If there is one rule that you should follow in the experiencing of Caught, it would be this: let go of all expectations
Presented by the Singapore Repertory Theatre (known for its Shakespeare in the Park productions, produced by Thought Leader Gaurav Kripalani) in collaboration with Miaja Gallery, Caught is an immersive event that brings us on a journey with dissident artist, Lin Bo, as we question our existing notions of truth.
The piece takes us through different phases – each layer subverting what we have just experienced, making us question the line between truth and lies. Or as Ed Sylvanus Iskandar, brains behind the concept and direction of the piece says: “The line is invisible. In fact, there is no line.”
This very much guides that the thematic arch of Caught. Done against the backdrop of the ongoing exhibition Dissonance at Miaja Gallery, the conflation of art forms in this unconventional presentation, brings to the forefront – in a very meta level – our perceptions of truth and artifice. How far would we suspend our disbelief? Where does art end and reality begin? I was brought on an emotional and cognitive roller coaster right from the beginning. Not the traditional cathartic roller coaster we have when watching a show, but one that treads on the borders of an existential upheaval.
This casual and cosy three-hour experience, is the brainchild of Iskandar. Iskandar speaks with such great passion and conviction when he shared about the inspiration behind the immersive experiences that he creates. He says that at the heart of his work, he wants to create a social connection, a human-to-human connection.
This vision has most definitely been central in the execution of Caught. From the moment we were queuing to enter the space, to when we were greeted by our small-group hosts for the evening. And right to the end of the night where we were invited to mingle with fellow experiencers, Iskandar’s guiding principle of connection runs through and through.
In response to a question about his processes, Iskandar talked about how he spends a lot of his time building structures that would not only guide the flow of the experience, but form the atmosphere and nature he envisions. I had an opportunity to ask one of the hosts for the evening how she got involved in this work. She shared that there was an audition where they were observed on how interesting they were in telling a story, and how effective they were in facilitating conversations and new connections. This is a reflection of how much thought has gone into each scaffold of the structure that Iskandar has created. And I would say that it has definitely achieved its intended goal at its pinnacle.
Creating the playground for Iskandar to explore in is the wonderfully clever text written by, Obie Award-winning playwright, Christopher Chen. When asked about his inspiration for the piece, Chen shared that he has always been intrigued by perceptions: how we form them, how we tear them down, and how they are varied. For Caught, he wanted to push himself to see how far he can play with our perceptions, by exploring how every scene is being subverted by the scene before. Even within each scene, Chen crafted a space where we seamlessly move from what we perceive as reality, to something that is so surreal and hard for our logical minds to compute: it makes us question everything. When asked what motivated this, Chen’s eyes lit up as he said, “I wanted to have a little fun with it.”
Having had this piece of writing done by various directors, I was curious to find out what Chen thought about this version of his text that has been seen through the creative lens of Iskandar. Chen expressed that this iteration is the closest to the intended essence of the play. He added that Iskandar has also added a whole new dimension to the experience by having audience move around and interact, something he feels is exciting.
Chen’s openness as he was sharing his thoughts was a clear reflection of what drives him to write: to be able to serve other artists with his work. Besides seeing what relevant discourse could be undertaken in the text, Chen grounds his processes and work on using his text to give fellow theatre-makers an exciting space to explore possibilities and play in.
The amalgamation of Chen’s and Iskandar’s cleverness is definitely something not to be missed. Be prepared to not be prepared at all. Bring an openness. Maybe drink a glass or two of G&T – it will definitely help you to let go of any expectations you have of what you are about to experience, of your perceptions, and perhaps even of your truths.
Caught by the Singapore Repertory Theatre runs till 6 Oct, at Miaja Gallery.