10th birthday with Cake

Cake Theatrical Productions’ artistic director Natalie Hennedige prefers to move on instead of dwelling on the group’s achievements.
Cake Theatrical Productions’ artistic director Natalie Hennedige prefers to move on instead of dwelling on the group’s achievements. ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Cake Theatrical Productions commissions new work for a three-night, pay-as-you-wish arts party for its 10th anniversary

For Cake Theatrical Productions' 10th anniversary, artistic director Natalie Hennedige and collaborators are stripping bare the group's official home at Block E, Goodman Arts Centre, taking out floorboards and removing 40 boxes of old costumes and posters.

The space will host three nights of newly commissioned performances and art installations on the theme Running With Strippers. The pay-as-you-wish event runs from Nov 19 to 21. Pre-registration is mandatory as only up to 50 people can be accommodated at one time.

"It's a space we've always dreamt of having a performance in," says Hennedige, 40, showing off the long space bare of most furniture apart from a fridge, some chairs and a few tables.

The group's third-floor home, which it has occupied since 2011, was formerly four classrooms when the centre was the School of the Arts.

"I remember being quite excited the first time I walked in because of the depth, because it was a classroom, but you could break the rules."

Running With Strippers is a celebration of what Hennedige and her company stand for: unexpected and rewarding productions such as this year's commission for the Singapore International Festival of Arts. Versus was a psychedelic representation of the rise and fall of empires with dinosaurs and zombie sheep represented on stage.

  • BOOK IT / RUNNING WITH STRIPPERS

    WHERE: 90 Goodman Road, 03-32, Block E

    WHEN: Nov 19 to 21,8pm

    ADMISSION: Pay what you wish. Register your attendance at admin@caketheatre.com

    INFO: www.caketheatre.com

The anniversary line-up is an evolution of the four-year-old Decimal Points series where collaborators create new work under Cake's umbrella. Multimedia artist and film-maker Brian Gothong Tan made his debut as a theatrical director in the first edition, Decimal Points 4.44. A year later in 2012, sound designer Philip Tan directed performance work Decimal Points 7.7 while last year, Neo Kim Seng, better known as an independent producer, turned theatre director and playwright in Decimal Points 810.

Hennedige says: "If we're going to push the possibilities of performance, we have to look from a different perspective. How would a literary person make a work, or a musical person like Philip? Then when we go back to the traditional formula, things are richer because there's nothing like being vulnerable, stripping and being forced to articulate what you want to say."

Neo, 51, says the same in a separate interview about his work for Running With Strippers, My Grandfather's Road. It is a photo and text homage to his childhood in Neo Pee Teck Lane, named after his businessman grandfather. He paid $52 to the Land Transport Authority for an old street sign that is part of the installation.

Working on old photos of his former family home also helped him make peace with his stormy relationship with his late father, he says, adding that he will take his mother, who is in her 80s, through the installation.

"I'm very, very happy to be a part of this. When I wrote the piece, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but at the end I realised it was about mortality and, more importantly, about renewing your relationships with people."

Running With Strippers presents nine performances of arts, sound, drama and music over three nights. Musical groups TAJ The Astral Journey and Setts (Southeastern Ensemble for Today's and Tomorrow's Sounds) play a set after the arts presentations on the first two nights. The third night, it is BYOM(usic), with audience members invited to share their own playlists.

Each morning will require an overhaul of the arts space for the next set of shows. On Nov 19, the corridor outside Cake's home will have astroturf and motion sensors for the sensory experience The Big Empty by design collective neontights, and artists Zulkifle Mahmod and Rizman Putra. Within, Jo Kukathas acts in Instructions For Swimming; Notes On Drowning, plays written by Hennedige and Cake's resident writer Michelle Tan.

The next night, the fake grass and other props will make room for Neo's work and Zai Tang's video and sound performance featuring bird calls recorded in Bukit Brown Cemetery - Untitled II (Bukit Brown Cemetery III). This set-up has to be changed again for the third night featuring work by lighting designer Andy Lim, video artist Ho Tzu Nyen and other collaborators.

Hennedige is not worried about the labour: "We haven't yet done a show where I haven't been on my hands and knees yanking out floorboards or something."

She does wonder how the stuff currently in storage will fit back into the group's space - or whether she wants it back. She refuses to allow posters of old productions on the wall lest they prevent her from looking ahead. While clearing out the space for Running With Strippers, she found old flyers for her 10-year-old production Animal Vegetable Mineral and "allowed one week for nostalgia" before putting them away again.

"It was not on the walls, but in a box as a way of creating distance from things so important to you just so you can move on. You can't hold on too closely to things."

Looking around at the bare walls, she adds: "I'm not sure how these boxes can come back in again. When things go out, it makes a difference. When you leave a space, you never come back in the same way."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline '10th birthday with Cake'. Print Edition | Subscribe