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The Studios Online

8 compelling productions in an online season of Singapore theatre


Published: 12 May 2020

Time taken : ~10mins

There is a certain poignancy in having ‘Lost & Found’ as the theme for what would have been The Studios 2020.

The year so far has been tumultuous; there has been great loss in every sense of the word, which has exposed the vulnerability and stark fragility of this globalised world – the only one we know. Normal life as we have known it has ceased to exist. It begets the question: how and to what will we anchor ourselves to when everything around us feels like it is falling apart?

The things that have really broken through the chaos are the stories of kindness. Civic organising to raise funds and resources, neighbourly generosity, a multitude of really funny videos (amongst many others!) are a testament to an important side of our humanity – that of a universal desire to dig deep, find good to cling on to, and pass that on to others. And that will be how we get through this, that will be how we will survive.

Before the circuit breaker measures here in Singapore came about, The Studios team was still working towards realising a physical season of theatre and part of the prepared house programme notes that you would have seen reads –

With all of that in the backdrop, why come to the theatre? Why does it still matter? Because theatre reminds us of our shared existence – our victories, our flaws, failures, our humanness. It brings us together in the same space; we laugh and cry together and are reminded that there is still beauty, there is still hope. And that we are more than the headlines we read. And that we are not alone.

The Studios season has been a regular feature in the local calendar, and a place where artists are invited to play and explore forms, re-examine the art of constructing stories, work with new people and to present voices that may not always be heard. We truly believe in art and our artists. And in some small way, we hope that bringing it online passes on some of the goodness that we have experienced over the past 17 years.

We are very happy to be able to present two of the original works for The Studios 2020 – a recorded edition of Lost Cinema 20/20 by Brian Gothong Tan and an audio presentation of The Heart Comes to Mind by Checkpoint Theatre. Both these productions were caught right in the heart of the ever-evolving COVID-19 situations, and the modes of presentation are the results of this alchemy.

We have also dusted off our archives and selected six productions from past seasons to share, based on connections to the artists of the 2020 season, for their thematic threads that still resonate in our lived context, as well as for some of the wider conversations that have emerged from reflecting on COVID-19 and our society. For instance, the voices of the left behind and those existing in the margins of society in Harap (2017), To Whom It May Concern (2011), and Dark Room (2016) are particularly poignant; the explorations and musings on family in Family Duets (2013) are simultaneously uplifting and sobering in a time where families have to adjust to being separated or being together all the time; the meditation on life and loss, and the things that truly matter in A Good Death (2018) and Nothing (2007) are affecting as we are forced to pause these two months. These are the beginnings of a conversation that we hope will develop over the next few weeks, and that we must ask ourselves – how much have we remembered or forgotten?

We have also asked the artists behind all these works to reflect and to think about art-making in current times, as well as what will have/has changed for us as an artistic community. Together with the supplemental resources for each of the productions, we hope that the remaining days of the circuit breaker and the weeks after that will be a thought-provoking one for you as well.

Our deepest thanks to the artists who have agreed to share their work again in this format. A few practical notes: Two videos will be released each weekend and left online for a limited period to access in your own time. These were recorded primarily for archival and documentation purposes and not online broadcast. Some of the videos are also many years old, and the quality of the footage will not be as clear as we are used to today. We hope that you will pardon these shortcomings.

The closure of our theatres and the inability to gather in a darkened familiar space has left us adrift, with sobering ramifications extending to the livelihoods of those who work in it, and the lives of all who love it. So for now, we mourn, and we look forward to the day when we are able to live dangerously in this safe space again.

Thank you for joining us.

Week 1: 16 – 22 May

Harap (Hope) (2017)

A play about hope. Take in the struggles and joys of five different individuals, caught up in a maelstrom of expectations and circumstances. First written in 1995 by Haresh Sharma as a response to the environment then, the play still finds significance today, 23 years later.

Written by Haresh Sharma
Adapted by Zulfadli Rashid
Directed by Mohd Fared Jainal
A Co-production with Teater Ekamatra

Duration: 1hr 30min
Performed in Malay, with English surtitles.

Contains some mature content and coarse language. Recommended for 16 years and above.

Photo by Tuckys Photography

This screening is over.

Support Teater Ekamatra here

To Whom It May Concern (2011)

You decide on what's true. In playwright Chong Tze Chien's first-ever monologue, Karen Tan takes on the role as an unreliable narrator, recounting an explosive encounter between an internet scammer, a disgruntled housewife and a deluded Residents' Committee (RC) member. 

By The Finger Players
Written and Directed by Chong Tze Chien
In Collaboration with Esplanade –Theatres on the Bay

Duration: 52mins

This screening is over.

Support The Finger Players

Dialogue with the artists: 17 May, Sun, 3pm (live)

Mohd Fared Jainal, Director, Harap
Artistic Director, Teater Ekamatra

Chong Tze Chien, Playwright/Director/Set Designer, To Whom It May Concern
Core Team Member of The Finger Players & Independent Playwright/Director

Fared and Tze Chien look back on these works and share their thoughts on how the themes still resonate today.

