SINGAPORE: This month, theatre group Drama Box will be presenting its brand of community theatre to Europe - and it's bringing its very own pop-up tent, too.
After travelling around various estates in Singapore, the company’s portable GoLi – The Moving Theatre is making its overseas debut at the International Community Arts Festival (ICAF) in Rotterdam, which kicks off on March 29.
Touted as Singapore’s first portable theatre venues, the three quirky green-and-white bubble-shaped inflatable tents that comprise GoLi were first unveiled in 2015. They have since popped up at Drama Box performances in Toa Payoh, Serangoon and Dakota Crescent.
“We’re excited and honoured to have been invited, but it’s quite surreal,” said Drama Box associate artistic director Koh Hui Ling. “When we first thought about creating GoLi, it was mainly to be able to bring it around in Singapore. We would joke that it would be cool to bring it overseas - and it has actually happened!”
For the festival in Rotterdam, the company will be using its biggest tent, which can hold around 150 people. It will be set up at a residential area, where they will be performing The Lesson, an interactive theatre piece that deals with dwindling spaces in Singapore. It was first presented at the Singapore International Festival of Arts in 2015.
One of the GoLi tents set up in Toa Payoh during the Singapore International Festival of Arts in 2015, where Drama Box first performed The Lesson. (Photo: Drama Box)
Koh said organisers of the festival were keen to bring in GoLi - which takes its name from the childhood game of marbles – after seeing it at a Drama Box show at Dakota Crescent last year.
Held every three years, the ICAF is one of the most prestigious community arts events in the world, and a good fit for one of the most unique community theatre initiatives in Singapore.
“One of the things that we wanted very much when we started GoLi was to have an iconic space that people can see and experience. We haven’t popped up enough in Singapore, but I feel we have achieved that,” said Koh. “In terms of a design that captivates and grabs eyeballs, it has succeeded.”
Built to the tune of around S$200,000 in total, the inflatable tents were designed by Atalier Watt, a Hong Kong-based creative studio run by Singaporean achitects William Tan and Ting-Ting Zhang. Made from the same material used to make parachutes, each one takes at least two hours to assemble.
The tents were first presented in 2015, during the company’s inaugural SCENES Forum Theatre festival at the open space beside NEX at Serangoon.
Drama Box's The Lesson. (Photo: Kevin Lee)
Koh added that she is heartened at how the tents have taken on a life of their own. After Rotterdam, they will be heading back to Singapore, where it will be popping up at three yet-to-be confirmed places in July. And while there are no plans yet for more overseas appearances, there has been some interest for a GoLi appearance in Hong Kong.
For now, however, Koh is curious as to how their colourful, inflatable tents would fare in Rotterdam’s colder climes.
“In Singapore, we always worry about how to cool down the space with fans and ventilators. But the festival organisers are now talking about using fans to warm up the space!”