Held from Tuesday, 21 May to Sunday 26 May 2019 as part of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2019, Bedtime Stories was conceived by Dutch collective URLAND and inspired from radio plays of yore.
Attendees gathered at the National Library before being taken to a secret, outdoor venue. There, Thomas Dudkiewicz masterfully transported audiences to his realm of stories, relying only on his voice, coupled with well-timed light and sound effects. “It was a dark and lonesome night…” so begins Dudkiewicz in Bedtime Stories.
Bedtime Stories revolves around Lilly, a precocious young girl, her father and grandfather – Max and George – both master storytellers. Every night before bed, Lilly enters a fantastical universe created just for her, where she encounters a host of strange and menacing creatures. She heard stories about how her parents met or fictional stories – for instance, about a squirrel in the forest who has to escape from the invasion of humans.
On the surface, Bedtime Stories is a coming-of-age story that follows Lilly as she grows older with each story and matures in her response to the stories. However, upon delving deeper into the story, it’s about Max who – as a young boy – has to conjure up all these different stories to enrich his own life, to come up with a family of his own with all its potential and ultimate happiness.
Sound artist Tomas Loos’ evocative soundscape allowed audiences to be fully immersed into Lilly’s and Max’s world. With 360-degree surround sound speakers, Dudkiewicz’s voice enveloped all around, and the sound effects of raindrops and string winds sounded almost too real – it felt like we were part of the story.
The success of Bedtime Stories is also owed to Dudkiewicz’s pitch-perfect narrated performance. Dudkiewicz was able to present all the characters in the story skillfully, distinguishing each character by giving them unique voices and traits with his speech and emotive facial expressions.
The secret location – which was revealed to be at Gardens by the Bay – brought down the overall experience of Bedtime Stories. It was rather anticlimactic, given the hype that was created over the “secret location” aspect. The location for Bedtime Stories was promoted in such a way that one would have expected a secular “forest-like” setting, as opposed to the vibrant, iconic Gardens by the Bay.
When facing Dudkiewicz, audiences were also met with the vibrant skyline of the Central Business District (CBD) illuminating the night. Truthfully, it feels that I have been short-changed in terms of location, as, I reckon, attendees would not have guessed that it would be held at Gardens by the Bay – given that the promoted video suggests an intimate setting that is not only surrounded only by nature, but tucked away from the bustling city as well.
While we do not have the abundance of forests like in the Netherlands, conducting Bedtime Stories at Fort Canning Park or the Botanical Gardens would have been an ideal location as these locations have many spots that are great for creating a private setting that will allow guests to fully immerse in Dudkiewicz’s storytelling.
SIFA was held from Thursday, 16 May to Sunday, 2 June 2019 at various locations. For more information on Bedtime Stories and other shows that took place during SIFA 2019, visit https://www.sifa.sg/2019-programmes
Visuals courtesy of Arts House Limited.