Before every person, there walks an angel announcing, ‘Behold the image of God.’Yiddish Proverb
Much can change in fifty minutes. When a stranger interrupts Sarah who is minding her own business on a city park bench-she finds that fifty minutes is more than enough time to look at the world with new eyes and be looked at anew by the world. Life can change. In fifty minutes. Sit back. Relax. Watch the action on stage… No, wait. This is something else…
In C-O-N-T-A-C-T, a Singapore Repertory Theatre production, the audience gets in on the action via an app on smartphones and headphones. “Not your usual drama experience”, you’re thinking. You’re right. This is something else-innovative, exciting, and mesmerizing. With Sarah, you discover that an ordinary day in the city, like most days, is anything but ordinary when your senses are attuned to the promise that hides in every moment.
Sarah, as we’ve seen, is there to mind her own business. When a headphones-bedecked young man sits down (rather close to her, we can sense her thoughts) her first reaction is to sidle on down the bench away from this intrusion into her very own thoughts. It doesn’t work. Along with the rest of the audience (20 in total), you and Sarah are in another place.
Because this stranger is stranger than you, Sarah or any of your companions could have imagined. Persistently, he pursues the business that Sarah thought was her own. He minds her business right along with her. Through the headphones, you are as much a part of the action as is your good friend (it didn’t take long), Sarah. Forget social distancing for these fifty minutes, the soundscape draws you into the action right along with Sarah and your small contingent of viewers.
Headphones on? Smartphone connected? Get ready for something brand new to the non-stage.
Once twenty of us were assembled near the Little Black Elephant statue at the Arts House, our attention turned to an attractive young woman in our midst who quietly sat by the fence – seemingly to commune with her own thoughts in the gathering dusk. She moved to a park bench. Wearing headphones, a young man sat down next to her. She sidled away. They exchanged a few words which we in the audience heard on our phones. Her body language expressed a growing discomfort.
Soon, she becomes disconcerted when she realizes he was talking to her without moving his lips. Telepathy? The situation was strange for us in the audience, too, as we looked to see who was talking right next to our ears. As we followed the woman and man around the sidewalks on the Empress Lawn, dusk and lightning gathering to the east, the odd sensations continued as did the realisation that we and the actors were involved in an evening of theatre unlike we had ever been immersed in.
Like us, Sarah is slowly drawn into the young man’s orbit. As she talks (or doesn’t talk) to him about her life and its traumas, it becomes clear that this man may well be more angel than human. A guardian angel who has appeared on the sidewalk to comfort Sarah and to share some of her burdens. This chance meeting (or have they met by chance?) becomes for Sarah, a catharsis, a release, a cleansing. You can see it in her face and body language.
As she stands up from the steps of the Dalhousie Obelisk and walks down the long path, we sense that this is a new Sarah. We and the Young Man watch her go …
… into a new life? For her? For us?
Tickets for C-O-N-T-A-C-T are available through Singapore Repertory Theatre:
Research and writing help from JKJ