Twisty tales in a secret spot

In Bedtime Stories, audiences are taken to a secret location to hear the original stories of Dutch actor Thomas Dudkiewicz (above).
In Bedtime Stories, audiences are taken to a secret location to hear the original stories of Dutch actor Thomas Dudkiewicz (above).PHOTO: JOCHEM JURGENS

As a child, Dutch actor Thomas Dudkiewicz lay enthralled, listening to his mother read from children's books.

As a theatre student, he watched up to three movies a day - from funny films to thrillers - many based on the books he had read.

His work, Bedtime Stories, blends what he likes best about both experiences - the childhood comfort of hearing someone tell a tale with the twists and turns of watching a thriller film.

It starts with ticket-holders not even knowing where they will watch the performance, which is presented at the Singapore International Festival of Arts from May 21 to 26.

Each night's audience meets at the National Library Building and is taken to a secret venue where Dudkiewicz (whose name is pronounced Dood-Key-Vich) will run through a repertoire of original stories, aided by sound effects.

"I think the fact that you don't know where the performance is adds something to it," the 30-year-old says on the telephone from the Netherlands, where he is based.

"You walk into a world you aren't prepared for."

  • BOOK IT /SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF ARTS 2019: BEDTIME STORIES BY URLAND

  • WHERE: Secret venue. Meet at The Plaza, Level 1 National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: May 21 to 26, 7.30pm

    ADMISSION: $35 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: Go to sifa.sg

    RATING: Advisory (some coarse language). No admission for infant in arms and persons below 14 years old

Bedtime Stories is presented by Urland, a four-man performance collective co-founded by Dudkiewicz. The spotlight may be on him - literally, as he acts out the tales, but his colleagues Ludwig Bindervoet, Marijn Alexander de Jong and Jimi Zoet worked on the production design and staging.

The soundscapes from Zoet and artist Tomas Loos are central to the performance and include musical scores and also sound effects such as rain outside a window or the muffled sound of footsteps on a carpet.

Bedtime Stories was created as three of them sat around a table, Dudkiewicz handing Zoet and Loos the stories he wrote. He chose to write the stories in English, which he finds more musical and poetic than his native Dutch.

He had experimented with minimalist storytelling where it was just him telling tales on stage, but felt that sound effects "would be very capable of helping the audience along". "When you can't see something, but you can hear it, that makes your imagination grow," he says.

He has performed Bedtime Stories in theatres and even outdoors in a forest setting. "You see me acting but, at the same time, you're allowed to close your eyes and be taken away into a different world. It has this immersive feeling."

The idea for the work came from his student days at the institute of performative arts in Maastricht in the Netherlands, or Toneelacademie Maastricht. There, he became a movie buff. "The movies I like the most are the movies you don't see coming. They guide you along and suddenly change genre or the subject they're about," he says.

He is a fan of the slow-burn David Lynch thriller Twin Peaks (1990-1991 and 2017) and says Bedtime Stories similarly employs twists and turns to keep the audience guessing.

He also credits films for giving audiences around the world a common language of imagery and context because "we've all seen the same movies".

He gives the example of "a forest full of dark trees with people running through it". "You get the image in moments because of films," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Twisty tales in a secret spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe