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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Use phone for this play

The audience's choices move the story along in this 'narrative journey'
The Straits Times - May 7, 2012
By: Adeline Chia
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Use phone for this play The team behind Songbird are (from left) Victoria Ho, Tara Tan, Lisa Cheong and David Liu. -- PHOTO: STUDIO NOW & THEN

Forget the no-phone policy in the theatre. A new 'play', Songbird, wants you to play with your mobile - namely, download an app and interact with it while on a walking tour.

Participants in this work play detective in solving the mystery of a missing singer called Songbird, supposedly Singapore's answer to Canadian art folk vocalist, Feist. She is supposed to be making her debut concert to a cheering crowd but pulls a no-show.

Audience members are then invited to trace her footsteps on a route around the Empress Place area.

Clues will be triggered to pop up on your mobile at certain locations. These could be a short music video, snatches of a conversation or an evocative picture.

Part-game, part-audio tour, part- experimental play, this unusual work is part of this year's Singapore Art Festival and will run from May 24 to 27.

The free tour takes about an hour and leaves every 10 minutes from 4 to 9pm. Each tour can take 10 people and places can be booked using the Songbird app.

The app is already available for download in the Apple App store. Those who do not have an iPhone or iPad can borrow one from the organisers on the day itself, but do e-mail in advance.

Songbird is the first 'narrative journey using an iPhone app', says its creator Tara Tan, a freelance arts writer and design director.

It is one step up the technological ladder from audio tours. In 2004, local theatre company spell#7 made Desire Paths, where visitors got a CD player and map and followed instructions to explore Little India in the footsteps of a fictional couple.

In 2010, the company added videos to a new audio tour called Ghostwalking. With their smartphones, participants travelled around the island chasing episodes of a man's life.

Tan, 28, says Songbird is highly interactive, as the audience's choices and decisions influence and move the story along.

The project was conceptualised by her and produced by design collective Studio Now & Then, which includes film-maker and app designer David Liu, 29, composer and journalist Victoria Ho, 29, and Lisa Cheong, 28, who is in charge of marketing.

The app was designed by Tinkertanker, a tech firm that develops apps.

Telling a story using an app required a 'constant back-and-forth between the creative and technical sides', she says. 'Sometimes the app designers will say something can't be done and we have to tweak certain plot points to fit the technical limitations.'

Playing Sherry is Gabriella Mesenas, 22, an arts management student in Lasalle College of the Arts and a first-time actor.

Tan says: 'She exudes an easy confidence and a youthfulness that is very much like the character of Songbird.'

Mesenas, a Chinese-Filipino, says she is still 'overwhelmed' by the experience. 'It's crazy to see my face on an app.'


Where: Festival Village, Esplanade Park. Register at the information booth

When: May 24 to 27, tours leave every 10 minutes from 4 to 9pm

Admission: Free. Download the app from and book a place on the tour using the app


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