Like so many industries, the pandemic has widely impacted theatre as the work of artists is dependent on live experiences. In Malaysia, it is reported by the Tourism, Culture, and Arts Ministry that the culture and arts industry has suffered losses up to a staggering amount of RM85 million.
Meanwhile, in Singapore, it was reported last year that the local arts scene had lost $2.6 million in box office receipts. While it is a dire situation indeed, this has allowed for artists to find more creative and innovative ways of showcasing their works, which includes delivering virtual shows.
For the first time ever, Singapore stages the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA 2021) with a format of live, hybrid, and digital programmes, one of the first international arts festivals in the world to do so in light of the pandemic. Happening from 5th to 20th June 2021, art enthusiasts can catch live performances, special ensembles, dance and musical performances, and theatrical delights from the comfort of their own home via SIFA on Demand.
One of the many shows to catch is The Year of No Return by Singapore theatre company The Necessary Stage Ltd. A ground-breaking interdisciplinary collaboration with artists from Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore, the show seeks to unravel the complications in humanity’s response to climate change.
Malaysian actor, Tan Guo Lian is one of its cast members. As a trained martial artist from an early age, Lian constantly seeks to merge his talents to tell stories in varied and engaging ways. He is a graduate of the BA (Hons) Acting program at LASALLE College of the Arts has recently completed his Masters in Arts Pedagogy and Practice where he researched the pre-performance rituals of professional actors in Singapore. We talk to him about his participation in the show.
What effect has COVID had on you as a professional actor?
“Theatres have been closed and productions cancelled. Being a professional actor while theatres aren’t able to operate is like being a chef without a kitchen. I have my knives, I have all these ingredients, but I can only put together raw salads: zoom reads or zoom plays. We live in societies that judge us based on our contribution to society or the economy. Never has this sense of uselessness been more strongly felt by artists in this region than right now. It’s been difficult to find a sense of self-worth. I feel it, my peers express it. It goes a lot deeper than being without work and the financial tolls of our current reality.”