Curios, a multimedia work commissioned by the Singapore International Festival of the Arts, revolves around the bizarre and bewitching world of the carnival. As a one-woman show Margaret Leng Tan will fulfill many roles, drawing upon her large arsenal of toys and skills as a performer and pianist extraordinaire.
Scored for toy piano, toy instruments and amplified objects (some freshly fabricated), the work is inspired by an unidentified, circa 1920 photograph Margaret presented to me. In it three midget clowns are standing in front of a tent: one, with a smirk on his face, points a gun at the tallest clown while the third clown, holding a clarinet, opens a miniature door on the tall clown’s suit revealing a sad dog crouching inside. This grotesque image ignites many contradictory emotions. We long to know what is behind the frozen moment and what else lurks behind the carnival tent.
Whether it be a roomful of carousels or a mysterious space within the piano, the Wunderkammer serves as an invitation for us to enter into a novel sound-world with Margaret as our guide.
Curios was premiered at Singapore as part of Singapore’s 50th year celebration and Margaret’s 70th birthday celebration in September 2015. The piece also received its Australian premiere at Brisbane in October 2015.
March for whirlarang, hand-cranked toys, tape and video
Wunderkammer for toy percussion, gongs, dog bowls and video and mask
The Kassinos for solo toy piano and and clown nose
Phantasmagoria for toy piano, toy psaltery, video and lantern mask
Carousels for toy piano, music box and video
Arlecchino for toy piano, cuckoo organ and sounding mask
Phyllis Chen, composer
Margaret Leng Tan, performer
Ranjit Bhatnagar, instrument-builder
Stanley Allen Sherman, mask-maker and theatre coach
Rob Dietz, visual design
Nick Houfek, lighting designer
Caley Monahan-Ward, technical director
- The Kassinos