On the “flip side” of local living is a remarkable event that showcases and celebrates some of Singapore’s finest circus performers. Singapore-based writer and theatre reviewer Yaiza Canopoli takes us through the happenings of Flipside 2023.
For the first time since the pandemic, Singapore saw a new iteration of its local circus festival this year. Flipside 2023 took place at Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay between 26 May and 4 June, bringing together acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, and other circus performers, both local and international.
Describing itself as “a playful festival of circus, comedy, physical theatre and puppetry,” Flipside hosted performances from all over the world, including the highly acclaimed American puppetry show Chimpanzee by Nick Lehane and the interactive Seagulls by Australian troupe Snuff Puppets.
But especially exciting was the range of Singaporean and Southeast Asian talent, bringing their acts to the Aerial Open Stage and the debut Circus Open Stage, as well as Forget Me Not, a theatrical performance by Bornfire Circus, the social circus collective behind much of the festival.
The Aerial Open Stage was a particular crowd favourite, drawing gasps as 12 of Singapore’s most talented aerialists defied gravity on hoop, silks, rope and other apparatuses. Jozef Chua stood out with a twitchy, darkly humorous performance inspired by the life cycle and movements of a spider, demonstrating tremendous skill on the silks. Ambrose Hu and Cherilyn Chia similarly mesmerised the audience on rope and hoop respectively.
At the inaugural Circus Open Stage, local artists flaunted acrobatics, juggling, contortion, and other wide-ranging disciplines. A heartwarming Cyr wheel performance by Singapore’s iconic Brylights was a stand-out highlight, alongside a juggling act by Bornfire Circus’ very own Nachos, who is also a well-loved teacher at the Circus Academy of Singapore. Exuding joy and creativity, each and every artist left the audience awed and comforted by the glimpses into their magical worlds.
Bonfire Circus also returned to the stage with Forget Me Not, a theatrical performance inspired by excessive waste and fast-paced consumerism. Professional circus practitioners and amateurs alike came together in a variety of group and solo acts that encompassed everything from partner acrobatics to diving and Cyr wheel, set against a landscape of cardboard boxes and discarded materials. These materials were borrowed, donated, or carefully rescued for this performance, and afterward recycled or retained for future use, an aspect of Forget Me Not that was particularly important to the performers.
Further enhanced by kids’ circus workshops and artistic performances spanning different genres and disciplines, Flipside is a crucial event in Singapore’s arts and performance landscape, bringing together the community, opening up opportunities for new performers to showcase their talent, and inspiring audiences young and old to irrevocably fall in love with circus.
All photos in this article are credited to Rogan Yeoh. Main image: Bonfire Circus' Forget-Me-Not.