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Toy Factory’s Lab Projects 2018: An Interview with Playwright Zhu Xin Chen and Director Goh Boon Teck of Oedipus (鞭爱)

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This week, Toy Factory productions launches into their 2018 edition of the Lab Projects, presenting brand new plays staged in their own home in Chinatown at NOWPlaying@17. In the first of two works, the company will be presenting Zhu Xin Chen’s Oedipus, a dark mystery following a severely disabled man who has whipped his 50 year old mother to death. As we follow an officer determined to get to the bottom of this, one becomes privy to the series of incidents eventually leading to this horrific outcome. We spoke to writer Zhu Xin Chen and director Goh Boon Teck to shed a little more light on this pitch black play. Read the interview in full below:

Zhu Xin Chen

Bakchormeeboy: Could you tell us a little more about the play’s title? 

Xin Chen: The play’s Chinese title is “鞭爱”, which can be translated into “whipping for love” in English. The play’s title is a question for the reflection of love and intimacy, as the play is a questioning of the emphatic or sympathetic nature of society when faced with what would be known as “immoral” love.  

The Chinese title “鞭爱” really focuses on the interaction and conflict of love and its psychological make-up in a very unconventional but believable situation.

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Bakchormeeboy: From its synopsis, Oedipus seems like an incredibly dark play. Why are you drawn towards such a topic? 

Xin Chen: As a doctorate student, my research interest includes marginalized love and sex in modern cities. The play is adapted from my lecturer Chen Xiwo’s novel “I Love My Mum”. The story is about a shocking tale of murder, incest, and love, and it inspired me to write this play. I would say the focus is really on the “immoral” and “abnormal” romance and the shocking sadomasochism between the murdered mother, her murderer – the son, and his storyline running in curious parallel with the police investigator with an almost similar name.

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Bakchormeeboy: Why did you decide to work with Toy Factory on bringing your play to life?

Xin Chen: Goh Boon Teck is one of the best directors in Singapore. In fact, I have sent this play to many theatre groups in Singapore and overseas. Mr. Goh has a big interest in this play and wants to perform it on the stage, I am so grateful to him for bringing my play to life. I believe that Mr. Goh can present the light and darkness of human nature through this play.

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Bakchormeeboy: As a playwright, what would you say you wish to write about, and what do you hope audiences walk away with after watching Oedipus? 

Xin Chen: I wish to continue to write about marginalized love and sex in modern cities and challenge the dichotomy of good and evil. I hope that audience can reflect our love and sex, feel for the so-called “abnormal” love, think over the light and darkness in human nature.

Goh Boon Teck

Bakchormeeboy: Why did you decide to take on direction for Oedipus, and why was it selected as one of the lab projects to be presented? Why is it so different from anything we’ve watched onstage so far? 

Boon Teck: I am looking for a provocative material that is able to challenge my own senses in terms of directing. So, when this play was submitted to me, I was frightened by its context. This inspired me want to attempt in exploring the subject matter deeper through the use of theatrical art.

The play presents a crime story about a son killing his own mother. Using an intimate Blackbox setting will appropriately set the tone of the play as audiences become the witnesses. Moreover, conducting the production in such an environment can give our audiences an immersive and holistic experience.

Our mission for conducting lab projects is to create a conducive and safe space that will motivate aspiring young writers, dramatists and artists to innovate. So, by using the space at NOWplaying@17, new creatives can have room to exercise their creativity. Oedipus is one play that challenges the conventional theatre space and engages the audiences.

Audiences get to roam around from the ground floor to the third level. So, they will be walking through a crime scene instead of watching an onstage performance on the theatre seat. Their senses of feel, smell, hearing and sight will be alerted and immersed throughout the play. Therefore, we feel that an intimate Blackbox setting using audiences as witnesses would be appropriate.

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Bakchormeeboy: Tell us a bit more about the kind of mood you want to establish with your direction.

Boon Teck: Bleak, dark and haunting. The play will be totally engaging with nerve-racking and thrilling moments.

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Bakchormeeboy: How and why has Toy Factory decided to create the Lab Projects series, and what is the future of these projects after the staging is complete?

Boon Teck: The Lab Projects series was created to showcase our own artistic directors’ conceptualization of two daring concepts. The series will be conducted within a space where unique styles of the directors can be presented in an unconventional manner. By challenging the norm and stretching our creativity, we hope to restage the shows at NOWPlaying@17 or move to bigger stages. This series provides the platform to new writers and designers to be nurtured.

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Bakchormeeboy: How do you hope NOWPlaying@17 will continue to develop as a space and what its purpose is in the local theatre scene? 

Boon Teck: I hope NOWPlaying@17 will continue hosting new projects for up and coming creatives to express their creativity. When working with new materials, it is not advisable for us to rent places outside. Reason being is that it is too expensive for us to experiment and do testing for new pieces of work in terms of theatre rental and manpower costs.

Oedipus plays from 21st – 22nd September 2018 (7.00pm, 8.30pm, 9.30pm) and 28th-29th September 2018 (7.00pm, 8.30pm, 9.30pm) at NOWPlaying@17 (17A Smith Street S058931) Tickets available from Eventbrite.

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