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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Eye on ticket sales

Three experimental Arts Festival shows have sold out, but larger ones are not moving as quickly
The Straits Times - May 19, 2012
By: Adeline Chia
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Eye on ticket sales Sold-out show Parallel Cities: Roof - Review takes place in a real carpet shop in Arab Street. -- PHOTO: NATIONAL ARTS COUNCIL

Even as the Singapore Arts Festival kicked off yesterday, three experimental productions during the annual arts extravaganza have already sold out.

They are: the interactive production Ciudades Paralelas (Parallel Cities): Roof - Review, which takes place in a real-life carpet shop; Advanced Studies In... (Ten Lessons For Life), where a student gives a one-on-one lecture on a topic of choice to an audience member; and Lear Dreaming, TheatreWorks' artistic director Ong Keng Sen's revisit of his seminal intercultural Shakespearean work, Lear.

Ticket sales were an issue at last year's festival, which sold only half the tickets available. In response, many shows this year are more populist than last year's, which were criticised as being too difficult and esoteric.

Barring The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami's popular novel, the bigger shows are 'moving a bit more slowly', says the festival's general manager Low Kee Hong, 42.

These include acclaimed British choreographer Akram Khan's Vertical Road, which is playing at the 2,000-seat Esplanade Theatre, and Rite(s) Of Spring, a concert by a group of amateur musicians called Orchestra Of The Music Makers, at the 1,600-seat Esplanade Concert Hall.

Mr Low says: 'I am worried, but not entirely worried. As I've said before, ticket sales don't define the festival. It's only one indication.'

Quirky, smaller productions seem to be more popular. Others which are also selling fast are another instalment in the Parallel Cities project called Factory - La Fabrica, which takes place at a Kallang printing press, and The Best Sex I Ever Had, which has real-life Singaporean women talking about their sex lives on stage.

Tickets for the stage adaptation of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are also going quickly, as well as playwright Robin Loon's Mandarin translation of United States-based Singaporean playwright Chay Yew's A Language Of Their Own.

Mr Low says local artsgoers have a taste for the unconventional: 'Singaporeans generally look for something novel. They have a hunger to experience things that are new.'

Some of the popular shows are selling well partly because they have a small capacity. For example, for Parallel Cities: Roof - Review, only 20 people a day will experience the one-on-one production in an Arab Street carpet shop.

For those who do not want to pay for a show, there is always the Festival Village, a specially constructed multi-purpose hang-out spot at the Esplanade Park.

Open until June 2, the village hosts a packed calendar of free performances, including outdoor plays, concerts and children's programmes. There is also a cafe with dancing 'uncles' and a bar, as well as a flea market this weekend.

Mr Low says that the village is designed to cater to 90,000 visitors over the festival's 16-day run.

He says: 'When we planned for the Festival Village, we wanted to create a space for people who don't really want to part with their money to still come and enjoy our programmes. Who knows, maybe next time they will choose to buy a ticket to the other shows.'

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