Existential take on vampirism and what it means to truly live.
Throughout history, vampires have often been known as brooding, lonely creatures, with the traditional, Dracula-archetype living in solitude in massive castles, awakening from daylight slumber only to feed and create more vampiric creatures. And through the eyes of writer-director Wisely Chow, this is a prime opportunity to explore how vampires are to be pitied and sympathised with, as seen in their brand new play An Audience with No One, where they deal with personal traumas and existential crises.
While its title may sound absurd, An Audience with No One is so named to evoke questions surrounding one’s purpose and existence, as we zoom in on Talia (Indumathi Tamilselvan) and Charlie (Matthias Teh), the last remaining vampires on Earth. Paying homage to vampires in pop culture, Talia evokes Blade vibes from her dark sunglasses and black overcoat, while Charlie seems far more ordinary in his get-up, fitting for his ‘sidekick’ status to Talia. These vampires may be cold blooded, yet they seem to still hold onto some vestige of humanity, from Charlie affectionately naming all their chickens, to sharing conversations, with only each other to rely on.
Their relatively peaceful existence is interrupted however, when they sense a third vampire in the area, and discover Maya (Masturah Oli). It is this unexpected arrival that causes the vampires to begin reflecting on their raison d’être. As a relatively new vampire, Maya is still shocked that she can no longer see her own reflection, and falls in love with the taste of chicken blood prepared by the other two. As she questions them on why they don’t drink human blood instead, Talia reveals the remnants of her humanity, and the kindness she shows for humans. Despite her craving for human blood, she chooses to avoid feeding on them as she does not want them to go through the same pain and suffering she does as a vampire.
In building the world of An Audience with No One, Wisely leaves little room for questions. How can the vampires afford chickens? By working, of course. Aptly, they work as night guards for a museum, giving Maya and Talia some alone time to talk. Again breaking the stereotype of a cold-blooded killer, the two discuss the possibility of dating (over a screening of Night at the Museum, of course), and they warm up to each other. As Talia, Indumathi does manages to show how her character has taken a liking to Maya, her subtle enthusiasm and joy coming through. As they reveal their vulnerabilities to each other, as Talia tells Maya about the sun, and how she is simply a vampire trying to survive, looking into each other’s eyes under the moonlight.
Maya however, continues to struggle with her vampirism and inability to see her own reflection, symbolic of how she feels she has lost her identity and sense of self after being turned. Wisely isn’t afraid to approach darker topics, and out of desperation, Maya makes a suicidal, but unsuccessful attempt to step into the sun, just to feel human again. Surprisingly, it is Charlie who comes to her rescue, as he attempts to help her with his own coping mechanism, to learn to be more aware of every other part of her self after losing one. Ironically, the more Charlie shares about his own story, the more vulnerable he feels, and runs away, a reminder of how trauma never truly disappears, regardless of how much time has passed.
What we are left with is a sympathetic image of the vampires, forlorn after the trauma of losing their entire existence of humans as they knew it, and in a constant state of despair. How then do they move forward, out of this eternal night? Perhaps it comes from supporting each other, and stepping away from solitude. As Talia and Maya sits down, they share a moment of tenderness, as they focus all their attention on each other, finding solace in each other’s presence, and realising that they must step out in the light, away from the darkness. They make a choice to embrace the challenges ahead together, and head to the beach, hand in hand, and stepping towards the sunrise. Unlike how they imagine the sun might burn them up, they instead are able to play and frolic in the light, embracing the warmth as the rays fall on their skin.
In a final show of vulnerability, Talia breaks the fourth wall and explains how the bite marks she received are still visible, a mark to remind her of her past, one she may not be able to erase, but must learn to embrace as her new life. We watch as the three of them carry on with their lives, managing to make progress, finding ways and means to cope. And as Talia takes a step closer to the ocean, she allows her feet to touch the waves, able to feel again, able to live their best lives. The three of them reunite, and they smile. An Audience with No One then is a stark reminder that while we may all carry the traumas from our past, to truly live, we must learn to cope with the painful aftermath, if we are to embrace the future.
An Audience with No One played from 8th to 11th September 2021 at Goodman Arts Centre Black Box.