Lights Up! The Singapore Night Festival Promises Some Bright Sparks In The Dark

·6-min read
The popular event is back after a two-year hiatus, and promises light shows, roving dance performances and other dazzling experiences. | Photo: Maxin10sity

After two years of darkness, the return of the Singapore Night Festival (SNF) from 19 to 27 August is the light at the end of the tunnel for culture connoisseurs dying to get out and about.

This year's theme of Rebirth is therefore apt, as the OG festival throws the spotlight on the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct while also showcasing artworks from homegrown artists.

There are also dazzling light shows, roving dance performances and curated experiences that will appeal to both history buffs and long-suffering boyfriends desperately searching for date ideas to appease their gfs who complain that they "always never take them out". 😅

With over 55 programmes to choose from, you better bring your walking shoes! Here are five experiences that stood out for me.

A pop-up of the old Cathay complex is located at Cathay Greens | Photo: Farhan Shafie

1. Cathay Hotel: The Curse of the Missing Red Shoe by Vertical Submarine

Format: Highlight act; interactive theatre

The main event and one of the biggest selling points of this year's nocturnal festivities is the pop-up recreation of the old Cathay complex. Within the reimagined structure is an immersive theatre performance inspired by the Cinderella-esque Cathay film "Lion City" (1960).

Inside, you will take a stroll down memory lane and encounter iconic characters from the Cathay universe such as Mat Bond, Orang Minyak, Pontianak, Mambo Girl and ASP Latiff. It is part detective story, part romance, part thriller and part homage to classic Singapore cinema.

Local actress Munah Bagharib plays the role of Mambo Girl. | Photo: Farhan Shafie
Be careful of the seductive Pontianak who will lure you in. | Photo: Farhan Shafie

Lightbulb moment: The whole experience feels like a scene straight out of Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel". Look out for the mind-boggling room layouts which will see you stepping through mirrors and hidden recesses. The whole concept is pretty cool. You can even sneak a selfie with lived-in characters who patrol the building. Just be careful of the Pontianak. She's not that photogenic once you actually check the pic you've snapped of her haha.

Venue: Cathay Green

Dates: 19, 20, 24, 25, 26 and 27 Aug

Time: 7.30pm and 8.45pm, with an additional show at 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays

Duration: 1 hour

Admission: $33, $112 for a bundle of 4 (inclusive of 10% booking fee and 7% GST)

Tickets here.

The facade of the National Archives Singapore transforms into a billboard for classic Singapore cinema | Photo: Singapore Night Festival

2. Midnight Show at the Capitol by MOJOKO

Format: Projection mapping

SNF’s popular projection-mapping installations always make for an IG-worthy moment. Out of the six works that will be illuminating iconic buildings in the area, my favourite would have to be the display on the edifice of the National Archives of Singapore. The colourful throwback to cinema of times past revisits classic movie posters that used to adorn the walls of Capitol Theatre and Cathay Picture House.

Lightbulb moment: Reminds me of the classic movie billboards from a bygone era. I was a kid in the 90s but I vaguely recall such designs outside the old Princess movie theatre in Bedok or even Rex theatre in Little India. Coupled with the music and captivating transitions, it's worth the partial hike up Fort Canning Park to catch a glimpse of this enthralling projection mapping display.

Venue: National Archives of Singapore

Dates: 19 to 27 August 2022

Time: 7.30pm to 12am

Photo: Singapore Night Festival

3. City of Books by Fish Jaafar

Format: Light installation

There are no less than 15 Night Light installations dotted around the BBB precinct that aim to bring familiar everyday spaces alive in the beauty of the night.

"City of Books" is the coolest one of the lot. The large-scale anamorphic pavement mural inside Bras Basah Complex features books flying into a void through a one-point 2D plane perspective. It pays tribute to the heritage and history of Bras Basah Complex as a retail mecca of books.

Lightbulb moment: Fish Jaafar, the Singaporean visual artist responsible for the spellbinding artwork, believes that narratives are most honest when expressed figuratively within a traditional 2D plane. I can't say I disagree.

The installation reminds me of the scene from the first Harry Potter movie when Hagrid revealed to him that he was a wizard, and countless admission letters to Hogwarts exploded around his living room. It's a pretty surreal and magical sight. Bravo!

Venue: Bras Basah Complex

Dates: 19 to 27 August 2022

Time: 7.30pm to 12am

4. Discoloo Centre by P7:1SMA

Format: Dance performance

What's a night festival without some music and dance? Prepare yourself for a multi-genre selection of musical artiste performances as well as roving dance displays in and around the precinct. You should definitely check out Waterloo Centre if you're looking to get your groove on with the silent disco performance put out by contemporary dance troupe P7:1SMA (pronounced "Prisma").

Lighbulb moment: A scene from John Travolta's "Staying Alive" from the '70s. With the big hair, bell bottoms and dance moves that can be categorically described as groovy, it's a great tribute to the building's disco and clubbing roots. Yeah, I definitely didn't know that Waterloo Centre was essentially the Zouk of the '70s during its heyday.

Venue: Waterloo Centre

Dates: 19, 20, 26 and 27 Aug

Time: 8pm to 8.45pm; 9.30pm to 10.15pm

Ticketing: Free Admission (Please arrive at least 45 mins before the scheduled performances to register)

Photo: Singapore Night Festival

5. After Hours@My Bras Basah with May Hui

Format: Guided tour

Fancy a more educational experience at the festival? Then you should totally check out the walking guided tour which will take you around the iconic landmarks in Bras Basah, including the former St Joseph’s Institute, Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and National Museum of Singapore.

Your guide May Hui will also regale you with stories of Charlie Chaplin and Michael Jackson’s stays in Raffles Hotel. However, questions about whether an actual tiger was unleased on the hotel grounds before will neither be confirmed nor denied.

Lightbulb moment: My favourite thing to do when visiting a new city is to go on a walking tour and really experience its unique vibe on the ground. In that regard, it's a bit paiseh for me to admit that I've never done the same back home. So, this is a chance to be a local tourist in your own country and jio some of your overseas buddies to learn about the history of this famous precinct.

Meeting Point: Bencoolen MRT Station Exit E

Date: 19, 20, 26 and 27 August 2022

Time: 7.00pm to 8.30pm

Admission: $30 per person

Tickets here

For more information about the Singapore Night Festival, click here.

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