Grim look at the consequences of breaking the law

In 0600, actress Grace Kalaiselvi (in orange, centre) plays a woman whose family member was hung for a crime.
In 0600, actress Grace Kalaiselvi (in orange, centre) plays a woman whose family member was hung for a crime.PHOTO: ARTS HOUSE LIMITED



National Gallery Singapore

Last Saturday

A site-specific piece that examines the perspectives surrounding the issue of capital punishment, this 45-minute production did well in examining death penalty cases and showed not only the unflinching seriousness and consequences of breaking the law, but also the people affected by the issue, such as family members, prosecutors and lawyers.

Its title, derived from 6am, during which executions in Singapore are carried out, is a fitting, though grimly ominous, reminder of what happens at that time.

The performance took place at various parts of the National Gallery Singapore, including its echo-y galleries and claustrophobia-inducing holding cells.

These were great locations for delving into this subject matter.

After all, the National Gallery is housed in the former City Hall and Supreme Court, where many of the country's most shocking criminal cases - some punishable by death - went on trial.

During the mixed-media presentation, which also included theatre performances and an interactive tour, much attention was placed on finding out what happens to inmates on death row in their final days and moments.

What the production lacked was a richer experience for the audience, owing to its short performance time.

At the show I attended, I was able to catch only four out of the 11 monologues and would have been eager to see the other perspectives.

It was also a little disappointing that the materials presented were not verified by official information sources, but were inspired by research on the topic.

If the creators wish to encourage more serious discussion, using verified accounts would certainly help.

Of the performances, that of actress Grace Kalaiselvi stood out for its raw emotion and nuanced delivery. Her portrayal of a woman whose family member was hung for a crime was convincing and heartbreaking, expressing the character's inability to fathom, or refusal to accept, why her family member's life had to be taken.

Another stand-out performance was that of theatre practitioner Adib Kosnan, who was equally menacing and charismatic as a serial killer made famous by his criminal wrongdoings.

With a conceited smirk, he spoke about the public's macabre fascination with dark, twisted characters and, as a journalist, I felt I had been called out for contributing to the infamy and legacy of such characters.

For GroundZ-0, founded by veteran theatre practitioner Zelda Tatiana Ng, 0600 is a good start.

What is needed is more exploration and verification, so audiences can come to their own conclusions about capital punishment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 30, 2018, with the headline 'Grim look at the consequences of breaking the law'. Print Edition | Subscribe