Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


The Studios Online: Week 4

The Heart Comes to Mind, Lost Cinema 20/20


Published: 11 Dec 2020

The Studios Online: Week 4

Streamed online from 6 – 12 June and 12 – 18 July


In 2020, The Studios released its inaugural digital season from 16 May – 18 July 2020 in response to the global pandemic COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019). The online season celebrates Singapore theatre and its development over the years, albeit without the visceral sense of community one experiences physically, in the hallowed black box filled with expressions of humanity.

Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, among many other national and entertainment institutions, shut its doors for the first time in its history, as measures to stem the spread of the disease, such as limiting the number of people who could gather in groups and physical distancing, proved insufficient. The closure of the arts centre and Singapore's two-month circuit breaker coincided with The Studios annual season originally slated for 25 Mar – 26 Apr 2020. 

The online season featured six productions drawn from Esplanade's archives 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. In the last of the four-week period, The Studios released two new and original works caught in the heart of the COVID-19 situation, 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.

The Studios Online 2020: Programmer's Message

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 Duet (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.

The Heart Comes to Mind (2020)

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

Streamed online from 6 – 12 Jun 2020.

When life sends family members towards separate trajectories, what keeps us bound together? 

Poignant and compelling, The Heart Comes to Mind explores the relationship between an ageing writer and his scientist daughter. As they each wrestle with the loss of their wife and mother, each comes to contemplate personal failures and relational shortcomings within their family. What private pain do we carry? Can we forgive each other? How does the heart make sense of what the mind cannot forget? 

Lucas Ho’s new play is a visceral yet heartfelt exploration of the private struggles between a father and a daughter. We spin away and apart—sometimes, the journey home is an unstoppable collision course. 


The documentation that was streamed for The Studios Online was an audio recording of a live rehearsal of Checkpoint Theatre's The Heart Comes To Mind. The production was not originally intended, in its writing, direction, design or performance, to be an audio play. However, when the circuit breaker measures were announced on 3 April 2020, we had to shut down our rehearsal process prematurely. Checkpoint Theatre decided to quickly record as much of the work-in-progress as possible. This recording was made on 6 April 2020 at the Esplanade Annexe Studio, the day before circuit breaker measures began. It constitutes a snapshot in history of art-making in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The result was an engaging, heartfelt and poignant depiction of the relationship between father and daughter, Peter and Lynn, and a work of art in its own right.

The Heart Comes to Mind: Soundscapes

Discover how music became a third character to the father-daughter play, The Heart Comes to Mind, in a conversation with director Claire Wong, actor Oon Shu An, and musician-composers Shah Tahir and Ryan Sim.

A dialogue with the artists: The artists and creator of The Heart Comes To Mind

Streamed live on 7 Jun 2020, Sunday

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

Moderator, Huzir Sulaiman, Joint Artistic Director, Checkpoint Theatre

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

Audio Recording Credits

Playwright: Lucas Ho 
Director: Claire Wong
Cast – Peter: Julius Foo 
Cast – Lynn: Oon Shu An 
Electroacoustic musician: Shah Tahir
Cellist: Ryan Sim 
Composer, Sound Designer & Audio Engineer: Shah Tahir 
Co-composer: Ryan Sim
Producers: Claire Wong & Huzir Sulaiman

Theatrical Production Credits

Playwright: Lucas Ho 
Director: Claire Wong 
Cast: Julius Foo & Oon Shu An 
Instrumentalist: Shah Tahir 
Cello: Ryan Sim  
Composer & Sound Designer: Shah Tahir  
Co-composer: Ryan Sim 
Set Designer: Xinwei Che 
Lighting Designer: Petrina Dawn Tan 
Costume Designer: Leonard Augustine Choo  
Producers: Claire Wong & Huzir Sulaiman 
Production Manager: Azy Alias 
Stage Manager: Izz Sumono 
Assistant Stage Managers: Vivi Agustina & Haziqah Zul 
Dramaturgy: Claire Wong, Huzir Sulaiman & Faith Ng 
Engagement: Faith Ng & Myle Yan Tay 
Marketing and Publicity: Lum E-Sean & Wong Kar Mun Nicole 
Production Photography and Trailer: Joel Lim @ Calibre Pictures 
Interns: Althea Duncombe & Barani Vicnan 

by Brian Gothong Tan 
An Esplanade Commission

Streamed from 12 July, Sun, 3pm to 18 July, Sunday, 11.59pm

Performed in English, with some Malay dialogue. 
Some mature content  sexual references and coarse language. Recommended for 16 years and above.

