New play Sanctuary displays dark side of digital legacy

Earlier this year, The Necessary Stage (TNS) created an online archive of its 30 years of work, including programmes and videos of past productions.

Next month, it examines the flip side of leaving a digital legacy through a new play, Sanctuary, its first collaboration with Tokyo-based theatre group Hanchu-Yuei.

Sanctuary is the final work in TNS' 30th anniversary season and looks at the dark side of Internet immortality. It starts with a terminally ill woman, who hires a company to record video greetings that her children can play long after she dies. The play also explores surveillance, artificial intelligence and the parts of our selves that litter social media.

TNS playwright Haresh Sharma decided on the title. He says: "'Sanctuary' can be a safe space for an individual, in the confines of his or her room living life as a social media celebrity, or it could refer to a sanctuary city, a place where people go to find safety, to start a new life."

The play shows at The Necessary Stage Black Box from Nov 1 to 12 and will travel to Tokyo for performances from Nov 30 to Dec 2. The production is supported by Japan's Saison Foundation and Singapore's National Arts Council.

TNS and Hanchu-Yuei met through Japanese interpreter Nao Suzuki, who has helped TNS with other international collaborations such as Mobile in 2006.

Sharma worked on the script with Hanchu-Yuei's Suguru Yamamoto. Yamamoto also directs the work with TNS' Alvin Tan.


  • WHERE: The Necessary Stage Black Box, 278 Marine Parade Road

    WHEN: Nov 1 to 4 and 8 to 11, 8pm; 3pm shows on Nov 4, 5, 11 and 12

    ADMISSION: $36 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

Dramaturg Ken Takiguchi steps in to mediate cultural differences - not all the artists speak each other's language - and the team have met twice, once in Singapore and once in Japan.

Sharma says: "An easier route would have been to present two separate works. But we really wanted a meaningful collaboration between the two companies and various artists. And I believe we have achieved it."

The seven-member cast includes Audrey Luo, Ellison Tan Yuyang and Yazid Jalil from Singapore, plus Fumi Kumakawa, Mikie Tanaka, Kan Fukuhara and Sachiro Nomoto from Japan. Singapore's Bani Haykal is the sound designer while visual design is by Japan's Kazuki Takakura.

Naturally, the artists communicate often through social media and Internet telephony, which in part laid the foundation for this play about human existence online and offline. Online behaviour and communication exist long after real-time behaviour has faded away.

Yamamoto says: "Whether we intend to or otherwise, we are leaving traces of ourselves online and how these are viewed will need to be determined by people of the future.

"When I write a column for our homepage, even if it is something that I've written offhand, these words would be propelled into the future, regardless of my intention."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'New play displays dark side of digital legacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe