Shades of Sound
Multimedia presentation almost too fun to be art
By Stella Kon
Shadows and Voices is a performance of melded poetry, dance, and music, celebrating the dual theme of Deepavali, festival of Light, and Halloween with its associations of darkness and the Celtic Winter festival. Sometimes when you go to these “artistically, eclectic, multidisciplinary presentations,” it comes across as one rather inaccessible cutting-edge avant-garde art form mounted on top of another and another, and at the end you feel that you have sat through a lengthy if educational evening. However in the case of Shadows and Voices, you could almost say “It’s not Art – it’s fun!”
The folk at Word Forward think that poetry should be fun -- and theatre should be “total theatre”, thoroughly enjoyable in every dimension. So there was poetry ranging from the tender “The Celtic Lovers,” with modern ballet, to the “Creatures of the Night” rap with MTV dancing, and the “Deepavali Raga” with music and dancing in Country and Western style.
Chris Mooney-Singh sang his own words and accompanied himself on a rabab. Dances by Adriana Ngaman and her group were full of energy and zest. Additional music was arranged and performed by Mirra Fine Arts. At the end of the day I felt like I had come from a small banquet, every sense catered to and well satisfied by the movements, colours, rhythm, and music. Oh yes, smell too. I believe there was some incense floating about.
Small banquet? Well it was the Guinness Theatre not the Esplanade. I understand it was a very low budget show, performed by the 4 Crying out Loud people (Chris Mooney, Richard Lord, Melissa Wong, and Yong Shu Hoong), plus a dance team. But just as a small Chinese dinner, if well selected, can be as satisfying as the ten-course over-indulgence; Shadows and Voices provided entertainment as richly satisfying as any 4 hour Bollywood epic.
Bollywood knows something that Shakespeare used to know, which the West has forgotten. In Shakespeare’s day, his finest poetry was orated and performed, while the audience’s senses and emotions were confronted with song and music and dance. It is only in modern times that poetry became black words on white paper, a process of secret communication between the writer and the reader; and theatre went in search of real life, where people do not burst into song and dance around trees; and music and dance moved away from popular roots. Today we buy tickets for NAC-sponsored “Art” events – - to see specialists doing specialised performances, which seem far away from the dances that we ourselves dance, and the music that we ourselves hum.
The Renaissance Arts city that Singapore aims to be, will promote the best of global arts. But I hope the National Arts Council will also smile on events, like those organized by Word Forward, which are accessible – populist – (i.e. pulls crowds of ordinary people) – and above all, fun. Just like as in Shakespeare’s time.QLRS Vol. 3 No. 2 Jan 2004
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