Life before death

Intimate Eulogy Project sees young theatre practitioners examine how little things count

The creative forces behind Eulogy Project I, which is put on by theatre practitioners in their mid-20s.
The creative forces behind Eulogy Project I, which is put on by theatre practitioners in their mid-20s. PHOTO: NG XI JIE

Death and mortality are not usually the preoccupations of working professionals in their mid-20s. But a group of young theatre practitioners has made the eulogy the centre of their theatre production, Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei And Me.

They are mostly recent graduates from local group Cake Theatrical Productions' training platform, In A Decade, and will stage the intimate show - limited to 30 audience members a session - at the Gallery in the Goodman Arts Centre from today until Saturday.

Director Tan Liting, 26, also Cake's production manager, says the show is not about the morbid and macabre. Rather, it is about focusing on the small, everyday moments that comprise a person's life.

She says: "For some reason, I'm very obsessed with my own mortality. It's not that I fear death, but I think at this age, because we still have so much ahead of us, we hope we still have a lot of time ahead of us. But there's also this constant feeling of what if I don't achieve something before I die?

"We need to also consider our small actions. I think what we do every day contributes to how we are remembered."

The Eulogy Project's playwright, 24- year-old Ellison Tan, a freelance theatre practitioner, says she looked at peripheral people. "They are people who are always there - you notice their presence, but you don't know them personally," she adds. "For example, the guy busking at the interchange or the auntie selling magazines at the bus stop. They are always there and are like a source of comfort."

The script crystallised for her after "Aunty Cineleisure", an elderly retiree who regularly sold bits and bobs outside Cathay Cineleisure Orchard, died of colon cancer in June.

She says: "It was big news because she was such a 'landmark'. That was when we realised this idea of peripheral people could really stand on its own."

Together with a small ensemble cast, they came up with the character of Muah Chee Mei, a kind of composite of the cast's own experiences. Audience members will be led through an installation, which weaves together a tapestry of soundbites, performances and artefacts.

On why the ad-hoc group has dubbed itself Potluck Productions, Tan Liting says: "We like to gather around food and we thought, a potluck party is like the creative process, in that everybody brings something to the table and creates a meal together.

"We thought it was quite a nice analogy for how we work together to form something."

During rehearsals and workshops, she had the cast members write about their earliest childhood memories. She also got them to write eulogies for one another before looking at what it meant to write their own eulogies and exploring what it was like to work from the area of personal memory.

She hopes the work will have its quiet impact. "The audiences should feel the need to understand that their mortality is not limited, that they can go beyond the exploration of their dead body."

Follow Corrie Tan on Twitter @CorrieTan

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