The immersive theatre experiences created by British company Secret Studio Lab can get a little too real for the audience.
Artistic director Richard Crawford was nearly thrown off a boat in Hong Kong by an irate ticket-holder wanting to know whether the woman being manhandled by security was an actress.
“I was looking at him in the eye and winking, ‘Sir, of course not.'” Crawford recalls in a telephone call. The theatrical experience is “completely site-specific and logical”, he adds, so members of the audience often react as if events unfolding around them are real.
From May 3 to June 10, his company will stage a similar immersive experience here, Secret Theatre Project Singapore.
Ticketholders will learn nothing about the show, not even its location, beforehand. Only on the show date will members of the audience receive a password, location and dress code via text message.
SECRET THEATRE PROJECT SINGAPORE
WHERE: Secret location, details to be revealed on the day itself
WHEN: May 3 to June 10; 7.30pm (weekdays), 4.45 and 7.30pm (weekends)
ADMISSION: $150 from tinyurl.com/y8csobzz
INFO: All patrons must be 21 years old or older
Reviewers are sworn to secrecy and a surprising number of viewers keep the secret of the show throughout its run, despite the temptation to post on social media.
It is a lot like keeping movie spoilers secret, adds Crawford. “Some people will go to work and talk about it. I guess it’s nearly impossible to keep it a complete secret.”
Crawford, 36, was raised in Edinburgh and nurtured on the excitement of the city’s annual Fringe Festival.
However, in 2008, while working in off-Broadway shows in New York, he realised that none of his friends went to the theatre regularly, although they would attend movie screenings.
“The whole excitement of theatre had died, unless you were a tourist attending the big shows,” he says.
So, he decided to do the opposite of the big Broadway shows. Instead of a brand-name theatre, hire a little-known venue and instead of telling people what the show is about, let them wonder and anticipate the event.
At his first Secret Theatre Project in 2008, participants turned up at a disused factory and saw an actor with scissors for hands – Crawford had adapted the Tim Burton movie Edward Scissorhands into a staged experience. Other projects include Reservoir Dogs in London and Se7en Deadly Sins in Hong Kong.
He visited Singapore twice last year to “get on first-name terms” with the city, visiting locations from Little India to Pasir Ris before settling on a venue and collaborators for Secret Theatre Project Singapore.
Clues on the show’s website reveal that the setting is a nightclub, possibly near Suntec City.
Crawford is not saying more. He adds that while actors will be mingling with the audience, viewers are not under pressure to participate in the action.
“They don’t have to do anything. The show is spectacle enough,” he says.
This article was originally published in The Straits Times.