Dark Room follows the lives of men housed together in a five-by-five-metre cell, 23 hours a day, every day, until their release. This original work, based on true accounts, explores the codes and regulations of society “on the inside”. It charts the prison experience from pre-trial to imprisonment, and the reintegration into society as “returning citizens”.
If “prison is the punishment that keeps on taking”, Dark Room gives voice to the incarcerated by staging their stories and making their experiences visible to a wider audience.
Directed and written by Edith Podesta, this play was first developed under the Esplanade Presents The Studios RAW in 2014 as a work-in-progress reading. It went on to clinch the Best Ensemble Award at the 15th M1-The Straits Times Life! Theatre Awards in 2015. Read more about the development of the first iteration titled Dark Room x 8 here.
This second iteration of the play, re-titled as Dark Room, is a commission by Esplanade Presents The Studios 2016 and will premiere on 28 April 2016 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. Centre 42 supports the development of this second iteration from February to April 2016.
Presented by Esplanade The Studios
28 April – 1 May 2016
Esplanade Theatre Studio
Dark Room was developed in residence at Centre 42’s Basement Workshop.
Follow the creation process.
Dark Room has been in development in Centre 42 since February 2016, up till the creative team and cast moved into the Esplanade Theatre Studio for production week.
View this series of video interviews with director-playwright Edith Podesta during the final development phase in the Basement Workshop.
Interview 1 – Searching for Acceptance
Edith Podesta shares her motivations behind creating her verbatim theatre piece Dark Room. Her objectives for the work are to break the cycles of shame and judgement that often accompany incarceration, and to help convicts – past, present and future – and their loved ones find acceptance in society and in themselves.
Interview 2 – Searching for Experiences
Edith Podesta talks about the research interviews with individuals with prison experience in crafting Dark Room. She shares how she sought out her interviewees, how she put their experiences together in the play, and how she tried to retain the veracity of the accounts onstage.
Interview 3 – Searching for Subtext
Edith Podesta relates her experience converting the audio recordings of her interviews into text. For her, transcription was ad verbatim, so she included fillers, pauses, slangs and swear words. While she found the process to be painstaking and frustrating, it was ultimately rewarding to be able to communicate the essence of the characters to the actors. She also touches on the subtext of performance, which emerged in preparing for the full staging of Dark Room in 2016 when the actors could perform without the script.
Interview 4 – Searching for More Stories
In this second iteration of Dark Room, Edith Podesta added three new characters to the play – a pair of parents and a female inmate. She discusses the additional interviews she had to conduct to gather these new stories, and how they added to the emotional depth and range of the prison experiences in Dark Room.
Read also these interviews:
- Helmi Yusof of The Business Times speaks with Edith Podesta on her motivation to create Dark Room and tell the stories of prison immates. Read it here.
- A Straits Times Life article on the Esplanade Presents The Studios, on its theme and the artists involved. Read it here.