With/Out (2017)

Performance from 23 to 26 March 2017, 8pm
Esplanade Theatre Studio

Conceptualised by Loo Zihan
Performed in collaboration with Janice Koh

Based on Completely With/Out Character (1999)
Devised by Paddy Chew, in collaboration with Alvin Tan and Haresh Sharma
A commission by The Studios, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay

“Chew, the first person in Singapore to come out as HIV-positive, flickers back to life in a production that is a reading, a screening, an installation and a documentary all at once… that allows audience members to revisit an iconic production with the sobering measure of distance and a thorough context." - Corrie Tan, The Straits Times, on With/Out (2015)

In 1999, The Necessary Stage presented Completely With/Out Character, a docu-theatre monologue devised by Paddy Chew, in collaboration with playwright Haresh Sharma and director Alvin Tan. The monologue was a candid account of Paddy’s experiences as the first individual to come out as a person living with HIV in Singapore. With/Out is an interpretation of Paddy’s monologue, conceptualised by artist Loo Zihan. It was first presented in 2015 to rave reviews as part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. This 2017 commission by Esplanade Theatres on the Bay -The Studios series presents a reimagining of this monologue, and examines its relationship to the written and video documents.

With/Out was first developed in residence at Centre 42, and commissioned by the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2015.

Accounts of With/Out (2017):

"In this living museum of queer life and death, Zihan succeeded in connecting us with a bittersweet story that still lives on. In the story telling there was bravery, boldness, kindness, mercy, acceptance and self-acceptance. For every strain of sadness captured and released that night, the aesthetic space established in the studio was also a balm for our sorrow and disappointment. This was no pity party. It was a ritual to help us consider our mortality, our morality, our history and our humanity. At a time when we need to listen to each other more than ever, this work invites us to do just that. Listen." - Sean Tobin

"While the tactics of With/Out could be applied to reviving almost any bygone artwork, I’d argue that it’s especially relevant for the work of queer artists. Across the world, it is queer work that has been routinely dropped from the record, hidden from the eyes of children and conservatives, or else infantilised beyond the point of recognition. This makes it deeply difficult to establish a queer collective memory, given that such heritage is rarely passed down from biological parent to child. It’s therefore a small but significant triumph that this work was staged as part of the Esplanade’s own programming lineup, advertised to and attended by an audience of diverse ages and sexual orientations. With/Out takes the memory of Paddy Chew and Singapore’s AIDS crisis out of the gay ghetto, reminding us all of the importance of courage and art-making in the face of death." - Ng Yi-Sheng

With/Out (2015) – Performance

14 to 18 January 2015, 8pm
Black Box/ Rehearsal Room, Centre 42, Singapore
presented as a 'Fringe Highlight' of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival

“How can one re-stage a play like that–the candle prop will still burn, the video projection of rain will still evoke images of cleansing and renewal, but Chew might not be around anymore.” – Alfian Sa'at, The Straits Times, on Completely With/Out Character

In May 1999, The Necessary Stage worked with Paddy Chew to stage a monologue titled Completely With/Out Character at the Drama Centre on Fort Canning Hill. The docu-theatre piece records his experience as the first person in Singapore to come out publicly with his HIV-positive status. Unfortunately, Paddy passed on in August 1999 a few months after the production’s conclusion.

In 2015, AIDS is no longer perceived as a terminal disease; HIV-positive individuals can lead a relatively normal and healthy life with the aid of advances in medication. In part, this is due to the roads paved by individuals and researchers who came before us, individuals like Paddy, who defied convention and conservatism to tell his story at a time when there was still much ignorance and prejudice surrounding AIDS.

With/Out is a faithful interpretation of Paddy's monologue. Through the use of multi-media, video documentation and other archival material, Loo Zihan re-constructed the production as an extension of his research into performance re-enactments, the mediation of a 'live' presence via the use of technology, and the re-visioning of queer histories in Singapore.

The performance space was divided into two areas - a black box that is sited above a white cube. In the black box the audience encounters a three-screen synced video projection of various archival documents that span the length of the 1999 production documentation.

In the white cube, a reader performs a transcript of the text in cadence with the production video documentation. Each evening features a different reader and the performance is streamed 'live' online for a virtual audience, an archive of the webcast is available here.

With/Out was developed in residence at Centre 42.
Production Manager and Set Design - Chan Silei
Video and Technical Support - Kelvin Chew

Click here for an interview on With/Out with Singapore Poetry website.

Excerpt from video documentation of Completely With/Out Character (1999) by The Necessary Stage featuring Paddy Chew