Behind The Curtain For Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change — Abyssal Balcony Operations’ first production

Every Saturday, the crew from Abyssal Balcony Operations meet at ITE College Central around mid-morning. There, they make their way to the Centre for Music and the Arts, where the ample space of Dance Studio 2 provides a domain to rehearse for their upcoming production — Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change.

My limited impression of theatre often veers towards the exuberant; with bombastic sets and costumes front and centre. The rehearsal at the studio was quite the opposite. Only a couple of long tables and a few chairs furnished the large open space of the dance studio while the crew were dressed simply for the occasion. 

Soon, the rehearsal began in earnest. For 10 minutes, Jannah Evangelista and Clarice Eli Fong got to work and acted out an emotional scene near the latter part of Les Fleurs Du Changer. In truth, those 10 minutes felt like more, considering how charged the atmosphere was, but eventually, a break was called, and the crew once again bore smiles; swiftly making notes and adding feedback regarding the performance.

Abyssal Balcony Operations: Rehearsal
Clarice (right) and Jannah (left) performing an emotionally charged scene in the early periods of rehearsal

When we visited the group, Abyssal Balcony Operations had already done several rehearsals that month, illustrating how relaxed they were throughout the routine. But while this may not be their first rehearsal, the production company is entering uncharted waters. Just formed last year, Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change is its first production and marks the beginning of its foray into the theatre scene in Singapore.

Into the Abyss

Jannah, also known as Gabriel amongst theatre friends who, in addition to being the writer and co-director for Les Fleurs Du Changer, is also Abyssal Balcony Operations’ co-founder alongside longtime muse Heather Capistrano. The duo met in the theatrical ensemble CCA during their time in ITE, bonding together through a mutual love of theatre and the arts.

Singapore’s theatre scene is a small but ultimately vibrant one where household names like Glen Goei and Hossan Leong boast extensive work for the stage. Still, Jannah explains that there are huge hurdles to overcome when entering the industry — even getting a supporting role (which is needed before you can get the leading parts) is considered a difficult task.

“For Heather and I, we didn’t like that [the barriers] because for many youths who want to pursue an arts career, how can you start an arts career when you have to get through so many people? So we started this company with the objective of making it more accessible to everyone,” says Jannah. “This is their platform to start off without needing to have any proper qualifications of like, hey, you need to have a diploma in theatre making and whatnot. Because this is a place where we want other people’s stories to be told. And you want them to have a chance to really be part of something that they’ve been trying to be a part of for years.”

The idea of starting a production company has always been in the back of the minds of Jannah and Heather but it wasn’t until April and May of last year that that dream became more concrete. Jannah came to Heather with a “crazy idea”, and that idea became Abyssal Balcony Operations.

Abyssal Balcony Operations: Feedback
Along with Heather (right), Jannah created Abyssal Balcony Operations as an accessible starting point for people getting into the arts

Along with Heather (right), Jannah created Abyssal Balcony Operations as an accessible starting point for people getting into the arts

I’m getting a little ahead of myself though: Abyssal Balcony Operations isn’t actually the company’s first name. The name was initially supposed to be Void Deck Productions, which itself stems from HDB: the title of their friend group. The idea was that void decks were a common meeting place for friends, and since the work provided a reason for everybody to meet each other, it seemed an appropriate name for the company.

Unfortunately, they found that the name was already taken; not unsurprising considering how common colloquially the word is in Singapore. Abyssal Balcony is a decidedly different name to use, but once you hear its meaning, it starts to make much more sense.

“So one of the people that we work with, she came up with the idea of, like, hey, if you’re going to look into the side of, we want to vault out into the unknown, and we want to go into the void, then why not abyssal balcony?” Jannah explains. “It’s, like, (an) interesting thought process, but I understood where she came from, because we are going into an unknown stage, and this is, like, the balcony where everything starts. So, we basically jump a deep dive into the waters of the unknown.”

From France with Love

For Abyssal Balcony Operations’s first production, much of the inspiration came from France. Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change is based on the 1857-published lyrical poetry Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, now considered a masterpiece of French literature. Amongst the many themes broached within the poetry were adult depravity and suffering — controversial topics at the time it was published, and some may say they are still controversial.

Les Fleurs Du Changer explores two of the themes from the book, Innocence and Escapism, with Jannah writing the story with one question in mind: how would these themes look like within the context of Singapore?

The story follows the 17-year-old Lucian (portrayed by Jannah), who is contending with his parents’ recent divorce. Keen to forge his own path and move to London to be with his father, Lucian faces opposition from his mother, who wants him to continue his Junior College education in Singapore. 

The narrative of wanting to pursue one’s dreams and the consequences of doing so isn’t an unfamiliar topic for Singaporean youths. For Heather and Jannah, it is also a personal one, hence why it is set under a backdrop of modern times.

“Heather and I, we come from very different backgrounds, but we always believe in one thing, and that is doing what we feel best in our lives, because this is like our life, right? We should do what we feel we believe in, and we want to communicate that. We want to communicate how difficult it is, despite it being in modern times, that you don’t have to pursue a career in this [specific industry] in order to make a living. You can be as accomplished as you can be, and yet you still feel unfulfilled.”

With a personal subject matter being explored, the production is similarly intimate. Jannah and Clarice (who plays Lucian’s mother and the spirit of the Lily flower he takes care of) are the only actors for Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change. Through a mixture of music and comedic elements, the hope from Abyssal Balcony Operations is that the performance will be something that will resonate with the audience.

Moving Forward

It has been a whirlwind time for Abyssal Balcony Operations in the leadup to the premiere of Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change. Having officially started operations in June last year, they quickly followed up with rehearsals beginning in November; the fast process was made no easier with some last-minute cast changes.

Still, it’s par for the course for Jannah and Heather, who at 20, are venturing very quickly into an industry with old dogs like Checkpoint Theatre and Wild Rice as their contemporaries. While the journey has thus far been fast, the team is keen to take their time, soak in the emotions, find their feet, and learn from the experience as they continue their journey.

It’s early days for Abyssal Balcony Operations, but the team is excited about the future

It’s early days for Abyssal Balcony Operations, but the team is excited about the future

“We’re always kind of nervous and scared of us making mistakes since it’s all new to us. But I think along the way, we learn that we just have to learn from it. And that’s also the exciting part because, while failing is not nice, I think from the failures, we realise that actually, hey, we could make something new out of this. We can try something else, and we actually are learning something. And to watch it all come together while nerve-wracking, it fills us with the adrenaline of like, oh, okay, we’re really doing something that we care about and we really believe in.” Jannah muses.

Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change will premiere on 21 March 2024 and will run till 24 March 2024. Tickets are now available for purchase online at Peatix!

Les Fleurs Du Changer: The Flowers of Change

🗓️Date: 21 March to 24 March 2024
📍Location: DNMC Studio & Cyclorama, 1 Tampines North Drive 3, #06-03 BHCC Space, Singapore 528499

  • S$28 (21 March: Preview)
  • S$35 (22 March onwards)


  • (21 and 22 March 2024) 7pm
  • (23 and 24 March 2024) 2.30pm and 7pm

Photos by Hoo Yi and Russell Loh of the DANAMIC Team.

Russell Matthew Loh

Watcher of films and player of games. Dabble with writing in between.

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