Day 143 : They Only Come at Night – Pandemic

Singapore is under attack by a deadly virus that turns the infected into bloodthirsty vampires and we are the last survivors! We must escape to OldSchool, the last stronghold where survivors gather and hopefully, we will make it out of this pandemic alive!

And that’s the story premise of the most experiential piece of theatre at this year’s Singapore Arts Festival. Happening at OldSchool, They Only Come at Night : Pandemic is a play where the audience gets to play. What does that mean? Quite simply, the audience is a part of this theatrical production that unfolds like a larger-than-life diorama.

I won’t divulge the story, but here’s an account of how I survived…

Pandemic took place at OldSchool, which is the former Methodist Girls’ School turned art enclave.

Located on Mount Sophia, the old world setting provided an excellent backdrop for a piece of drama that took advantage of the site.

What horrors await?

Crucifix in hand and garlic in pants.

Our journey to survive the vampires begins with a free exploration of the post-apocalyptic school…

I was told that OldSchool would be demolished soon so Pandemic was a great opportunity for us to wander and feel the nostalgia charm one last time.

Listening to narration that gives the background on what caused the pandemic while finding our way around. There was quite a bit of walking around and climbing of stairs. It was exercise theatre!

The school premises was dressed up to inject fear but not to the scare level of haunted houses.

Who or what is Quinn? My curiousity was stroked. The answer was revealed during the play.

Lots of broken salt circles littered the set. Complete salt circles are believed to be protection rings that keep evil forces out.

After exploring the upper level corridors, the audience gathered at the performance space on the lower level.

One advice for catching Pandemic… bring perfume or axe oil. As the play progresses, the most scary things weren’t the impending threat of being devoured by a vampire, but the body odours that emanated from everyone around.

The actors stood on makeshift stages to deliver their lines and at times, came down and interacted with the audience.

Close encounters of the fright kind.

Performed as a piece of interactive theatre where the audience were also props and actors, I thought the concept was creatively novel and interesting. But anyone seeking to be really spooked would be disappointed, as was I.

Personally, I felt the audience participation was merely a means of distracting the audience from a script we’ve seen so many times at the movies and the play’s cliche characterisations. The actors did a good job, just that the evening started out promising but the creature feature was too safe to raise any heart rates. They vampires was what we came for after all.

And the lenghty dialogues lost out to the sticky heat of an open-air performance space and didn’t quite reach a level of engagement where I felt for what went on, the five characters, or the theme of courage.

But for the unusual way that a play can be presented and experienced, I think Pandemic had stabbed a stick right at the heart of creativity.

They Only Come at Night : Pandemic runs from 22 – 27 May 2012.

Ticket Price : S$36.00 from SISTIC.

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