Video: The Vault: Project Understudy

The Vault: Project Understudy was first presented in front of a live audience on 23 May 2016.

Conceived and edited by Dr Robin Loon, and organised by NUS Thespis, Project Understudy explores sequels, scruples & satire using a collective writing creation process.

In this presentation, the creators and writers shared the experiences of developing a new play through writing collectively, and making documentation a key element in the process. Selected character monologues and scenes were read by the actors to give an insight into the outcomes of this first phase of writing development.

The 60-minute Process-Performance has been repackaged into an 4-part video recording:

Part 1: The seven writers introduce their project to develop a sequel to Tan Tarn How’s play Undercover. Titled Understudy, the writers briefly share their strategies for writing the sequel collaboratively, which include, writing for only one character each, monologue-writing, taking turns to write lines for scenes, and collectively following one master narrative.

Part 2: Four of the seven writers read out the monologues they wrote for their characters in Understudy. These monologues were writing exercises for them to explore their characters and better understand their histories and motivations. Some parts of these monologues were even used in the first draft of Understudy.

Part 3: The seven writers read out four scenes they had worked on collectively over the past few months, voicing the characters they had picked to write for:

Minister for Cultural Affairs (MCA) Jane has caused controversy awarding the Cultural Medallion to ‘dissident artist’ Qiang. KK Chan, Director of Institute of Public Consensus (IPC) challenges her decision. We discover that the Director and the Minister have crossed swords before – as have their deputies, Vikram and Albert.

Derek flies Qiang back – they understand each other and reconnect. Jane enters the picture and issues from their past surface – they clash but begrudgingly agree to negotiate further.

In what is supposed to be a Cultural Medallion negotiation, the three representatives – Vikram, Albert, and Sophie – are sent to negotiate in proxy. Vikram and Albert clash and Sophie mitigates. They create a small zone of understanding – Albert senses Vikram’s fondness for Sophie.

KK confronts Jane with the blackmail only to be rebuffed. Qiang enters to fight off KK, leaving KK humiliated. Jane comes clean with Qiang and their secret is revealed.

Part 4: “It will end with a monologue,” said Dr. Robin Loon, the Chief Editor of “Project Understudy”. Five of the writers were assigned to write monologues for their characters in the final scene of the play. In this final part, these writers read out the scenario briefs that they were each given to develop for the finale Scene 11.



Vault Event LogoThe Vault: Project Understudy revisits Tan Tarn How’s Undercover and reimagines its sequel set in 2016 through a collaborative writing creation process. Conceived and edited by Dr Robin Loon and organised by NUS Thespis.

Access the full suite of materials about The Vault: Project Understudy here.