Silence is power in this immersive tour that summons the ghosts of the past to the National Gallery. 

It’s 10pm at the National Gallery, long after opening hours have ceased, and all is quiet. It’s a little nervewracking; one becomes keenly aware of each step you take, echoing through the walls of the former Supreme Court with its high ceilings and expansive corridors.

And that’s precisely the kind of environment new theatre collective Ground Z-0 requires to glean the maximum impact and atmosphere required for their debut production – 0600. Taking the form of an immersive performance-presentation, we find ourselves gathering outside the former holding cells before the ‘tour’ commences as we wait with bated breath. We spot Ground Z-0 director Zelda Tatiana Ng as we receive our briefing, and smiling, she whispers ‘Enjoy’ before we head in.

‘Enjoy’ is perhaps a difficult word to use to describe this serious experience. 0600 refers to the time each morning at which death row inmates are scheduled to hang, and the entire performance revolves around showcasing facts and statistics surrounding the death penalty in Singapore, and even the experiences a person convicted of the death penalty goes through, along with those around him. But this is neither an argument for or against the death penalty; in showcasing each of these perspectives, it’s an immersive performance-presentation-installation that invites audiences to reflect on the impact and necessity of the death penalty, and decide for themselves the judgment they wish to privately pass.

Naturally, given the subject matter, it’s an incredibly heavy piece, and prospective audience members should steady their nerves for potentially disturbing content. 0600 uses multiple mediums across the course of its tour – you’ll visit the former holding cells and hear from defence attorneys and prosecutors over well-produced videos and voiceovers, and depending on the time of your ‘sentence’, you might even hear a moving tale from family members of the convicted, or from a convict himself as he reminisces standing trial and committing his gruesome crimes (In our case, both Grace Kalaiselvi and Adib Kosnan did well to display a distressed mother and a remorseless convict respectively).

Ground Z-0 has utilised the site-specific space of the National Gallery incredibly well, and summons the ghosts of the past to create a sense of entrapment and claustrophobia, perhaps similar to how inmates might have felt as they faced judgment. Your ‘guides’ speak tersely and harshly, and the experience of recreating the death row experience is vividly done. One example is when visitors are asked to think about their last meal, an act that makes one feel personally invested in and afeared of the process. No one dares speak throughout the presentation, and that silence only helps contribute to the pensive, affecting nature of the work as we’re given the time and headspace to reflect on the death penalty.

Photo from Ground Z-0

For all the weight the topic bears, Ground Z-0 has made thinking about the death penalty an accessible and intensely personal experience, engaging audiences emotionally and making it feel immediate and fiercely relevant. Whichever way you’ve decided to swing regarding the death penalty, you’ll no doubt still be left haunted by the facts and stories long into the night as you trudge back down the National Gallery’s huge, empty hallways. Kudos to the team of Adib Kosnan, Grace Kalaiselvi, Lina Yu, Suhaili Safari, Jeramy Lim, Vignesh Singh and of course, Zelda Tatiana Ng for creating an informative, well researched work that makes full use of the theme of ‘Monuments’, vividly bringing the National Gallery’s troubled history as the former Supreme Court to life.

Performance attended 28/4/18, 10pm

0600 plays at the National Gallery from 27th April – 3rd May. Tickets are sold out. All monologues and show information will be published on Ground Z-0’s Facebook after the end of the run. 

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