A virtual murder mystery in Mandai, with cocktails on the side

The play follows a uniquely Singapore story line which local viewers will find familiar.
The play follows a uniquely Singapore story line which local viewers will find familiar.PHOTO: SIGHT LINES ENTERTAINMENT

SINGAPORE - As the coronavirus pandemic goes on, virtual plays and virtual gaming are not unheard of, but how about a mix of both?

Local theatre company Sight Lines Entertainment is presenting a novel Cluedo-esque virtual play running for three nights between June 26 and June 28.

Written by playwright Chong Tze Chien and helmed by producer and artistic director Derrick Chew, Murder At Mandai Camp promises to be an interactive live theatrical production through Zoom.

Drawing inspiration from urban legends and army myths, the play follows a uniquely Singapore story line which local viewers will find familiar.

Audience members will be cast as the lead investigator, tasked to uncover the truth behind the gruesome death of a young recruit following a routine outfield exercise.

The team decided to turn the instant messaging service Telegram into a trusty investigator's handbook which will be fed with evidence and information in real time. The audience will also be asked to cast a collective vote to apprehend the guilty party at the end.

The play is expected to run for an hour between 10pm and 11pm on each day of screening.

While the idea for the play was conceived two years, Chong and Chew considered the technical complications of staging a physical production with audience participation and decided to put the idea on the backburner.

As Covid-19 brought a halt to Singapore's arts industry, the two began reflecting last month on means to engage their audience, and revisited the play.

Within a week, Chong had a script in hand and the two assembled the rest of their core team, which includes multimedia designer Genevieve Peck and actors Erwin Shah Ismail, Bright Ong and Irsyad Dawood.

According to Chong, it would have been a difficult task to put together a play within the short window of time if they did not have the idea on hand.

"The idea was always brewing in my head, and we were one step away from execution. Although we cannot replace live performance experience, we are evolving," says Chong.

As a multimedia designer, Peck developed the play's chilling atmosphere, merging stage and film to cast a spooky backdrop for the actors.

  • Book It/ Murder At Mandai Camp 

  • WHEN: June 26 - June 28, 10pm

    WHERE: Virtual production will be screened via Zoom

    ADMISSION: Tickets are available on Sistic at $15, with an option of supporting the play by opting for $20, $30 or $50 payment. Laut cocktails ($38/250ml) can be bought on Sistic.

    INFO: Sistic website

To calm their nerves, viewers of the play can choose from cocktails prepared by local cocktail bar laut. Its co-founders Frank Shen and Leon Tan are both active NS men, with Tan coincidentally reporting to Mandai Camp.

The duo have selected the cocktails Grass - a heady mix of Rojak Gin with rice vinegar, pickle brine and grass kombucha - and Dragonfruit - a tangy and mildly spiced concoction of Straits spiced vodka, smoked longan, sour plum cordial and red dragonfruit juice - to go with the production. Both cocktails are priced at $38 for 250ml.

Calling the upcoming production "the stage of tomorrow", Chew says there is a need to integrate technology into the production, without losing the spirit of theatre.

He says: "We cannot use the methods of yesterday to compete in the economies of tomorrow. As an industry and a business, we need to move with the current times and trends in order to stay relevant and connected with our audience and to better spread appreciation of the performing arts in Singapore."