Arts Review Singapore

★★★★★ Review: The Future Show by Chong Tze Chien and Jo Tan

Making sense of the uncertain future, one moment at a time.

Life often moves at breakneck speed, so fast that we hardly have time to reflect on all we’ve been through. To take a moment to pause and consider the sum total of our experiences then, is a luxury we must afford, if we are to actively, consciously build a better future for ourselves.

That is an opportunity that the NUS Arts Festival has afforded to artist Jo Tan, in the form of a performance titled The Future Show. Originally conceptualised by Deborah Pearson, this Singapore premiere of The Future Show was directed by Chong Tze Chien, and was written by and performed by Jo Tan, who uses the time to tell the “true story” of the rest of one performer’s life, starting from the end of the performance to the day they die.

As a result of this, no two shows are the same, each performance deeply personal as it drives writer/performer Jo to take an inward look at herself to make sense of where she goes from here. She is constantly writing and already thinking of how the next performance will differ from the current one, making changes that transform the script ever so slightly, a writer/actor in overdrive. Performed in a secret location at NUS, Jo (and Tze Chien’s) alma mater, the set-up of The Future Show is simple, an intimate space with a few chairs and space to sit on the floor. Candles are arranged around the space, as if trying to create a safe, calm space where one can meditate and be at peace, away from the world.

As Jo enters the space, she picks up a folder and begins to read her future. Her voice is crisp and clear, every word precisely pronounced, as she elaborates more about the minute details that lie ahead of her, using vivid metaphors, like the soluble paper that wraps around a White Rabbit sweet to represent a brief and unforgettable tenure. She shares about her love for anime like Bleach and Ranma 1/2, about the time she won a Life! Theatre Award but received neither trophy nor certificate, ensuring every line lands at precisely the right time, for maximum effect.

In the silence of the performance space, a room that actually used to be the sole performing arts space in NUS, she shows off her singing voice as it ricochets off the walls. She shares about her journey, taking shuttle bus A2 to Kent Ridge train station before switching to the North-South Line, a vivid, detailed route that’s a genuine memory. She takes us on a journey too, thinking about her love for Dungeons & Dragons, her time in clown school, and all the life lessons she’s learnt along the way.

Her mind wanders, dreaming of a majestic castle when peeking out from the second floor. And at some point, she wanders back to the future again, the immediate future where she worries about the next show she’s performing immediately after this, the second iteration of The Future Show, her process of dinner before diving straight into rehearsals. And further from that point, she finds herself on the 7th draft for a show she’s doing In May.

Time stops making sense. She shares her schedule with us – 2nd April, 3rd May, 27th May, 14th June – there’s always something that lies ahead, a lifetime of meticulous planning and seems to overwhelm her, as she expresses her frustrations, her raw emotions, her tears. Her growth as a capable character actor is phenomenal, and she switches between roles easily, drawing us in with her voice.

And where does all that take us? Hope. Disappointment. Deja vu. Again and again. In the future, how much of us today will remain, and how much of us will disappear? What is the legacy or the stories we leave behind? Nothing is permanent, nothing and no one lasts forever, not actors, not the status quo, and not even family. She cries as she recalls her 87-year old father’s stroke, how everything has changed, and how we’re surrounded by impermanence.

“I’m done with the future, the future is done with me,” she says, exhaling. It is a statement of intent, and an expression of desire. As much as you can make plans for it, you cannot predict the future. It is all we can do to find pockets of time where possible to capture and hold onto a brief moment of peace where we can. Only when we allow time to stand still, when we gather all these experiences to make sense of, do we really begin to know ourselves, and write our wants into reality.

The Future Show played from 17th to 18th March 2023, at 730pm and 9pm, at a secret location within NUS. More information available here

NUS Arts Festival 2023 – Spaces Between ran from 10th to 26th March 2023 at NUS. More information available from their website.

0 comments on “★★★★★ Review: The Future Show by Chong Tze Chien and Jo Tan

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: