Review: Audio soundscape steals the show in Checkpoint Theatre's The Heart Comes To Mind

Hear Oon Shu Ann (left) and Julius Foo (right) in The Heart Comes To Mind with a soundscape from composer Shah Tahir and accompaniment from cellist Ryan Sim.
Hear Oon Shu Ann (left) and Julius Foo (right) in The Heart Comes To Mind with a soundscape from composer Shah Tahir and accompaniment from cellist Ryan Sim.PHOTO: JOEL LIM @ CALIBRE PICTURES


The Studios Online and Checkpoint Theatre

Saturday (June 6), 8pm

How do you re-present a work meant for live theatre on a different platform?

In the case of Lucas Ho's sophomore play, originally part of the Esplanade's The Studios season, director Claire Wong has made the interesting decision to share the production as an audio experience instead of a video presentation.

It is easy to hear why Wong decided to present this as an audio recording. Ho's writing is imagistic and larded with poetic turns of phrases which "read" well. The code switching between lyrically written interior monologues by the father-daughter characters and Singlish exchanges in real life between them, the nerdy flirtation by the scientist daughter with a colleague via tech talk, and the dynamics between the father and a longtime friend are note-perfect renditions which show the playwright's ear for dialogue and ability to capture characters.

However, the loose fragmentary nature of the script and the lack of a plot also means the narrative feels flat during the last third of the show.

The story of a newly widowed writer Peter (Julius Foo) whose only daughter Lynn (Oon Shu An) has recently moved home also lacks an emotional anchor. There are passing hints of a deep love between Peter and his late wife, and serious friction between Lynn and her late mother, which are not fleshed out. Perhaps this was a conscious choice by the playwright, but it leaves the play with more brains than heart.

Listening to a script is very different from watching a staging. Because one's attention has narrowed solely to the audio, certain flaws pop where in a live context, they might be forgiven. Foo's uncertain diction at some points interferes with Ho's portrait of an articulate writer who cannot communicate with his grown daughter.


What was once a background soundtrack has become the scenestealer in the audio format. Composer Shah Tahir has created a practically wall-to-wall soundscape for the play. It is a beautifully textured auditory tapestry that serves multiple purposes, from setting the mood to highlighting Ho's writing. Stripped from a live theatre context, it also becomes a living spine that carries this experience.

With theatres still dark, companies here are likely to experiment more with digital presentations. This production shows an unexpected arena to explore, harking back to the old-fashioned radio plays that once gripped our grandparents' generation.

Catch it

Where: The Studios Online

When: Till June 12, 11.59pm

Admission: Free