Lucas Ho's The Heart Comes To Mind premieres as free audio recording instead of live theatre

The Heart Comes To Mind will be streamed from June 6 to 12. PHOTO: JOEL LIM @ CALIBRE PICTURES

SINGAPORE - Instead of a live performance, Lucas Ho's new play The Heart Comes To Mind is premiering online as an audio presentation.

The joint presentation of Checkpoint Theatre and the Esplanade will be streamed at the arts venue's website from June 6 to 12.

The play about a father-daughter relationship has had what director Claire Wong calls "a very long birthing process". Like a real life baby, it has challenged and rewarded its creators in unexpected ways.

Ho, 35, says in a Zoom interview that the play was born from his own experiences: "I had just become a father for the first time in 2016. I was learning how to be a parent. I was watching my daughter grow up."

The story evolved from being snapshots of his experiences as a young father to a "speculative memoir" in which he imagined being an elderly man speaking to his adult daughter.

Work on the production started in January, with composer Shah Tahir being roped in early to create an immersive soundscape for the show. The work was 80 per cent complete, says Wong, 56, when the circuit breaker was announced on Apr 3.

Wong, who is also joint artistic director of Checkpoint, says the company was braced for disruption, having already postponed an upcoming show, The Nuclear Family.

"We had embarked on a Plan B. Back in March, we started discussions with the Esplanade. We proposed to present the work as a video. We worked out the budget."

They were planning a version directed specifically for video, with a proper storyboard for camerawork: "We wanted to create a work with its own merit for the digital medium."

But the company had to scramble to shoot over the weekend once the circuit breaker announcement, with just one cameraman and audio equipment.

That prompted a fortuitous discovery. Wong says: "I realised that the audio recording was actually a very beautiful way to experience the work. Lucas's writing is very strong, very lyrical. It's imagistic and very real."

Shah had also roped in cellist Ryan Sim to offer live accompaniment for actors Julius Foo and Oon Shu Ann. The result, Wong adds, is "a very lush auditory tapestry that we're proud to share with the audience".

Ho says: "I didn't write the play to speak to a pandemic. But I think the play very much is about an inability to communicate. You have a father and a daughter who have this shared history, but they have a lot of things that they can't articulate to one another. That is something all of us absolutely have to confront on a daily basis, being cooped up with our loved ones and figuring out new ways of navigating our familial relationships."


WATCH IT

What: The Heart Comes To Mind

Where: The Esplanade's Offstage website (str.sg/JiCH)

When: June 6 to 12

Admission: Free

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