Restaging of a play unveils a new experience

Restaging of a play unveils a new experience
Production photos from The Book Of Living And Dying by The Finger Players in association with Teatri Sbagliati

SINGAPORE - When the Esplanade's programming team informed me that they were resurrecting The Book Of Living And Dying, a visible shadow of doubt must have crept across my face.

The Finger Players' existential piece about past lives and future dooms premiered at the Singapore Arts Festival last year. I hadn't liked it and gave it a rather damning review.

To my mind, at least, the plot unspooled haphazardly and, for a show about death, its running time seemed frustatingly immortal. Storylines and characters simply refused to cohere and were interspersed with what I felt was philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

But something quite miraculous occurred when I stepped into the Esplanade Theatre Studio to watch the show for the second time two weeks ago.

It was, more or less, exactly the same show. But it was beautiful. Everything fell into place in a more well-equipped space and with the benefit of lying fallow.

Sure, there were some questionable moments but the blend of intimacy and ambition of the work, its locus of a father-daughter relationship refracted through the centuries, was packaged into a well-paced 90 minutes. I emerged feeling relieved. Instead of encountering a zombie, I had a whiff of nirvana.

Director Chong Tze Chien wrote in the programme notes: "It is not often that productions in Singapore get a second staging."

This phenomenon seems to have become less of a rarity.

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