Dreams are the cinema of our subconscious—we are all inherently filmmakers who create films through the act of dreaming. These films often become lost upon waking.

Drawing links and juxtapositions between filmmaking and the nature of dreams, Lost Cinema 20/20 highlights the curious state of awareness when we dream, while exploring how our subconscious creates cinematic narratives that blur the lines between imagination and reality. 

Through a conversation with the rich visual culture of films—including those from the golden age of Singapore cinema—the work deconstructs tropes in filmography and looks at what shapes and defines our shared subconscious.

Created and directed by multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan, the work was first developed as a six-channel video installation titled Lost Cinema at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The Studios' commission of Lost Cinema 20/20 expands this into a multi-disciplinary performance with text and combines film, theatre and video art to create an immersive theatre experience. 

Go behind the scenes with the director, writer and producer of Lost Cinema 20/20

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.

A dialogue with the artists: Lost Cinema 20/20

Streamed live on 18 July, Saturday

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

Join the director and cast as they reflect on the process of creating Lost Cinema 20/20.



Production Credits

Creator / Director: Brian Gothong Tan 
Producer: James Jordan Tay 
Writer: Kaylene Tan
Performers: Karen Tan, Lim Yu-Beng, Munah Bagharib, Irfan Kasban, Ma Yanling, Phitthaya Phaefuang (Sun) 
Translator (Malay text): Irfan Kasban
Lighting Designer: Lim Woan Wen 
Costume Designer: Moe Kasim 
Set Designer: Allister Towndrow 
Sound Designer: BOON
Production Stage Manager: Juraidah Bte Rahman 
Technical Manager: Varian Tan 
Cinematographer & Videographer: Teh Yee Sheng 
Video Editor: Eric Lee
Makeup and Hair: Haslina Ismail & Team
Assistant Stage Managers: Marilyn Ang & Daryl Seah
Multimedia Operator: Tricia Tang
Sound Operator: Joel Yeo
Production Intern: Reian Ng 

Music featured in Lost Cinema 20/20

“Laura Palmer Funeral March” by Rest You Sleeping Giant
(CC Attribution 4.0 International Licence)

“Exulansis” by The Aurora Principle
(CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence)

“How to stop her hands from trembling” by Herwig Holzmann
(CC Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 (Austria) Licence)

“Neogrotesque” by Tortue Super Sonic
(CC Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 2.0 (France) Licence)

“the malady of death” by Jelena Glazova(CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (aka Music Sharing) 3.0 International Licence)

“Elephant_01” by Saito Koji
(CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International Licence)

“Concern” by Nctrm
(CC Attribution 4.0 International Licence)

“The Black Raven” by Sam Newfield
(CC Public Domain Mark 1.0)

“Terkenang Kesuma” by Maria Menado

“Arjunaku” by Maria Menado
Written by Ahmad Ja’afar

“Fascination” by Jane Morgan
Original Composer / Original Author: Fermo F.D. Marchetti / Dick Manning
Original Publisher: Editions Philippo (Administered by Peermusic Pacific Pte Ltd)
Record Label: Universal Music Group

“Keep Young and Beautiful” by Annie Lennox
Writer: Dubin, Al / Warren, Harry
Original Publisher: WC Music Corp.
Sub-Publisher: Warner Chappell Music Singapore Pte Ltd
Record Label: Sony Music Entertainment

The Studios Online

The inaugural digital season for The Studios from 16 May – 18 July 2020, featuring six archival productions and two brand new works.

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