Long before rehearsals by singers begin, co-directors Glen Goei and Chong Tze Chien are meeting members of the design team. Their general brief is clear: this will be a production of “The Flying Dutchman” with an Asian aesthetic and informed by Asian insights.
The meeting has already started when I arrive, and when I poke my head around the door, I wonder whether I’ve come to the right place. Everyone is sitting in a circle on the floor and it all seems quite casual, but I realize that this works well for the team.
Costume design is being discussed, at some length. Seeing a suggested design for the crew of Darland’s ship, one of the participants quips, “My wardrobe is all like that,” and everyone laughs.
Next up is a short presentation on puppetry for the production, just for beginners – there’ll be more on show at the next meeting. It’s reassuring to someone accustomed to western puppetry traditions: I can walk away thinking, “This really will work!”
The set is discussed, again at some length. The basic design seems settled, but what about its final colour scheme?
Throughout the meeting, Goei and Chong question and offer opinions stemming from their perspectives on the overall look and feel they want to achieve. Their style is consultative; ideas are knocked back and forth as practical problems are discussed, changes and alternatives are considered. Everyone chips in when they think they have something relevant to say: this is a team effort, after all.
Come October and the staging of “The Flying Dutchman”, audiences will see the results of meetings such as this, but few will have much sense of the care and planning that went into what they see. Maybe that’s how it should be, with all effects apparently effortlessly achieved.
(Article written by John Gee, Photos taken by Dr Ngiap Heng Tan)