Some stills to share

While it might be our last performance tonight, we’ll like to share some sneaks which we took from the staging of FourPlays: ABCD!

Catch our last show later tonight at 8pm, 72-13 Mohd Sultan Road. Tickets are still available but limited.

See you!

Cortazar's The House taken Over

Cortazar’s The House taken Over

Duras' La Maladie de la mort (The Malady of Death)

Duras’ La Maladie de la mort (The Malady of Death)

Borges' The Shape of the Sword

Borges’ The Shape of the Sword

Arlt's Luba

Arlt’s Luba


From our Associate Director, Joshua Yang of Vertical Submarine

Life is ironic. And isn’t it true that the things we try to run away from become the very things that we end up running into? But that’s the truth. It’s like death, when it comes towards where you are, you have to greet it with humility, to steal a line from Luba.

The fact is, as many of you already know, I’m not a big fan of theatre. Things are always bigger in theatre, more exaggerated, more “epic” than I’m accustomed to in real life. But I realized that that’s what these four stories are about: conversations and dialogues between two people in a room, but there’s always something bigger, something epic going on outside the room; a battle, a revolution, death, love. Epic themes! And you might ask why take on such big and heavy themes? Why not deal with something simpler? Babies, perhaps? But the fact that you ask the question, proves you can’t understand. No. It’s not about us choosing these themes. It’s quite the other way around.

These themes are bigger than us, any one of us and bigger even than all of us put together. They choose us as the medium for their story to be told. And all we can do is to accept it and not try to run away from the truth. Everyday life is mundane enough as it is that if we didn’t embrace the epic, how can we hope to face the mundane? There will be times, and it has already started with the newspapers and blogs, where there will be people, some of whom could be your nearest and dearest who might tell you that you’re not good enough, and ask you why is it you’re doing whatever you’re doing? Is it just about the money? We all know that’s not it. The fame? The glory? And when you run out of answers, and everything goes silent and there’s nothing to be heard, you should know this: we do this because we must! And because the alternative is even more terrible.

Throughout this process there were those who ran away from it and I shall not name them but there were those, like yourselves who stayed, accepted and embraced the truth and on behalf of vertical submarine I want to thank these people for not running away.

Keng Sen and Tay Tong, for believing in us a second and a third time.

Soo Mei, for getting us our tickets and for everything else that we needed for the set.

Mervyn and Brendan, for selling the show and reaching out to the students and readers at the library.

Cody, this show would have been a very different one, a much less brilliant one without such an amazing, tight-assed production stage manager as you.

Albert, for shedding some light when we were bungling around in the dark.

Shawn, for making us believe that we were drowning in the ocean surrounded by seagulls.

Azmee and Zhiting, from A to Z, for never missing a cue.

Lyra, Yiting and Raden, for all your work behind the scenes and in between.

Ashley, for turning Vanessa into a forty-something Argentine spinster and for all the other hairy matters.

Ray, for giving us Vincent Moon’s scar.

Rayann, for giving us Luba, a whore whom we’d all love to be slapped by and for all those sensual movements in bed.

Stephane, for the French accent and for trying so hard to do without it.

Tim, for giving us Vincent Moon, how can we not despise you?

Vanessa, for haunting the set with the ghost of Marguerite Duras, whose birthday was 4th April and maybe that was why there were so many glitches.

And last, although they’re not here, I want to thank Justin and Fiona, my comrades, my extra pair of eyes, ears, hands and feet. Thank you for the past 10 years.

Thank you all for your hard and good work! And here’s to a great run tonight and for the rest of the shows!


Joshua Yang, Vertical Submarine
Associate Director, TheatreWorks
FourPlays: ABCD (2013)

TODAY Online Theatre review: ABCD


Mayo Martin of TODAY Online reviews about FourPlays: ABCD!

Here’re some snippets from the article:

… Linked by subtle elements (namedropping an author here, evoking an image there), the four stories (which technically unfolds as BCDA) actually cohere. But if this so-called impossibility of dialogue is resolved, the dialogue between literary text and theatre remains tricky…

… Going to a play to watch and hear stories being read may not be to everyone’s liking (perhaps judging by some empty seats after the intermission), but there’s arguably a certain allure to it. It’s the reverse of immersion as one is forced to accept a powerful singular voice to lead them through the tale — something that works very well if you’re talking about writers of this calibre…

The full article here:

Latin American giants (Re-post)




Stills from the scene of D: The Malady of Death by Marguerite Duras


TODAY speaks with Vertical Submarine about the upcoming staging of FourPlays: ABCD


As TheatreWorks’ associate artists, art collective Vertical Submarine wanted to follow up their 2011 theatre debut Dust — A Recollection with a 48-hour-long event revolving around interrogations. Realising they might not get enough people to stay, they thought of something less audacious but no less interesting: A four-in-one show centred around four 20th century authors.

