The Studios 2021: #Theatre
Esplanade Theatre, Thursday (Jan 14)
No actors, no dialogue and no costumes.
That is what awaits in this site-specific experience at the Esplanade Theatre, which is literally about the space itself.
In this Esplanade commission by design collective Index, the audience is invited to sit on the theatre’s empty stage and bask in the quiet magnificence of its architecture, as well as the histories and energies that inhabit the space.
Having seen numerous productions in this theatre, I was intrigued by the chance to go behind the scenes and experience from another perspective a location that has created so much joy and excitement in my life.
This is theatre, no doubt. Despite the lack of actors, there are characters. The building, for example, has its own personality and secrets, which it slowly unfurls to the audience.
There are heroes too. As the lights fade in and out, previously unseen corners of the space are revealed, showing staircases, doors, boxes of electrical tools, lighting and sound equipment, cables and many “danger” signs.
These are the often unsung elements of a stage production – the followspot that illuminates and clings to a graceful dancer, the amplifier that lets a soprano’s high note be heard in all its spine-tingling glory – that are finally given a chance to be the star of the show.
And there are twists and turns. Just as the wonder ebbs, the grande dame reveals another trick up her sleeve, unveiling new aspects that might surprise even the most seasoned theatre-goer.
Most importantly, there is a sense of humanity in the building and its contents – every tool and piece of equipment has a story to tell about the people who operate them, make a livelihood from them and use them to create beautiful works of art.
The production speaks ingeniously through absence. Without actors, a stage becomes a blank slate upon which one’s memories can play out scenes from beloved past productions, enriching one’s experience of the present.
An ode to the craft of theatre-making, the show also pushes the envelope of what theatre is, welcoming viewers into a drama of the physical space.
The result is a poetic encounter with the Esplanade Theatre’s architecture and structure, making me look forward to when it can once again come alive with actors, stagehands and the whole chorus line.
Book It/The Studios 2021: #theatre
Where: Esplanade Theatre, 1 Esplanade Drive
When: Thursday (Jan 14) to Sunday (Jan 17), various timings
Admission: $20 via Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to sistic.com.sg)
Info: Esplanade website