Murder at Mandai Camp

by Chong Tze Chien
Sight Lines Entertainment 

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to rage around the planet, arts companies have been forced to re-invent themselves, offering alternative forms of entertainment for audiences who can no longer visit the theatre. Over the past few months, we've seen local theatre companies stream archival footage of past productions, host online panels and present virtual performances through platforms such as Zoom.

Leading the charge is young, innovative theatre company Sight Lines Entertainment with Murder at Mandai Camp. Conceptualised by the company's Artistic Director Derrick Chew and veteran playwright Chong Tze Chien (who also directs), it's been billed as Singapore's first online interactive murder mystery. 

We are cast in the role of investigator to the gruesome murder of army recruit Ilhan Rozells (Irsyad Dawood) on the last day of his Basic Military Training. The main suspects are fellow recruit Tan Chee Meng (Bright Ong) and platoon commander Lieutenant Haziq Ali (Erwin Shah Ismail) although, as we discover, there may be supernatural forces at play beyond anyone's control.

Audience-participants are asked to join a private Telegram channel prior to the start of the show where documents relating to the investigation such as pictures and video files are sent to us. We are also able to interact with each other through a chat group throughout the show. The story plays out across both devices simultaneously, giving us a sense of following a news story as it unfolds it real time where the public narrative folds into private discourse.

On the production front, the experience is bolstered by slick multimedia and strong, authentic performances. The editing and camera work draw on both cinematic and live theatre elements to bring us into the world of the story. 

I discuss this production in more detail in the Arts Equator theatre podcast, together with playwright, poet and editor Nabilah Said and theatre educator Matthew Lyon. 

The Crystalwords score: 3/5


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