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Interview: Voices Experimental Performance Director Jayanthi Siva-Lecolley

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Happy New Year theatre lovers! As we welcome in 2013, the theatre season is slowly starting up again in Singapore and the first performance of the year comes in the form of a fusion piece.

As the new year starts, Singaporean producer-director-choreographer Jayanthi Siva-Lecolley, together with writer and poet Michael Corbidge, will present Voices, a dynamic collaboration with nine other multi-disciplinary artists coming from Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, the West Indies, and Europe. Voices will run February 1-2, 2013 at the Drama Centre, Black Box.

A full-time mother and part-time lecturer at Republic Polytechnic, Siva-Lecolley, who’s been married for three years to a 43-year-old French aviation professional and has a one-year-old son Rishi who’s inherited her love for music and dance, has always been an arts practitioner and educator. She started as an Indian classical Bharathanatyam dancer and went on to study Drama for her Bachelor’s and Fine Arts for her Master’s degrees from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

Voices was conceptualized by Siva-Lecolley when she was pregnant with her son, as she says: “I had many questions in my head then which led me to this”. We asked her more questions about Voices and this is what she had to say:

What is Voices about?

Voices is about many things: whatever is perceived as voice. One’s inner voice, the omniscient voice, the voice of conscience, the voice of your child, your mother, your spouse, the voices of judgement, voice from a different dimension – the list goes on. Through abstract journeys/stories we touch on these concepts.

How did you come to conceptualise this? What inspired you to come up with it?

I conceptualised this when I was pregnant with my son Rishi. I often wondered what he would sound like. His voice at that time was represented by his heartbeat which my husband and I heard during scans. There was a lot going on in my head then. This translated to all the voices I was questioning and wondering about, which led to my desire to present this in a performance. So I approached my good friend and collaborator Michael Corbidge who got all excited about this and started writing for me.

How did you find the actors, singers, and dancer for this performance?

Michael Corbidge and I have had this interest in collaborating with like-minded artists, because we like to play and not take ourselves too seriously. Most of the artists here were found through suggestions by other artist friends. I met them and chatted and loved their energy and what they could bring to Voices.

How has the experience been directing this?

It’s been an absolute pleasure. It doesn’t come without any stress. But I look forward to my rehearsals with all these wonderful artists. Sometimes I drive myself nuts with ideas but they are always there to support me which is great.

Why will Voices appeal to theatregoers?

There is a quality about most productions by Michael and I [that] appeal[s] to people in some way or other. There is something for everyone to take. This is not a musical comedy, so there is a lot to think about, perhaps, for the audience. But with the array of discplines to experience on stage, like Indian Classical vocals by Bhagya Murthy, opera, ballet, acting etc., there will be something to enjoy, not forgetting the various journeys depicted which most people will relate to.

What do you hope patrons will take away from watching this performance?

From a philosophical point of view, perhaps it will be great if the audience would start thinking about the voices from within and around them. There is a story behind every voice and we get so caught up in our everyday affairs that we do not pay attention to them. From a more artistic angle, we would like the audience to take away the beauty of what they see. The art forms, the skills of the artists, and the journeys. We would also like the audience to become more open to and support experimental arts practice.

We hear you’ve been invited to Australia to perform Voices. How did that happen?

Terry Jeansch, who is a Melbourne poet and collaborator with local poet Cyril Wong, worked with me many years ago. He knew and has witnessed my love for translating poetry from the page to stage through a variety of performing artforms. He is now the festival coordinator of the Literature department for the Castlemaine Festival and invited me to the festival. Also my alma mater Queensland University of Technology was interested in my practice and wanted me to share this performance with the current students there.

What will you be doing after Voices? 

Michael will be returning to Singapore on and off while working with the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. So there is so much for me to do with him in terms of new collaborations. In addition, Audrey Currie of The Expats Wives and I have been discussing doing something together this year. So we will have to start on that soon. Sabrina Zuber from Bellepoque and I have been discussing possible future collaborations too. So let’s see where it all takes me.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.