Lifestyle

The theatre performance so secret, you won’t know where it’s held until the day of the show

London-based Secret Studio Lab will keep you guessing, moving and participating. This is what we think after attending their debut show in Singapore
 

Photo: Secret Studio Lab

No fear: no spoilers here.

Imagine this: you’ve paid to watch a performance and all you know is the date and the time. No details on venue, cast, plot, or well, anything else. If it sounds crazy, that’s because it is. But it’s just the kind of crazy that Richard Crawford, founder of the Secret Studio Lab, wants to encourage.

Back in 2008, Richard was bored of the tedium of the theatre scene. “The same shows on Broadway and West End were played all the time, and geared towards tourists,” he says. “It lost its appeal a little.” He wanted to perform to people who lived in the city itself, and to make use of space outside the confines of a theatre.

So he founded the Secret Studio Lab to reclaim the creativity and unpredictability of theatre. Since its first show in New York, the company has put on 16 shows (called Secret Theatre Projects) in four countries – with Singapore being the fifth. They are a mix of original plays and adaptations such as Reservoir Dogs and Edward Scissorhands, chosen by Richard because he fancied making them his own. You’ll be informed of the location on the day itself, and don’t expect it to be a stuffy auditorium. The performances tend to be in open places (plural) where the actors can invite guests to participate.

Photo: Secret Studio Lab

When we first spoke to Richard over the phone several months ago, he told us to expect a “fun and thrilling” evening, and advised us to don comfortable footwear. It was exactly that. When we turned up for the first Secret Theatre at a location we’ll keep under wraps, we found a raucous, party atmosphere. It was sexy. It was surprising. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before.

We can’t say much since this is a spoiler-free review, but here’s what we would advise. The show was over the top, the swearing aplenty, and completely immersive. The actors get right up in your space and engage you in conversation, and you’ll be asked to handle some not quite child-friendly props (we’ll leave it at that).

Don’t expect any of the typical trappings of a standard theatre show. If you like structure, a build-up of character development and intricate plot details, this might not be for you. For those who like to embrace spontaneity, we would advise you to go with the flow, and don’t question what you’re seeing – even if it doesn’t square with logic.

Photo: Secret Studio Lab

We also appreciated some Asian faces in the cast. In our chat, Richard mentioned that he was scouting for locations, partners and local actors to join the existing team as early as last December. “The shows are, in theory, set in the context of the city, so I try to use local cast members as much as I can,” he explains. “If all the protagonists are Caucasian, it would cause a subconscious disconnect.”   

 Not wearing heels was a good call, considering we moved around the space a fair bit. Leave clutches and cumbersome bags at home, because you’ll need both your hands.

Mad? Yes. Unexpected? Definitely. Worth giving it a go at least once? You should.  

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The show opens on 3rd May and will run till 10th June. Tickets range from $99 to $150, with an age requirement of 21 years old and above.

A version of this story first appeared in the May 2018 issue of Her World magazine.