagination.
BT_20151211_HYFRINGEA_2016058.jpg
Human Bestiary by Mexican company Principio... is one of the highlights of the festival.

The nature of the beast

The M1 Fringe Festival gets wild with its 'animal' theme.
Dec 11, 2015 5:50 AM

ACCORDING to Freud, we all have animal instincts. They form what he describes as the "dark, inaccessible part of our personality . . . a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations". We rely on our rational mind to tame them, though sometimes these inherent impulses get the better of us.

For festival director Sean Tobin and festival manager Jezamine Tan of the M1 Fringe Festival, our unbridled "animal instincts" are rich terrain for next month's arts festival, which features the theme Art & The Animal.

A theatre practitioner and teacher, Mr Tobin says: "We live in a concrete jungle. And despite this being a tropical and sunny island, we are largely disconnected from nature and animals. Sure, we do have some flora and fauna around us, but we're still disconnected from nature and our more basic instincts . . . Thus, the festival wants to explore our darker side. It wants the audiences to free their inhibitions and get a little wild."

The two-week festival features plays, dances and art exhibitions by local and international acts.

One of the more provocative offerings is BITCH: The Origin of the Female Species by Edith Podesta. The award-winning, Singapore-based writer-actress will examine one of the most complex words in the English language, "bitch". It is often used in a derogatory, dangerous and sexual context - but there are other nuances as well. Mr Tobin thinks this is a work that will "get your tails and tongues wagging".

Meanwhile, the popular production White Rabbit Red Rabbit returns for another round after last year's sellout run. Here, actors perform before an audience a script written by Nassim Soleimanpor without ever having read it. This time, it will not only be done in English but also in Tamil, Malay and Mandarin.

Performers for this edition include YouTube star Munah Bagharib, theatre veteran Neo Swee Lin, singer-actor-host Udaya Soundari, TV actor Sani Hussin and radio DJ-actor Dennis Chew.

Besides the metaphorical sense of the word "animal", its literal meaning is also explored by the festival offerings. Mr Tobin says: "It's important to see how animals are portrayed in the art that we make because it demonstrates our relationships with them."

An art exhibition titled Railtrack Songmaps, conceptualised by artist Lucy Davis, looks at the relationship between man and birds.

The artist spent three years recording the sounds of more than 100 species of birds with the help of Nature Society Singapore's Bird Group. The exhibition's anchor piece comprises an interactive touchscreen and projection work that map these bird songs and bird tales from Tanglin Halt and along the rail corridor.

Another exhibition titled Ricochet by French-Australian photographer Christophe Canato explores the relationship between children and animals, while contemporary dance Doggy Style pays tribute to dogs with humour and affection.


Best of the fest

FESTIVAL director Sean Tobin picks out three highlights.

THE SHAPE OF A BIRD
By Jean Tay and Saga Seed Theatre (Singapore)

JEAN Tay is one of Singapore's best- known playwrights, lauded for her dramas Boom and Everything But The Brain. Her new play is expected to be a departure from her previous ones as it tells a fantastical story about a writer's unbridled imagination. The production blends live action with vivid puppetry.

  • Jan 15-16, 8pm. Tickets at S$22 from Sistic.

DOGGY STYLE
By Joshua Monten (Switzerland)

If you're a dog lover, you should certainly catch this warm and humorous contemporary dance, which looks at the world of dogs. Here, dancers take on canine forms and play out their rituals, from eating and playing fetch to grudgingly getting a bath.

  • Jan 20-21, 8pm. Tickets at S$22 from Sistic.

HUMAN BESTIARY
By Principio . . . (Mexico)

Mr Tobin calls this "the wildest and gutsiest" work in the festival. The play looks at the extinction of animal and plant species as well as the general destruction of the planet. Using multimedia projection and even a DJ set to make its point, the play received strong reviews when it premiered in Mexico.

  • Jan 22-23, 8pm. Tickets at S$22 from Sistic.