Phase 2, BTF Asia Focus, Bangkok: Chasing Time

It’s 12am, as I perch on a ledge of a pond, umbrella giaped between my neck and shoulder, left hand holding supper, I take off my White Adidas shoes and step into the ankle deep ponding A and ZH had warned me about. Through the murky water is the only way to get back to the apartment. The heat has given up for the rain. The skies have opened, and water is everywhere.

For the past 2 days, Chuan and I have been working with the technical aspect of staging the read. I see it as a warm up to the actual BTF in November. Right now, the space in Thong Lor will sit only 30 people. It’s quite intimate. It’s a simple setup, and I do like how simple it is. The simplest setup offers the best storytelling, it only seeks to lay a runway for the audience’s imagination. That’s what I love about theatre-making here.

We’ve read Open Waters twice in the last 2 days, mostly to sort out cues, but today was the first time Chuan and I got on our feet with it, albeit script in hand. Feeling it in our bodies, seeing it staged, I am more certain about what we have. We still have refinements but I believe this is something special. Do all playwrights feel that way?

I try to remain critical. Yes, we’ve been thinking and creating for months now, and keeping to the heart of whichever craft we’re applying will help us focus, to bring attention to the scalpel as we look to carve away the fat and improve on what we have. Today, the director’s and the actor’s craft took the forefront.

At 940pm, my body feels tired. I would eventually spend 12 hours at Thong Lor Arts Space, the cute friendly kittens in the space offer a nice repose between work but my throat is allergic. Now, my body reminds me I am still on Singapore time, it is 1 hour ahead of me, while I continue to work now in the past.

What does our work stand for? Yes, we’ve layered it, but as an actor, I ask myself what is my journey in the work? What propels me forward? As a director, I ask myself, what is the journey that we’re bringing the audience along? Why watch Open Waters?

I had a conversation with an auntie at the photocopy machine. Our script, after including the Thai and English translations by Shea is at 70+ pages. It takes more than 20 minutes to print 6 copies and bind them. The auntie teaches me a few Thai phrases: “May I have an invoice? Keep speaking Thai.” I tell her in broken Thai, I am Teochew Singaporean. It was easier and I thought it was less intrusive to offer information than to ask after hers. My hunch was right, she was a 3rd generation Teochew. We converse a bit in Teochew.

At 1115pm, after the cue to cue. Chuan and I have a discussion about the work though we’re not really sure we’re completely communicating well with each other at that hour. I appreciate that about our collaboration, we’re constantly trying to clarify, to articulate, without assuming that what we have said, in fact, is objectively clear. The language barrier forces upon us clarification. It can get trying at times, but this is what collaboration is. In no matter what language, we seek to constantly meet each other, to reach the same level. Sometimes it just takes a little more trust, a little more respect and a little more openness to make that jump, even though we may not know where we’ll land.

It’s 1am in Bangkok and 2am in Singapore. The frogs are out in full force. And I’m waiting for Yi-Sheng to ring, signalling his arrival and my turn to sleep.


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