The Necessary Stage is starting their 2018 season with plenty of collaborations, having kickstarted Phase 1 of their forthcoming collaboration with Canada and with their new main season work Underclass in May, produced in collaboration with Drama Box.
But before all that, this March, they’ll be treading new ground as they embark on an all new project with Cata Odata, a Balinese art space led by creative director Ratna Odata. Over three days in Bali, Gloria Tan will perform Haresh Sharma’s short monodrama untitled cow number one, directed by Alvin Tan with visual and sounds from Surabayan art collective WAFT-LAB.
Gloria is no stranger to Bali, having been involved with the Bali Arts Festival and working directly with Odata on a site-specific performance held at Cata Odata a few years ago, where she and actor Bright Ong were tasked to create an improv performance based on the artworks that surrounded them. Said Gloria: “I’ve known Ratna for quite some time now, and we usually perform shows in Jakarta. She’s one of the youngest gallerists and curators in Bali and frequently curates new projects and finds new collaborators to work with.”
Said Alvin Tan on the collaboration: “A collaboration with Indonesia is long delayed. Ratna is someone who is ambitious, and also has the passion and vision in the rigor she produces work. In the two weeks we spend there, hopefully we can build new links and a firm foundation for future collaborations. I think the region is more ready than ever before for cross-cultural work, and The Necessary Stage should be challenging ourselves to work with artists who come from dissimilar backgrounds in the region.”
untitled cow number one was last staged by The Necessary Stage in 2015 during the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, and performed by Sharda Harrison and Bani Haykal. In this version, the piece still uses Haresh’s original script, but has been translated to include Bahasa Indonesia and even Mandarin, clocking in at around 30 minutes. Said Alvin: “We chose untitled cow because it was short, so that it opens up the opportunity for both the performers and designers to fully contribute to its conception, rather than a completely new work so that we could start doing full runs earlier on. It’s quite touching how this acts as a platform for WAFT-LAB to showcase their work and how passionate they are; they’re doing it completely free and voluntarily.”
untitled cow number one follows a widow as she deals with the 12 days following her husband’s death, incorporating Hindu and Buddhist themes, texts, images and myths. In preparing for the performance, Alvin explains the new elements that Gloria brings to the piece: “During rehearsals we would share stories, and I was better able to mediate between her life experience and text, inflecting it directly via the performance to bring out the full extent of the grief.”
Watching a rehearsal of untitled cow, Gloria more than successfully embodies a spectrum of emotions as she shifts from tearful widow to remembering happier days with her husband, leading one on an emotional rollercoaster as the past collides with the present, and her grief alone transforms the very performance space into something that feels almost sacred. Said Gloria: “There’s not much contemporary theatre in Bali, with most performances being either traditional or very commercial and catering to tourists. This time around, we’ll be performing in a black box space, which is a real rarity there. Ratna really wants to make a change and pioneer more multi-disciplinary, modern works.”
Along with WAFT-LAB’s visuals and sounds to be revealed during the performance itself, as well as the sheer spiritual energy that Bali exudes from its history, one imagines that this performance will certainly leave a lasting impact on audiences. As always, TNS is pushing further still in artistic bounds, and hopefully, this marks the start of a longstanding partnership, paving the way for future collaborations in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.
untitled cow number one plays from 23rd – 24th March in Bali, Indonesia at GEOK performance space, Singapadu. On 25th March, WAFT-LAB, Gloria and Alvin will be conducting workshops from 2 – 6pm at Cata Odata, Penestanan Kelod, Ubud.