Very recently I indulged in a discussion with Alvin Tan, cultural medallion recipient, Founder and Artistic Director of The Necessary Stage on his upcoming production Ghost Writer at The Esplanade Theatre Studio – 9th to the 12th of June.
Amongst many things, we discussed the origins of the work as well as the collaborative framework of a devised theatre piece featuring choreography.
Ghost Writer evolved from an earlier work Gitanjali (I feel the earth move) created originally in 2014.
Alvin confesses that the work would benefit from exploring a concept in which ‘we could tell the story in a more fluid and immediate way’. During the creative process and discussions the creative team found scenes that could be worked through dance and movement and not only theatre – allowing for more ambiguity in order to engage the audience’s imagination effectively. After previews, playwright Haresh Sharma refined the script to embark into the last creative phase of the process where multimedia, singing and dance come together.
I am very impressed with Alvin’s attitude and reflection on his work; more often then not artists jump on to their next creation without necessarily looking back and analyzing the successes and flaws of a performance and creative processes.
Alvin seems to have identified that the creative process for Ghost Writer was multidisciplinary but not necessarily interdisciplinary, which brings me to the question how do you see the role of choreography or dance in your theatre production?
Alvin speaks of ‘negotiation of tensions between contemporary dance and traditional Indian dance, as well as the contestation of human wills. Searching for new theatre vocabulary and therefore a new vehicle to transmit a story.’
Theatre and contemporary dance are such close art forms these days; I feel personally challenged many times to distinguish both forms since they are intrinsically and aesthetically connected.
Ghost Writer explores interactions of dance with text, multimedia and sound by Bani Haykal. ‘ I hope that there can be new sensations experienced, therefore opening up new perceptions to be experienced theatrically. No risk, no gain.’
EO: Alvin, I am curious to understand how do you bring your collaborative team together?
AL: During Gitanjali [I feel the earth move]), the chosen cast was not suitable, therefore, we had to re-cast. The second cast worked to a certain extent but we could not push them towards the aspirations we had. Therefore, we had to re-cast forGhost Writer. There is still a small pool of performers who have the capacity to move from one discipline to another fluidly, the challenge is to form a team who can appreciate what it means to work across disciplines
EO: I can’t help thinking about the connection between history and dreams, as an artist looking for new goals and challenges. Please share with us your expectations towards your audience within this work?
AT: I feel that the response will be mixed, which I am happy to receive. I anticipate some would think “Wtf, what is going on here?” Another group of audience members would love the freedom they have to interpret or author the work and join the dots themselves. Only then would I know that we are taking risks and we are pushing the audience to change their habits of seeing.
‘Helmed by Cultural Medallion recipients Alvin Tan and Haresh Sharma of The Necessary Stage Ghost Writer offers a glimpse into the lives of characters intertwined by blood and ties that bind—and suffocate’, at The Esplanade Theatre Studio 9th to the 11th of June. Tickets via Sistic