Review: MISSING – The City of Lost Things by Drama Box
Busy lives and bustling cities give us very little to no time at all to rest alone with our thoughts, often leaving us exhausted as we rush from one moment to the next. But what if we told you that beneath it all, there was a second, hidden city, one you can only access with a special key and that’s the complete opposite of the one we live in?
In MISSING: The City of Lost Things, Drama Box provides audience members a chance to enter that secret place. Unlike even your usual immersive theatre show though, MISSING is completely unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. Crafted by Han Xuemei, Jean Tay, Neo Hai Bin and Darren Ng, MISSING is instead more of an experience, devoid of actors or facilitators and truly allowing audiences the freedom and space for a moment of introspection in order to rediscover a ‘lost connection’.
In many ways, MISSING feels perfectly timed as one of the very first projects to ring in a new year while reflecting on the past. Already in the lead up to MISSING, audiences will be tasked to ask themselves some deeply personal questions to reflect on, a precursor to the actual experience itself through a series of automated SMSes. Once they settle on a connection they wish to rediscover, they’re tasked to bring along a small object that represents that connection along to Drama Box’s space in Chinatown. It is this object that acts as a vessel for audiences to access that lost connection, using it to channel old memories and feelings it is imbued with and related to.
It is these tiny pieces of yourself you have to commit to MISSING that makes it so much more than it initially appears to be. As with any type of immersive theatre, the final result is enhanced only as much as the audience member is willing to completely commit themselves to the entire experience, and the more you invest yourself emotionally in the piece, the more you’ll ultimately walk away with at the end of the session. MISSING is a rare type of project that makes audiences work for the payoff, unlike simply sitting down in a traditional theatre and being given the message at face value.
Not that it’s very difficult to do this; Drama Box has taken great efforts to ensure that the entire process is incredibly smooth and well curated. From the moment you step into the space at Drama Box itself, you’ll feel as though you’re already in the moment and as if you’ve entered a completely different world, with atmospheric mood lighting amidst cool darkness, futuristic white chalk buildings elegantly scrawled onto the black walls. The space feels like an abstract museum, filled with holes in the wall where ‘past visitors’ have left behind their own objects, from Doraemon figurines to mysterious pouches. Through this presentation method, there’s a strange mysticism and ritualism that MISSING becomes imbued with, allowing audiences to feel even more drawn into the entire experience and as if they’re participating in something sacred.
As a voiceover reads out instructions and tender music plays across the boom speakers, creating a rumbling in the space that echoed in our hearts, one feels a sense of order emerge amidst the uncertainty within the detailed world Drama Box has crafted. There’s a whole wealth of emotions evoked as audience members prise open the immaculately designed ‘travel kit’ filled with some truly unique tools to aid them on their journey.
Even as typical Singaporeans who’d rather keep to themselves, we felt compelled to talk to and share with our fellow audience members along the way as instructed, an act that in itself, frees us through speech. In the small space of the ‘In-Between’, once you get past the initial introductions, awkward sharing quickly gives way to something much more genuine. Perhaps because we were speaking to complete strangers, we felt more at ease to share things we might not have with someone familiar, with the knowledge that we might well never see these people again. And strangely enough, there were more connections than expected revealed through our conversation (this writer found out that the man opposite him used to be in the same primary school, one that was eventually demolished during a primary school merger).
4 hours may seem like a long time, but while so deeply immersed and fixated on the tasks given, it’s easy to end up becoming the one that gets lost in your own mind, and the end of the journey may come much sooner than expected. As the audience returns and gathers once more in the room, we were presented with a choice as to whether they want to hold on or let go of that connection they’ve spent the last few hours revisiting. Symbolically, there is a kind of power and agency that MISSING ultimately leaves you with in making that final decision for yourself, and with it, some sense of closure, or at least, the perceived knowledge and gut feel of where the next step in life lies.
With MISSING, audience members are left raw, wrung through a gauntlet of emotion they’re willing to undergo, yet heals with the sheer freedom it affords them to do what they want with the given time, offering the rare chance to give their lives a good look. The experience was, in a word, almost therapeutic, with a quiet guidance given by the mysterious text messages from an unseen, spectral guide, and the relaxed atmosphere where we felt at ease to reveal more of ourselves than usual, cathartic and unburdening. Come to MISSING with an open mind and ready yourself for an all new experience, as Drama Box once again bravely pushes theatrical boundaries to new lengths, and welcomes you to join the search party in the surprisingly elusive City of Lost Things.
Photo Credit: Drama Box
Performance attended 6/1/18
MISSING plays on 7, 20 & 21 Jan 2018 (in English) and 13, 14, 27 & 28 Jan 2018 (in Mandarin) at Drama Box, 14A-C Trengganu Street, Singapore 058468. SMS “MISSING” to 9095 7676 (before 22 Jan) to start the journey and to buy tickets.