Writers Festival countdown: You, the audience, are invited to track down a murderer

They can explore the venue with characters of the play and then vote for the most guilty one

Body X co-directors Li Xie and Danny Yeo (both above) are curious to know how the audience will decide who the murderer is. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM
Body X co-directors Li Xie and Danny Yeo (both above) are curious to know how the audience will decide who the murderer is. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND LIM

It is 1974, and a night of feasting and celebration awaits at a wedding dinner.

But to the horror of the wedding guests, the man of the hour - the groom - is found dead.

Forty years later, this case is about to go cold. It is up to the audience members of Body X to help figure out who did it in this experiential murder-mystery play.

Could it be his grieving bride? Or perhaps the mysterious housekeeper? Or the bride's brother, a close friend of the victim's?

Everyone is a suspect in this site- specific production, which was commissioned for the Singapore Writers Festival. It will be staged across various spaces at The Arts House from Nov 7 to 9.

Arts practitioners Li Xie and Danny Yeo are co-directing the work, which was devised together with their cast members, including seasoned theatre practitioners Tay Kong Hui, Judy Ngo, Doreen Toh and Tan Wan Sze.

The show will be performed in a mix of English and Mandarin with no surtitles.

It was inspired in part by the novels of Japanese cult crime writer Keigo Higashino.

Li, 41, tells Life!: "We couldn't adapt a whole novel, so we are using elements of his work. For example, we've chosen enclosed spaces and collective suspects.

"I think the most important thing is: How do we let the readers become audience members? Instead of staying on the pages, now they're going inside the story to experience it."

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They were also inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure children's books that made readers decide what the protagonist of each book would do, sometimes causing them to end up dead or at a dead end.

Li and Yeo are actively encouraging audience members to be "kaypoh" (Hokkien for nosy) as they explore various parts of The Arts House together with the characters.

During the performance, the audience members can move among the Chamber, the Living Room and the Blue Room.

Audience members, capped at 60 per show, can decide to follow whichever character or storyline they find interesting, with scenes unfolding concurrently in different spaces. They are also free to investigate set pieces and examine possible clues lying around.

The co-directors recommend that people wear comfortable clothing and shoes for the 90-minute performance.

All mobile phones will have to be surrendered for the duration of the piece.

"If they want to skip a scene halfway because another one looks more suspicious, they can choose to go there," Li says with a grin, adding: "But maybe they'll miss out on some important clues."

At the end of the show, the audience members will be invited to vote for the character they think is guilty.

The final result will be revealed after the event, likely on social media.

In a bid to prove their innocence, the actors have been struggling with bouts of imaginary guilt during rehearsals, even if they are not playing the murderer.

Yeo says: "The more they try to act innocent, the more guilty they look."

Conspiratorially, the two directors have a quick discussion as to whether they should reveal the audience's votes to their cast.

"Maybe we shouldn't tell them," Li says with a laugh.

Yeo adds: "I'm curious to find out how the audience members decide who the murderer is. I think it will reveal a little bit about their perception and personalities, and they are bound to be prejudiced towards someone based on what they see."


The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Singapore Writers Festival.

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