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Review: Secretive Thing 215 by Secretive Thing (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2020)

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★★★★☆ (Performance attended 9/1/20)
Intricate, introspective experience with only our phones and a mysterious communicator.

Going in to a performance of a secretive nature, knowing absolutely nothing about what to expect, feels a little unnerving and very exciting. With Secretive Thing 215, the latest ‘show’ by mysterious collective Secretive Thing, all we know is that we are to come with a phone enabled with WhatsApp, and dress light, expecting to be engaged throughout.

Even on the 2020 M1 Singapore Fringe website, the only hint we’re given as to what the ‘show’ might involve revolves around a cryptic message from a ‘Dr Francis Toh’ of the Glasgo Mascon Kline (GMK) Medical Institute. Playing the role of a new member of the institute, we are to undergo some sort of test, receiving instructions, links and audio only via WhatsApp as to how to proceed every step of the way.

As the ‘experiment’ begins, we were assessed, and the graded results of that assessment already put us in a certain mindset, depending on whether we scored ‘well’ or ‘terribly’. With no actual human contact happening throughout the entire show, we are left to rely completely on our devices, and uncertain how much we can trust the information and texts we receive with no clue who the sender really is, or who he claims he is. The instructions, while clear and concise, are read with a note of suspicion, as we consider whether to follow them completely, or go rogue and directly disobey them. After all – we have no idea how we’re actually being judged.

As our mission brought us to different areas and the clandestine nature of our communication with our ‘guide’, there was almost a sense of paranoia that began to develop, with the sense that we were constantly being watched. Turning around, often, there would be someone who seems to be following us before disappearing when we looked again, or no one at all. As much as we were left to explore a wide play area, there were moments of claustrophobia from the perceived surveillance.

With every task completed, we wind up going deeper into questioning our morals and thought processes. We think about where people are truly who they seem to be, or wonder about how there are certain things that may appear simple, but become incredibly difficult when forced into making certain decisions under pressure. Often, we would find ourselves thinking out of the box, looking from the outside in on ourselves and becoming acutely aware of our surroundings and how we were behaving.

There’s obviously been a lot of planning that’s gone into such a project and the materials prepared, with the way each text is designed to lead us down a certain way, or charge us with adrenaline at certain points. As much as multiple scenarios can happen, there’s enough of a system in place to ensure that we don’t stray from the objectives and keep things in order. A work of this nature requires plenty of play testing and planning to make it work, especially when it comes to understanding how to fully immerse audiences into this new world.

As an audience member, I was made to feel more aware of what was going on around me, even making me feel a little scared at times. I came out of this experience sweaty from running away from certain things and achieving my goals in the best possible way. Secretive Thing 215 then, ends up becoming a solitary affair with a rush, as we think about our reliance on technology in our daily lives, all while navigating the strange tests of GMK, and leaving us a little clearer on where we stand in our relationship with ourselves.

Photo Credit: Secretive Thing

Secretive Thing 215 runs from 9th to 19th January 2020 as part of the 2020 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. Tickets available from SISTIC

The 2020 M1 Singapore Fringe Festival runs from 8th to 19th January 2020. Tickets and more information available from their website here

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