Watch and listen on The Studios' Facebook

Week 2: 23 – 29 May

Dark Room (2016)

Based on true accounts, this production by Edith Podesta gives voice to the incarcerated, by exploring the codes and regulations of the community behind bars, of the prisoner's experience from pre-trial to reintegration into society.

By Edith Podesta (Singapore / Australia)
An Esplanade Commission

Duration: 2h 15mins
Performed in English, with some Mandarin and Malay, with English surtitles.

This performance contains some coarse language.

This screening is over.

Read about how Dark Room went beyond the stage, connecting the arts with communities.

Nothing (2007)

Six individuals from vastly different backgrounds connect and collide in this intimate, surreal and morbidly funny observation of love, life and death.

By Cake Theatrical Productions
Written and Directed by Natalie Hennedige
In Collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Duration: 1h 45mins
Performed in English, Mandarin, Malay, Teochew and Cantonese

This performance contains some mature content.

Photo by Tuckys Photography

This screening is over.

Support Cake Theatrical Productions here

Dialogue with the artists: 27 May, Wed, 8pm (live)

Edith Podesta, Director & Writer, Dark Room
Associate Artistic Director, young and W!LD

Natalie Hennedige, Playwright & Director, Nothing
Natalie served as the Artistic Director of Cake before her current position as Festival Director Designate for Singapore International Festival of Arts.

Edith and Natalie look back on these works and share their thoughts on how the themes still resonate today.

Watch and listen on The Studios' Facebook

Week 3: 30 May – 5 Jun

A Good Death (2018)

Follow a palliative care doctor as she journeys with her patients through their final days in this tender meditation on what it means to die with dignity, written by Faith Ng.

Written by Faith Ng
Directed by Chen Yingxuan
An Esplanade Commission and Production

Duration: 1h 30mins

This screening is over.

Family Duet (2013)

A multi-generational cast presents an off-beat mix of life experiences and perspectives on the world in this light-hearted theatre work about family living and tiny acts of love.

By spell #7
In Collaboration with Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay

Duration: 1h 15mins

This screening is over.

Dialogue with the artists: 31 May, Sun, 3pm (live)

Kaylene Tan, Co-director, Writer & Performer, Family Duet
Paul Rae, Co-director, Writer & Performer, Family Duet

Faith Ng, Playwright, A Good Death

Lucas Ho, Associate Artist, Checkpoint Theatre

Kaylene and Faith look back on these works and share their thoughts on how the themes still resonate today.

Watch and listen on The Studios' Facebook

Week 4: 6 – 12 Jun

Lost Cinema 20/20 (2020)

Dreams are the cinema of our subconscious. This production by Brian Gothong Tan explores how our subconscious creates cinematic narratives, through the rich visual culture of films, including those from Singapore's golden age.

By Brian Gothong Tan
An Esplanade Commission

Premiering on 6 Jun, Sat, 3pm
Duration: 1h 30mins
Performed in English, with some Malay dialogue.

Some mature content - sexual references and coarse language. Recommended for 16 years and above.

Watch it here

Go behind the scenes
Take a listen to a behind-the-scenes conversation between the director, writer and producer as they talk about the inception of Lost Cinema 20/20 and the inspiration behind the work. Information on this pre-recorded talk will be released soon.

This screening is over. 

The Heart Comes to Mind (2020)

An ageing writer and his scientist daughter struggle with the loss of their wife and mother in Lucas Ho's visceral and heartfelt exploration of the unspoken struggles between father and daughter.

Written by Lucas Ho (Singapore)
A Co-production with Checkpoint Theatre

Premiering on 6 Jun, Sat, 8pm
Duration: 1h 30mins

The Heart Comes to Mind was intended to be a theatrical production. This audio recording of a live rehearsal of the play was only possible with the invaluable contributions of the entire Production Team.

Photo by Joel Lim (Calibre Studios)

Watch it here

Go behind the scenes
Discover how music became a third character to the father-daughter play, The Heart Comes to Mind, in this behind-the-scenes conversation with director Claire Wong, actor Oon Shu An, and musician-composers Shah Tahir and Ryan Sim. Information on this pre-recorded talk will be released soon.

Support Checkpoint Theatre here

Dialogue with the artists, 7 Jun, Sun, live, 3pm & 18 July, Saturday, 3pm

Join the director and cast as they reflect on the process of creating Lost Cinema 20/20 and The Heart Comes to Mind.

18 July, Saturday, 3pm (live)
Lost Cinema 20/20

Brian Gothong Tan, Creator & Director
Karen Tan, Performer
Lim Yu-Beng, Performer
Munah Bagharib, Performer
Irfan Kasban, Performer
Ma Yanling, Performer
Phitthaya Phaefuang (Sun), Performer

Moderator: Edith Podesta, Associate Artistic Director, young and W!LD

Watch and listen on The Studios' Facebook

7 Jun, Sun, 4.30pm (live)
The Heart Comes to Mind

Claire Wong, Director
Lucas Ho, Playwright
Oon Shu An, Performer
Julius Foo, Performer

Moderator, Huzir Sulaiman, Joint Artistic Director, Checkpoint Theatre

Watch and listen on The Studios' Facebook

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