Boiler Room 2016 Playwright Collective: Project Understudy

PlaywrightThe IdeaPre-programme
The Project Understudy Playwright Collective comprise the following writers:

Writer/Editor: Robin Loon
Writer: Eugene Koh
Writer: Fong Chun Min
Writer: Goh Koon Hui
Writer: Matthew Fam
Writer: Lim Jue Hao Isaac
Producer/Supervising Dramaturg: Olivia Vong

Most of the writers in the Project Understudy collective are from NUS Thespis, is a non-profit arts interest group founded in 2008 by a group of National University of Singapore (NUS) Theatre Studies students. Thespis is a place for young artists to explore, and create theatre, by experimenting with different creative processes and methodologies. It is a platform especially for collaborative work (between students and alumni), with the interest to nurture and hone the craft of theatre-making among young aspiring artists. Their productions seek to interest and critically engage audiences by rethinking performance concepts.

Understudy reimagines the post-‘black-out-and-curtains’ world of Tan Tarn How’s Undercover with a special guest appearance by a character from The Lady of Soul and Her Ultimate ‘S’ Machine, and three newly created characters of the next generation.

In 1993, the career of high-flying civil servant Derek is cut short when he refuses to replace his report on the findings of the committee for the cultivation of soul with one rewritten by his ‘friend’ and immediate superior. His punishment – head the country’s only broadcasting corporation.

In 1994, rookie intelligence agent Jane successfully infiltrates a theatre-group-of-interest run by renegade artist Qiang (and falls for the bad boy in the process) while foiling her Deputy’s secret plan to oust the head of the intelligence agency. Jane is promoted and Qiang is “rehabilitated”.

In 2016, Jane, now the Minister of Cultural Affairs, wants to award artist-in-exile Qiang the prestigious Cultural Medallion. The disgraced Deputy, now the Director for the Institute of Public Consensus, wants to stop this travesty. In tow are their respective protégés, Albert, Sophie and Vikram. Together with Derek who has reinvented himself as a media mogul, this ‘magnificent seven’ chart a treacherous path towards art, politics and ceremonial jewellery.

Will Qiang accept the Cultural Medallion?

Conceived and edited by Dr Robin Loon, and organised by NUS Thespis, Project Understudy explores sequels, scruples & satire using a collective writing creation process. In the first instalment of Project Understudy under Centre 42’s programme The Vault, the team was inspired by the processes of devised theatre and the seven writers were assigned one character respectively. Not only not only must they create and explore that character thoroughly, the writers also have to ensure their characters interact with one another through plotted scenarios and situations. Instead of taking matters to the floor, the writers took to the screen around a table and created draft 1 of Understudy.

The Vault: Project Understudy was presented on 23 May 2016 at the Centre 42 Black Box. Read more about the first instalment of Project Understudy here.

The presented script was thereafter put through the Boiler Room incubation process comprising phases for construction and writing for further development. Following the incubation process which began on 17 March 2017, the first draft submitted was reviewed by a director with a cast of actors while working through the Test Read, held on 11 July 2017.