EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM – The annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world’s largest arts festival. Spanning over 25 days (5-29 Aug), the streets of Edinburgh was filled with over thousands of performances, ranging from musicals, theatre, to contemporary dance. People from all walks of life from all over the world came together, to participate, celebrate and enjoy art in its purest, rawest form. Nothing but amazing positive vibes filled the atmosphere, a sight that is very much missing and needed in the world in this day and age. And amongst the thousands of acts, we were beyond proud to have caught the only Singaporean collective ‘Bhumi’ representing the Lion City at the Fringe.
^ The Bhumi Collective [L-R, Top Row: Jimmy Adams (Performer), Nabillah Jalal (Music Director), Venetia Lim (Performer), Heather Birley (Performer), Soultari Amin Farid (Creative Director/Choreographer), Mohamad Shaifulbahri (Producer), Stella Cheung (Production Stage Manager/Lighting Designer). Bottom Row: Onyx Hinds (Perfomer), Zunnur Zhafirah (Performer/Choreographer)]
We had a quick chat with the Producer of the show, Mohamad Shaifulbahri (Shai) to find out a bit more about the collective.
What spurred the coming together of ‘Bhumi’?
Shai: ‘Bhumi’ is a Singaporean-British collaboration – a multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural, multi-national piece involving a team of dancers, theatre crew and music makers. And it started when Amin contacted me back in December 2015. He was about to complete his last leg of his post-graduate studies in London. We caught up and thought it was a good time and opportunity for both of us to come together and explore the idea of working together – we’ve been friends for a number of years now but we’ve never worked together before, so that kinda sparked off everything and one thing led to the other. We met Nabillah and Zunnur soon after and through Zunnur we were introduced to the rest of the performers.
I guess initially we wanted to explore the idea of the ‘Malay’ identity in the piece, specifically the Singaporean Malay, well it’s still there (evident in the performance) but it has evolved into a much richer piece as our non-Malay-Singaporean friends are involved in the performance. I guess it is about everyone’s journey – this idea of finding one’s place in the world while trying to negotiate your identity. Especially as a Malay coming from Singapore into United Kingdom, we’re basically like the “minor-minority” race in a larger fabric of race and culture – further questioning our identity and place in the world.
How did you guys got to know of Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Shai: This is the 69th year of the festival so it has always been around. And for people like myself personally, as a theatre maker for the past 12 years or so, this is one of the things you sort of put on your bucket list of things you want to do – a dream of wanting to be a part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe because it is the largest open access festival in the world. If you look at Singapore International Festival of the Arts, that is not open access because that is a curated festival just as many other International Festivals around the world. So the Fringe is different, for anyone “can come” as long as you have the money to participate. So all of us know about the Fringe, and it has always been at the back of our minds until it finally becomes a reality.
How has the reception been so far?
Shai: The feedback for ‘Bhumi’ has been positive! We’ve got Singaporeans who happened to be in the UK and around who came down to catch the show. We even had the High Commissioner of Singapore in London watch our show. What we are offering is not something that you can find any where else amongst the thousand of shows in the Fringe as we offer a hybrid of cultural, contemporary, and a physical theatre experience. Though a hybrid of things, people generally get what we are talking about.
We are technically the only Singaporean group but there’s also another Singaporean act; Jinx Yeo a one-man stand up comedian. Although that said, there are also other Singaporeans participating in different capacities in different productions across the festival too!
Cool! What’s the future for ‘Bhumi’?
Shai: The goal is to bring ‘Bhumi’ back home to Singapore in some time 2017. How and what that remains to be seen. We got to think about how we are going to bring some of the cast members over. Will all of the Singaporean performers be around by then? I don’t know. So it’s really about working all of these things out. Cost wise, it is definitely cheaper to bring the team from London to Edinburgh than to bring everyone out from the UK. So the hope is to bring it to Singapore and possibly tour the region – like the George Town Festival in Penang, and maybe Japan, Korea if there are opportunities!
To top things off, The Bhumi Collective recently received an amazing 4 Star review from EdFringeReview! Big ups!
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