Attempts at detective game a success

Sabrina Sng plays one of the many facets of the missing character Anna in Attempts: Singapore.
Sabrina Sng plays one of the many facets of the missing character Anna in Attempts: Singapore. PHOTO: ANDRE CHONG

REVIEW / THEATRE

ATTEMPTS: SINGAPORE

Rei Poh/M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

Centre 42/Thursday

Attempts: Singapore is a detailed and absorbing detective game that is one of the highlights of this year's M1 Singapore Fringe Festival.

Director and creator Rei Poh was inspired by Martin Crimp's 21-year-old play, Attempts On Her Life, a series of non-linear sketches meant to let viewers paint a mental picture of a missing character, Anne.

In Attempts: Singapore, audience members become "researchers" tasked by an IT conglomerate to identify Anne. The conglomerate's otherwise all-knowing AI avatar is stymied by this mysterious character.

Attempts: Singapore creator Poh and dramaturg Zee Wong clearly enjoy gaming culture. Ticket-holders move through superb sets constructed in and around Centre 42, sifting through traces left behind by Anne and those who interacted with her. Some objects are red herrings, while others are puzzle boxes leading to the next clue.

Performers Julie Wee, Sabrina Sng, Farez Najid, Henrik Cheng and Suhaili Safari appear as guides or facilitators leading the audience through the two-hour experience. Viewers can also ask for help from the disembodied voice of the AI avatar.

Some papers indicate that Anne is a teenager. Recorded conversations and posters indicate she is a porn star. Perhaps she is a terrorist or a victim of a cult. The point of Crimp and Poh's work is that identity is fluid. Also, the sheer volume of information available in the contemporary world makes it impossible to construct an accurate portrait of any one person.

Attempts: Singapore shows the increasing ease with which one can mislead an audience. At one point, Cheng delivers "fake news" reports with appropriate solemnity or hilarity.

More theatre-makers in Singapore are offering immersive experiences like this where, as Guardian reviewer Lyn Gardner pointed out last night, the usual "contract" between actors and audience is suspended.

Exactly two years ago, OH! Open House's No Man's Land moved viewers between buildings in Joo Chiat Road, letting the audience get to know characters through the rooms they occupied. That same year, Body X - The Rehearsal by Li Xie and Danny Yeo created a whodunnit for viewers to solve at The Arts House.

Those who enjoy escape rooms and role-playing games will take to Attempts immediately. Sketches are well-paced and viewers given just the right amount of time to attempt to solve the puzzle of Anne.

The work's only flaw is that it takes itself too seriously. Lust, terror, anger and violence play out in the acted scenarios and are embedded in the objects viewers handle. Absent are any traces of humour or joy in life.

Dead or alive, Annie may not be someone who laughs much. Such a pity, when the question of her existence gives puzzle-hunters so much pleasure.

• Attempts: Singapore is sold out.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2018, with the headline 'Attempts at detective game a success'. Print Edition | Subscribe