By Diyanah Kassim
Imagine coming to a performance with no prior knowledge on what to expect. All you have is a confirmation of your acceptance to GMK Medical Institute one day before the performance, via a cryptic WhatsApp message. Further instructions were to be received via phone, with an earpiece or headphones readily available on the day of the performance.
This year, as part of the M1 Fringe Festival 2020, Secretive Thing presents Secretive Thing 215, which will run at selected timings from 9-19 January 2020. Lemon and Koko, the creators of Secretive Thing 215, tend to structure their performances in a way where it challenges the audience’s thoughts and emotions, putting them in suspense and in a world where they struggle to differentiate between real life and theatre.
I felt my paranoia starting to creep in as I wondered who Lemon and Koko were and what their big secret was. It felt like the performance already started even before I could get to the ticketing booth. It was all cleverly crafted, even from the first WhatsApp message.
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The immersive experience felt like something out of a Black Mirror episode, minus the ability to pause the show or change your decision during the performance (reference to Netflix’s Bandersnatch). Your grade would be accessed based on the choices you make, which would then shape your path and the tasks you will need to complete within the given timeframe. Sounds familiar?
Having only access to WhatsApp and having your earpiece plugged in at all times contributes to the experience that you will have during this performance. The secret location was ____________, so all you are left with are the notifications you receive on your phone, and the pre-recorded audio sent to you every few minutes.
With no one around to communicate with, it adds on to the suspense of what the performance is about. Even then, I felt like my every move was being watched and questioned. Occasionally, I would stumble upon other people around the building and cower in fear of the other party’s involvement and loyalty to GMK Medical Institute. Was it just paranoia, or did this performance mold us to become individuals having to be wary of our surroundings?
Relating back to the real world, living in a society where we are bounded by questionable laws and rules, there is so much more that we may not know or have yet to figure out. Do we recoil in fear or take our own action when the push comes to shove? Do we conform to the set of instructions and paths dictated to us even if it is out of the ordinary? Or do we rebel in search of the truth?
I found it hard to keep track of the time as I followed every instruction, while being careful about who I approach. Having that constant fear and being tasked to make moral decisions, I wondered if this was all a test on who the people at GMK Medical Institute were and the secret that they hold. There is no telltale signs on when the performance would end. All you can do is to trust your guts and perform to the best of your capabilities.
I left the show with so many lingering thoughts and questions about Secretive Thing and GMK Medical Institute. My key takeaway about this performance is that sometimes, a decision which you may think is wrong might lead you to exhilarating adventures. Know that it is extremely crucial for you to live in the moment to fully experience and be part of the immersive performance as well.
Don’t worry about having little to no knowledge about the performance. The less you know, the better! Or in this case, would this intrigue you to want to know more?
Secretive Thing 215
Date: 9th – 19th January 2020
Venue: Foyer, Centre 42
Time: Thursday & Friday, 6pm to 9.30pm / Saturday, 11am to 9.30pm / Sunday, 11 am to 5.30pm
Admission: $27 (Get your tickets here.)
Photography courtesy of artist