Arts groups cancel, push back shows

Performing arts groups in Singapore have cancelled or postponed upcoming productions in the light of the coronavirus outbreak which originated in Wuhan city, China.

At least three theatre groups – Checkpoint Theatre, Nine Years Theatre and Singapore Repertory Theatre – have postponed their shows after the Ministry of Health (MOH) last Friday raised the level of alert to orange, which means the outbreak is deemed to have moderate to high public health impact.

In its announcement last Friday, MOH advised event organisers to cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events or undertake necessary precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

As of Sunday, 43 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Singapore.

Checkpoint Theatre’s production The Nuclear Family, the much-awaited sequel to playwright Huzir Sulaiman’s Atomic Jaya (1998), was to run from March 12 to 22, but has been postponed to March next year.

In a statement, joint artistic directors of Checkpoint Theatre Claire Wong and Huzir Sulaiman said the postponement was due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus and its ease of transmission.

“This was not an easy decision, but our priority is to safeguard the health of the public and of our team members.

“Checkpoint Theatre will be working with our ticketing agent, BookMyShow Singapore, to contact ticket holders in the coming week and arrange full refunds,” they said.

Nine Years Theatre’s production First Fleet, which was due to run from Friday to Feb 23, was also rescheduled to March next year.

The theatre group announced the postponement on a Facebook post on Friday and said: “We seek the understanding of our patrons who have purchased tickets for the performance. They will be contacted to receive full refunds.”

The production was scheduled to take place at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s auditorium.

Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) announced that the opening of its Little Company production Fly High would be pushed back from Feb 19 to March 23.

“The wellbeing and safety of our patrons, partners and staff is very important to us, so we do everything we can to manage the situation,” it said.

A spokesman for the theatre group said it had also lost bookings for its theatre as a result of the coronavirus situation.

“As a charity, this is a difficult situation. Our peers in the arts and entertainment sector are as concerned as us about the impact. But we are all united in getting through this together.”

Arts groups say they have yet to determine how the postponement of these productions will impact them financially.

SRT said it was working with patrons and schools to find alternative dates and shows, but would have no choice but to consider refunds if such alternatives could not be found.

Despite the orange alert, some theatre groups have opted to go ahead with productions while taking precautionary measures.

Theatre company Wild Rice told The Straits Times that it would continue with its upcoming productions and put in place additional precautionary measures for the safety of patrons.

Wild Rice’s production, The Importance Of Being Earnest, opened last Friday at its venue in Funan Mall. Before the show, temperature checks were conducted on ticket holders as part of the precautionary measures.

In an advisory on its website, the company said all seats at the venue would be sanitised before and after each show.

Audience members were also advised to approach staff for assistance if they felt unwell.

Pangdemonium, another local theatre company, has also chosen to go ahead with its production, The Son, which is scheduled to run from Feb 20 to March 7 at the Drama Centre.

Like Wild Rice, Pangdemonium said it would work with the Drama Centre to put in place precautionary measures for the safety of patrons, including frequent temperature screenings of staff members and the sanitising of seats.

Ticket holders were also advised to arrive at least half an hour before the performance as they would have to undergo temperature screening.

Besides theatre groups, other performing arts groups are also considering moving their show dates.

Local Indian arts company Bhaskar’s Arts Academy said it might consider pushing back its Kathakali Festival, scheduled to take place on Feb 28 and 29.

A spokesman for NUS Arts Festival confirmed that the organisers would cancel this year’s festival, scheduled to run between March 13 and 28.

“While this is disappointing for all our performers, tutors and academic partners, we have had to make this difficult decision for the safety of all involved,” said Ms Sharon Tan, director of NUS Centre for the Arts.

The centre said that discussions are ongoing to postpone most of the student productions to a later part of the year.

The university has also suspended in-person classes comprising more than 50 students in the light of the orange alert.