Body X - The Rehearsal is a whodunnit mystery for audiences to solve. But first, directors Danny Yeo and Li Xie must unravel the problem of how to do it.
Timing is the problem in this experiential Mandarin theatre piece, which runs from Nov 23 to 27 at The Arts House. Seven actors play suspects from an unsolved murder who have been brought back to the scene of the crime.
Viewers choose which of the actors to follow around The Arts House during the two-hour performance. The separate plotlines run in parallel, occasionally intersecting, so actors need to know when exactly to enter and leave a space. They must be constantly aware of time ticking away.
Li, 44, has been running the cast through a series of timing exercises at their rehearsal space in Chinatown. She says: "When we have more money, we'll have earpieces. Right now, it's all mathematics. I think the actors are terrified."
Funding is the second problem for the team behind Body X. At press time, the team was still hoping to meet its goal of $12,000 on fund-raising site Kickstarter. With seven actors, venue fees, lighting and sound expenses, this theatrical version of Cluedo costs about $60,000 to stage.
BOOK IT / BODY X - THE REHEARSAL
WHERE: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane
WHEN: Nov 23 to 27, 7.30pm; Nov 25 and 26, 10.30pm
ADMISSION: $42 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
INFO: Performed in Mandarin without surtitles. The team is raising funds via Kickstarter (tinyurl.com/h6aku53) to cover the cost of the production
Funding was not a problem for the first version of Body X, commissioned for the Singapore Writers Festival in 2014. The sold-out show had a groom killed during his wedding. It was performed in English and Mandarin and there were not enough seats for many in the directors' regular audience - those who follow Mandarin theatre. Hence this version, which both directors say is probably the first experiential Mandarin theatre production here.
Body X turns back time to 1976, a decade after the lead actress in a stage production was killed. Now, the director has disappeared after gathering the cast together again.
Li and Yeo play the victim and director respectively, appearing only in backstory material made available to the audience.
After a pre-show briefing, the actors disperse. The audience must decide which character to follow and for how long. Viewers are not allowed to touch anything or to speak to the characters.
At the end of the performance, the audience gather to vote on which character is most likely to be the murderer. The truth will be revealed only after the show's run and it is impossible to watch every actor on a single night.
Both directors say in 2014, viewers who came back on different nights picked different murderers each time. Yeo says: "A single twitch or whether the actor chose to smile or not could affect the experience."
Li adds: "They don't get to see the whole picture. They will feel the pain of, 'Oh, I missed something there.' It's very much like how, in life, you don't get to see the whole picture."
As a result, in 2014, some viewers hotly disagreed when the directors' choice of murderer was revealed. Yeo and Li are happy for this to happen again.
Yeo says: "It's stretching the audience a little bit and allowing them to go through theatre a little differently."