Take a deep-dive into the circus arts at Esplanade’s annual Flipside festival

Amid all the May madness, The Esplanade’s annual arts festival Flipside is back to add some free-admission fun to your calendar. The 10-day affair lasting May 24-Jun 2 comes brimming with art installations and performances that provide a different perspective to the usual understanding of performance arts in Singapore.

While last year saw the likes of experimental musicals and giant yarn puppets, this year’s programme turns the spotlight onto the circus arts. Sure, everyone’s familiar with the world-class antics of Cirque du Soleil; but how much do we actually know about the genre—spanning Asian circus traditions to the contemporary, multi-genre performances today that defy easy categorising? At Flipside, you’ll get to experience all that and more, in a mix of free and ticketed events by international and local artists. We’ve marked out the ones you won’t want to miss—and thrown in a few other sweet acts to catch too.

Phare, The Cambodian Circus (May 24-26)

The performers of Phare aren’t your regular nimble-limbed acrobats. Largely comprising underprivileged youths from the streets of Cambodia, the circus is a non-profit association based in Siem Reap that vocationally trains its cast in different art forms to aid employment opportunities. More importantly, the shows skillfully blend theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories—such as the rise and fall of Cambodia’s bloody Khmer Rouge regime. The traveling circus will be down for the weekend for a free performance at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.

The Artist (May 24-26)

, Take a deep-dive into the circus arts at Esplanade’s annual Flipside festival
Photos courtesy of Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Easily a highlight at Flipside 2019, The Artist is a one-man show from Finnish contemporary circus group Circo Aereo. Lead (and sole) actor Thom Monckton plays an artist who arrives in his paint-spattered studio ready to create a new work. But alas, inspiration fails him; as his focus strays from the blank canvas before him, the ensuing chaos manifests in a chortling display of clowning and physical theatre. The show has paid its dues at festivals like the Edinburgh Fringe, and will be retailing at $35 a ticket.

The Social Sorting Experiment (May 24-26)

, Take a deep-dive into the circus arts at Esplanade’s annual Flipside festival

From The Netherlands comes this interactive theatrical performance by Smartphone Orchestra, a one-of-a-kind performance where the audience takes centre stage. For once, phones are required in the theatre—you’ll be guided to use your smartphone during the show, as the talented creative team choreographs a multimedia spectacle from the collective audience. Unsurprisingly, the storyline of the night revolves around algorithms and leaving a digital data trail in this age of social media. Tickets are $20 a person.

Flipside Circus Weekend: Trashpeze (May 24-29)

Finnish circus trio Wise Fools delivers all the crowd-favourite aspects of circus acts—death-defying stunts in the air, body contortions and elegant rope work—woven seamlessly into a storyline. In this performance, three characters find themselves lost in a land of trash—literally. You’ll be watching slack-jawed as the absurdist story unfolds in a stimulating mix of triple trapeze, cloud swing, and dance trapeze.

#Goals (May 31)

Singapore throws its name in the hat with an original new work by local theatre actor-director Dwayne Lau. #Goals is a 40-minute comedy “workout” session combining comedy and re-contextualised pop songs; Lau will present a series of vignettes as various fitness archetypes, accompanied by pianist Julian Wong. Grab some coffee beforehand—the performance is a late-night gym sesh honouring the rise of 24-hour fitness gyms sprouting up across the island.

MIX by Spasmo Teatro (May 31-Jun 2)

, Take a deep-dive into the circus arts at Esplanade’s annual Flipside festival

Leave your serious work persona at the office and look out for Spanish theatre company Spasmo Teatro, a four-man group of seriously silly sketches. The 17-year-old company takes their inspiration and physical humour from the likes of iconic funnymen Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Marcel Marceau, weaving together original scripts and skits complemented by a dash of surrealism. They’ll be making their Asia debut at the festival, with a repertoire specially tailored for Singapore.

Flipside 2019 happens May 24-Jun 2 at Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay. More information available here