Crossings into cross-cultural cross-dressing

16 08 2012

Curious about or puzzled by that photograph of the Caucasian man dressed in a Nonya kebaya I posted the other day? I have a shocking revelation … not only was that man seen in the kebaya, but also in a bright red saree, and in the company of yet another man spotted that same afternoon in a bright red dress …

The same man in a bright red saree.

Seen in the company of another in a bright red dress.

Shocking as it would seem, residents of the housing estate in which the cross-dressed men were spotted in can rest assured that this isn’t the start of a transvestite invasion but an attempt at artistic expression – expression that is part of a cross cultural multidisciplinary collaboration of artists from two countries, Singapore and Croatia. The men – and several other performers had crossed-dressed for roles of their fellow artists for the recording of a multimedia segment of the performance which will be juxtaposed onto the live performance on stage.

Singapore performer Sharda Harrison dressed for Edvin Liveric’s role for the recording of the multimedia segment.

Najib Soiman.

Bani Haykal, Sound Artist.

Zac Valenta.

Chuang Xiu’Er, Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

I was provided with the opportunity to photograph the recording of the multimedia segment, as well as a full dress rehearsal at The Necessary Stage last week. The theatre company is putting the performance, named Crossings, together with Croatian based TRAFIK. Crossings is being presented in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay as part of The Studios and involves a series of cultural exchanges, workshops and improvisations. Crossings as described in the synopsis will explore fundamental questions that will make us confront who we are and how we can survive in today’s global village, investigating the coexistence, understanding and mixing of different cultures.

One of the opening scenes shot during the full dress rehearsal at The Necessary Stage on Saturday.

Sharda Harrison plays the role of the woman at the centre of a somewhat abusive love-hate relationship that she finds it hard to escape from.

The performance explores elements of violence in the male-female relationship.

While the performance seems like a confusion of scenes and characters that at times seem to have no connection with each other, there is a central theme that revolves around the male-female relationship in society and across cultures. There is also an attempt to examine somewhat taboo subjects such as domestic violence and non conventional sexual relationships that have perhaps become quite prevalent in our society, as well as the role of myths and traditions in the two societies which are being brought together in the performance – all of which makes for a fascinating story. Crossings debuts this evening at the Esplanade and plays in Singapore until 19 August 2012. It will also tour the National Theatre of Rijeka in Croatia from 19 to 20 September 2012. More information can be found at The Necessary Stage and The Studios.

There are also characters that seemingly unconnected with the central theme of the story, introduce myths that influence the cultures of the two countries.

Najib Soiman gives a masterly performance.

Chuang Xiu’Er.

Edvin Liveric as a male stripper.

Zac Valenta and Sharda Harrison.

A light used during the rehearsal.

Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.

Another of Sharda Harrison and Najib Soiman.


A woman who is a victim of a social scandal proves her fidelity by passing a test. Yet, her society does not believe her. She is exiled by her husband who is dedicated to serving his people and so has to listen to their discernment to remain in power. Will she sacrifice for the larger good and suffer the unjust allegation to be with her husband or will she walk?

Based on Asian myths, Crossings take us on a journey of the transformation of the self – how one deals with the seduction of being imprisoned and how freedom opens us to meaningless pain.

Crossings is a multidisciplinary collaboration between artists from Singapore and Croatia investigating the coexistence, understanding and mixing of different cultures.

The collective comprises:

Sharda Harrison [Performer]
Bani Haykal [Sound Artist]
Vincent Lim [Set Designer]
Edvin Liveric [Performer]
Loo Zihan [Multimedia Artist]
Josip Marsic [Composer]
Haresh Sharma [Script Editor]
Najib Soiman [Performer]
Alvin Tan [Director]
Zac Valenta [Performer]

The play will be performed in multiple languages, with English surtitles. Suitable for patrons aged 15 years and above.

Crossings will premiere at Esplanade’s The Studios Season from 16 – 19 August before touring to the National Theatre of Rijeka [Croatia] from 19 – 20 September 2012.

There will be a post-show discussion with the artists for 17 & 18 Aug, Fri & Sat, 8pm performance.

Crossings is presented by The Necessary Stage and TRAFIK in collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay as part of The Studios.

16-18 Aug, Thu-Sat, 8pm
18-19 Aug, Sat-Sun, 3pm

Esplanade Theatre Studio
(1hr 10 mins, no intermission)

Tickets: $25
Concessions for students: $10
Concessions for NSF and senior citizens: $16

Sharda Harrison on her role



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