Hostel Staff + Strange Delivery = A Dark Play About Social Class And Inequality
STORY: Sim Ding En
29 November 2021
Money, money, money - must be funny in a rich man's world.
So the lyrics of the famous Abba song go. Indeed, to most of the affluent in society, cash is meh. But what happens when the regular Joe or, in the case of "The Lobby", two regular Janes, encounter a mountain of moolah, unlocking a world of possibilities and sinister motivations?
Presented by Impromptu Meetings - formed in Jan 2021 and comprising Adeeb Fazah, Miriam Cheong, and Cheryl Tan - the original play is a milestone for the budding theatre collective: this will be their first live show. In 2021, Impromptu Meetings also presented three online shows (including "晚安你好 (Wan An Ni Hao): The Late Night Show with Xiao Ming") and a presentation at the Esplanade Concourse.
"The Lobby" follows Abby (a receptionist played by Miriam) and Min Lee (a chambermaid played by Cheryl) who discover a bagful of cash in the lobby of the inner-city hostel they work at. Written and directed by Adeeb, it will be performed at Goodman Arts Centre Black Box from 3 to 6 Dec.
We speak to the trio about the "Idea Bootcamp" that birthed this production, and shocking personal hotel experiences.
Congrats on being able to bookend the year with another independent project by Impromptu Meetings! Creatively, what have been the highlights of 2021 for you?
Miriam: I've really just enjoyed the process of creating, and all sorts of work too! We've done a show completely on the Telegram app, a sitcom-style show, a talk show, an Esplanade Concourse show as well as my more serious work with Wild Rice's "The Other F Word". I think I've really found myself not just as an actor, but also a theatre maker.
“The Lobby” is written and directed by Adeeb, and came about from Idea Bootcamp. Tell us about this “boot camp”, and what the creative process is like among the three of you in Impromptu Meetings.
Impromptu Meetings (IM): Idea Bootcamp came out during last year's extended lockdown. While staying home and with fewer jobs going around, we had some time to do something fun and creative among ourselves. We decided to do a 10-week incubation of new play ideas, where we would give each other prompts and one week to come up with a new play idea, concept or even a sample of a script.
The prompts could vary wildly week to week. For example, one week could be about creating an impossible play, and another week could be about creating something based on a video game.
We had 10 weeks of different prompts. This meant that among the three of us, we had a collection of 30 new play ideas by the end of the process. These new play ideas could then be taken forward and developed into full scripts and, later, stagings.
"The Lobby" came out from one of the weeks when the prompt was to come up with something inspired by an assigned playwright. The playwright assigned to Adeeb was Harold Pinter, whose plays are mysterious, suspenseful and bleak.
What topics does “The Lobby” address and how are they relevant or significant to the audience?
IM: On the surface, "The Lobby" is about the discovery and realisation that these workers in a hostel are now caught up in some sinister dealings. However, what the play explores in the interactions between the two characters is their socio-economic struggle.
The two come from not very well-off backgrounds, but they have very different approaches to living their life. While one chooses to accept that fate has given her the challenge of living with financial constraints causing her to forgo higher education, the other is a go-getter and ambitious.
In the midst of navigating their stark difference in ideology, they both face the injustice that someone else is controlling their narrative. What do they do when dealing with the shorter end of the stick? What can they do? What are the bigger issues in these types of inequality?
What are some of your most memorable hostel/hotel experiences?
Miriam: I'm lucky that I haven't had any super bad experiences, but here's something I remember from when I was 13 and in Japan. I saw a lot of very flashy buildings that I thought were really cool - some had the facade of a castle, okay! Then I saw that the advertised payment was by the hour, which I'd never seen before. Then my mom broke the news to me - they were love hotels... castle dreams dashed.
Any exciting plans for Impromptu Meetings in 2022?
IM: We currently have no concrete plans for 2022 yet. Of course, some ideas are on the table but have yet to be concretised. We were meant to participate in the second edition of the STRIKE! Digital Festival, but that fell through as the festival did not manage to get government funding for it. Otherwise, we look forward to more opportunities such as festivals, commissions and collaborations - as we had in the whirlwind that was 2021.