Life is a lost & found box. At least, that’s how the Esplanade sees it come 2020, with their latest season of The Studios come March and April. Dealing with the experience of loss and all the complicated emotions that come with it, a loss often results in an empty void we then have to fill, therefore goading and motivating us into finding something to plug the gap. In that journey, we are driven by something even more fundamental that keeps us alive still – hope that we come out of this loss still okay.
The Studios 2020 then, is the Esplanade’s attempt at sifting through the void, collecting and collating its disparate parts, examining our losses, and asking of ourselves what we might find in losing something, as displayed across these four productions. The range of topics and artists featured this time vary remarkably, from toy pianist Margaret Leng Tan telling her story in Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep, to multimedia artist Brian Gothong Tan with installation/theatre piece Lost Cinema 20/20.
Rounding up the programme are local companies Teater Ekamatra and Checkpoint Theatre, each casting the spotlight on relatively newer playwrights as they continue their theatrical journey. Punggah by Johnny Jon Jon and The Heart Comes to Mind by Lucas Ho both delve into death and how reconciliation and redemption emerge from its messy aftermath, while this season’s RAW features the Disabled Artists Collective presenting Untitled Women in the Sea, using text from Haresh Sharma to showcase the diversity of lived experiences.
Co-commissioned by the Esplanade and Arts Centre Melbourne, The Studios 2020 opens with this intimate look into the life of toy pianist Margaret Leng Tan. Created by a team of Singaporean and Australian artists led by Chamber Made director Tamara Saulwick, Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep is multimedia portrait of Tan, tracing her path as a major force within the American avant-garde.
Exploring memory, time, control and loss, spoken and recorded text, projected images and original music come together, with Tan herself at the centre of the performance, bringing to light her status as a muse to giants such as John Cage and George Crumb, and how she elevated the toy piano into a serious instrument. As one of the foremost experimental musicians to hail from our island city, Dragon Ladies Don’t Weep attempts to uncover and collapse the forces that have shaped Tan’s life and show just how much music has been both her passion and her refuge.
Previously presented as an installation at LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts in 2018, Brian Gothong Tan now brings Lost Cinema into 2020 with a multi-disciplinary performance directed by him, with text by Kaylene Tan. In the work, watch as films and dreams are juxtaposed against each other, highlighting the curious state of awareness when we dream, while exploring how our subconscious creates cinematic narratives that blur the lines between imagination and reality.
Known for his role as a multimedia designer and video artist across various theatrical works and exhibitions, Lost Cinema 20/20 stars Karen Tan, Lim Yu Beng, Ma Yanling, Irfan Kasban, Munah Bagharib and Sun Phitthaya Phaefuang. Through a conversation with the rich visual culture of films, including those from the golden age of Singapore cinema, deconstructs tropes in filmography and looks at what shapes and defines our shared subconscious.
Taking extracts from Haresh Sharma’s short plays untitled women number one and Sea, this work-in-progress by the Disabled Artists Collective explores themes of sisterhood, togetherness, transgression and feminism through the lens of disability, deafness and chronic conditions.
Performed by one deaf and three disabled actresses, the multi-disciplinary theatrical experience reimagines characters and reveals a diversity of lived experiences, as led by Peter Sau and his inclusive team of artists. Get set for a voyage of desires, memories, histories, strengths and vulnerabilities.
Co-presented by Teater Ekamatra, Punggah is written by Johnny Jon Jon and directed by Malaysia’s Fasyali Fadzly. In this new work, Punggah tells the story of the unlikely friendship between Zaitun, a palliative care nurse who finds joy in burying cuttings, patients and her past; and Martin, a filial man trying to trace his dying mother’s past in order to fulfill her final request.
Compelled by time, both struggle to deal with personal conflicts as they try to reconcile the past and the present – all in the hope of carrying out responsibilities for the people they both love and hate. Starring Umi Kalthum Ismail, Krish Natarajan, and Ashwini Nambiar, Punggah explores themes of reconciliation and redemption, as told through the lives of those dealing with death.
When life sends family members towards separate trajectories, what keeps us bound together? Directed by Claire Wong, in Lucas Ho’s new play, The Heart Comes to Mind explores the relationship between an aging writer and his scientist daughter. As they each wrestle with the loss of their wife and mother, each comes to contemplate personal failures and relational shortcomings within their family. What private pain do we carry? Can we forgive each other? How does the heart make sense of what the mind cannot forget?
Starring Julius Foo and Oon Shu An, The Heart Comes To Mind is set to be a visceral yet heartfelt exploration of the private struggles between a father and a daughter. We spin away and apart—sometimes, the journey home is an unstoppable collision course.
The Studios 2020: Lost & Found plays at the Esplanade Theatre Studio from 25th March to 26th April 2020. Tickets and full lineup available from the Esplanade. For updates on the works, follow The Studios on Facebook