SIFA 2018: The Hidden by Kamini Ramachandran (Review)
Unearthing the stories hidden within this age-old monument.
As Singapore’s oldest Christian church, the Armenian Church is rife with the memory of travelers and people past, its very walls pulsating with a special kind of hidden power only afforded to the oldest of structures. With such a history behind it, it stands to reason that it makes for the perfect monument to stage something brimming with magic, and together with her team of storytellers, Kamini Ramachandran has done precisely that with her storytelling performance The Hidden.
Here, Kamini’s storytelling abilities are on full display and amplified further still by these sacred church grounds. Appearing in a beautiful red, floral printed garment, Kamini feels ethereal as she welcomes the audience into each space, leading us from the inside of the chapel, to the parsonage, and finally, to the graves at the memorial garden, supplementing each stop with an ancient tale passed down from generation to generation.
Although the handpicked stories are not directly related to the church, each tale is thematically linked to the location where they’re told to give them greater significance – in the memorial garden for instance, we’re gathered close to the burial ground of Agnes Miss Joaquim, and Kamini tells a tale of murder and revenants coming back to life.
Kamini’s confidence in addressing the audiences and good pacing rewards us with arresting stories of selfish girls, star-crossed lovers, and agriculturally birthed maidens – each tale is a revelation and has our attention throughout. Kamini’s voice is a razor sharp knife that cuts through the heavy air under the moonlit night, at once majestic and spiritual, yet deeply personal, forging an immediate connection between us and the tales.
Kamini is well supported by her fellow performers, with Daisy Mitchell and Jeremy Leong narrating facts and context surrounding the church, while composer and musician Derrick Tay impresses with his skill at multiple unconventional, traditional instruments, providing incidental music, song and an almost shamanistic score to complement Kamini’s stories.
In addition, despite the humidity, the production team has made The Hidden a relatively comfortable and immersive experience, providing either chairs or mats for the outdoor segments, and sufficient light and a sound system to ensure full visibility and audibility of the performance. There’s a lot of heart and detail that has gone into creating this experience – different incense sticks are burnt at each location to allow for a fully sensory experience and maximum atmosphere.
The Hidden is a fundamentally spiritual experience, mystic and enchanting, and is a perfect introduction to modern day Scheherazade Kamini Ramachandran and the power of the oral tradition. The Hidden transports us back to a simpler time where storytelling was king, and with luck, audiences will continue to share these fantastic tales for generations to come, no longer hidden away within the cloisters of a select few, but unearthed, revived and revealed once more to the world.
Performance attended 3/5/18
The Hidden plays at the Armenian Church from 3rd – 6th May. Tickets are available here