After a trip to the mythical land of the vikings with Valhalla and the Chambers of Asgard, Andsoforth, Singapore’s first and only immersive dining and theatre company, is back with a brand new multi-room experience. This time around, they’ve taken inspiration from French author Jules Verne, and are set to take audience members Around the World in 80 Days.
Of course, you won’t really take 80 days to complete the experience, but you’ll certainly feel like you’re hurtling from one exotic country to another. Follow the eccentric Phileas Fogg as he places an impossible wager with the Minister of Finance, betting that he can bring his entire fleet of passengers (the audience) around the world in 80 days, and return them safely in one piece, or face bankruptcy!
Says Andsoforth co-founder Stuart Wee: “When we decided to do embark on this project last year, it was out of how people these days really wanted to do was to travel around the world and experience many different things, from the food to the culture. And if it’s anyone who can create that, it’s a show from Andsoforth, and bring them to different lands and countries, all in one experience.”
“Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days was a good starting point for us – it’s a famous book after all, and there’s a lot in the source material we could draw inspiration from,” he adds. “It’s going to be one of our biggest projects yet, and there’ll be a total of 7 rooms featured. Part of the fun is how audience members will get to take different modes of transport to travel to all these different countries, from London to France, India to Hong Kong, Japan to New York. You’ll be sitting on The Orient Express, and you might even get to ride a hot air balloon.”
Starting out at a ticket office in London, audience members should brace themselves for one heck of a voyage from start to finish, as they board a steam boat, sit on a train to Hong Kong via The Orient Express, wander the jungles of Calcutta, exploring the coal mines of Japan, and then arriving at an extravagant circus in New York. As they encounter tight situations and uncover the mysteries of the world, they’ll still have to outsmart the bumbling Inspector Fix, a Scotland Yard officer who mistakenly believes that Fogg has robbed a bank.
“For us, the research has always been important to any production,” says Stuart. “Because every single one of our ideas are so different, we need to make sure we do our due diligence in making sure each one is executed in a believable way, from food service to the menu, and that the overall concept feels right. We usually get our collaborators to pitch in as well, whether it’s our chef or costume designer, because they have their own expertise as well.”
For purists, rest assured that Around the World in 80 Days continues Andsoforth’s dedication to crafting work based on the source material. “Back when we did Wonderland, we also based our work on Lewis Carroll’s novel, and because there were a lot of things the films left out, it was interesting to see how audience members were curious to read the book thereafter and find out more,” says Andsoforth co-founder Emily Png.
Andsoforth has honestly come a long way since their very first project back in 2014, a work called The Hideaway. Loosely inspired by the Titanic, the set was divided across an ‘upper deck’ and ‘lower deck’, which determined the social class of the characters living within, and audience members could experience both storylines. “Back then, there really was no one else in Singapore doing anything like what we were,” says Stuart. “We weren’t very experienced back then, and we were experimenting a lot with form. I knew we were going to make mistakes, but I also knew that Singaporeans were hungry for interesting concepts, and we had to give it a try. So we brought in a lot of friends and people who were experienced to help out, like with the script, or a chef who did a stint in Noma and came up with all these crazy dishes.”
“For now, we’ve been going back to Jason Ang every single time now, and we’re happy to be working with him once again for Around the World in 80 Days,” adds Stuart. “He can do everything, regardless of production size, and knows how to differentiate between casual and fine dining, does good plating, and all kinds of cuisine. He’s worked closely with us in designing the menu to represent the settings while still retaining an element of surprise. Really, with regards to collaborators, you need to have people willing to be in the trenches with you with each new production, and it really helps make things a lot more efficient.”
It’s honestly been one heck of a journey Andsoforth has embarked on, with Around the World in 80 Days marking their forty-sixth production since their establishment. “We’ve really learnt a lot since we started, and it’s quite incredible how we’ve managed to do a whole new concept with every project we’ve done,” says Stuart. “Going from Valhalla to 80 Days, we’ve had to turn over the space at Warehouse16, and refurbish it to fit the new show. Even before the show starts and we can start doing things to the space, we already have to plan out the script, costume, set, and all this in the 3 months between our two shows.”
“Not to mention, the rising costs of our productions because of how we’re always making it bigger and better,” he adds. “Our sets are rooted in strong carpentry, woodwork and lighting, and all of it together is about full immersion, and escaping reality. You have to make sure that you can transport the audience to a new world each time they step in to a new room, and we really want to create a sense of adventure with this show, and let you be taken on a journey around the world.”
In spite of the coronavirus, Andsoforth has decided to remain steadfast and carry on with the show, and has taken all requisite measures to up the level of hygiene and safety to top notch conditions. “We can’t afford to close now. We’ve already invested in the set, and our overheads,” explains Stuart. “We aren’t a non-profit getting government support; we have bills to pay, and our own crew and team need jobs too. We’re certainly not going against any law, and adhere to the guidelines set by the government. Unless they enforce a strict ban, then we’ll carry on.”
Measures the team will be taking include checking visitors’ travel history and conducting temperature checks at the door, avoiding handshakes, and possibly a manual at the door to tell people what not to do. “Of all people, we’re the ones who can’t afford to have any incidences, especially if it might affect our team as well, so we’re minimising the risk by taking all precautions,” says Emily.
“If you remember, the first two weeks of the virus, everyone was gone, but then right after, people slowly started coming out to shopping malls again and going out,” says Stuart. “Even with the virus, life has to go on, outside of work. Our job then, with Around the World in 80 Days, is to provide that, while still making sure we keep them safe. And if anything, it’s a production we know will bring joy, fun and excitement to people, and god knows we need some of that in our lives at the moment.”
Around the World in 80 Days will be taking off soon from a secret location. For more information and tickets, visit their website here