ABCD’s title is taken from the names of four authors, and through the course of the play, we watch interpretations of Roberto Arlt’s Luba, Jorge Luis Borges’ The Form Of The Sword, Julio Cortazar’s House Taken Over and Marguerite Duras’ The Malady Of Death. All of these feature two characters (performed by Rayann Condy, Vanessa Ann Vanderstraaten, Stephane Brusa and Tim Garner) and deal with the impossibility of dialogue. (Ironically, this is the group’s first production with actual dialogue.)

While it’s technically a piece of theatre, member Joshua Yang said they approached its creation as they would a painting.

“During the rehearsal process, we just kept on doing runs of the whole script again and again, like starting with a very rough sketch, then the under-painting, then more layers. I think it drove the actors crazy,” he laughed.

As for audiences, Yang hopes that the piece is received as a kind of “book recommendation” for Latin American literature that the group is fond of.

“They’re a bit anti-literature and it can be very hard to get through the texts but we want people to get interested in the books,” he said, intimating that the act of reading isn’t confined to books.

“We try to widen the definition. Even in painting, you’re supposed to ‘read’ what the painter put in there; in theatre, you also ‘read’ the body language of the authors and listen to the lines. There’s this kind of decoding process.”

ABCD is from April 3 to 6, 8pm, 72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road. Tickets at S$35 from or 6737 7213.

Check the full article here:

Repost: Vertical Submarine Explores Impossibility of Dialogue


Blouin Art Info SEA covers FourPlays: ABCD

An extract from the full article…

What is “FourPlays: ABCD” is about?

The play is about human relationships and the about trading of monologues which impersonate as dialogues.

This conceptual theatre performance is inspired by four writers. Why did you choose them?

We see parallels between the post-colonial culture in Argentina and our society, both places have writers writing in a language that is not exactly theirs. The three Argentine writers and the stories are contrasted by the petit-bourgeois concerns and ruminations of Duras.

How is the work split between the three of you?

The work is not only divided between the three of us but between the whole production team and TheatreWorks, and even the audience who made serious effort to watch the play.

To find out more visit click


“I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I

have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I

have loved; all the cities I have visited.”

–       Jorge Luis Borges


Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aries, Argentina on August 1899. He was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator. His works embraces the ‘character of unreality in all literature. Borges dedicated his final work, Los Conjurados (The Conspirators), to the city of Geneva, Switzerland, and it was there, in 1986, that he died with liver cancer.

His most famous books, Ficciones (1994) and The Aleph (1949) are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion and God. Other genres include fantasy and magical realism. Many of his most popular stories concern the nature of time, infinity, mirrors and labyrinths

Scholars have suggested that Borges’s progressive blindness helped him create innovative literary symbols through imagination. He was known for literary hoaxes, writing under other names, imagining and reviewing works that do not exist

Borges’ ability to make the text aware of itself marked him as one of the finest writers of the twentieth century, especially in developing a new post-modern sensibility.

Borges was one of the distinguished authors who were never awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The omission constantly distressed Borges in his career.

His vision started to fade in his early thirties, and become completely blind in his late fifties. He came into international attention when he received the first Prix International, sharing the award with Samuel Beckett.


You may wish to click for other interesting articles of Borges here:

One of my first and most popular stories, “House Taken Over,” is a nightmare I had – Julio Cortazar


“Memory is a mirror that scandalously lies”

       – Julio Cortazar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds


“No one can retell the plot of a Cortazar story; each one

consists of determined words in a determined order. If we try

to summarise them, we realise that something precious has

been lost”

        – Jorge Luis Borges

Julio Cortázar was born in Ixelles, Belgium on August 26, 1914. He was an Argentine novelist, short story writer and essayist. He was known as one of the founders of the Latin American Boom which influenced an entire generation of Spanish-speaking readers and writers in the America and Europe. He died in Paris in 1984 and is interred in the Cimetière de Montparnasse, next to Carol Dunlop. The cause of his death was reported to be leukemia.

Many of Cortazar stories follow the logic of hallucinations and obsessions. Central themes in his work are the quest for identity, the hidden reality behind the everyday lives of common people, and the existential angst. A typical Cortazar story begins in the real world, then introduces fantastic elements which changes the rules of reality.

After his parents’ divorce, Cortazar spent most of his childhood with his mother and sister in Banfield, which became a source of inspiration for some of his stories. However, he also described this period of his life as ‘full of servitude, excessive touchiness, terrible and frequent sadness.” As a child, he was sickly and spent most of his time in bed reading materials selected by his mother, most notably the works of Jules Verne which Cortazar would admire for the rest of his life.

Cortazar later migrated to France in 1951 where he wrote most of his major works in Paris, and worked as a translator for UNESCO. In later years he became actively engaged in opposing abuses of human rights in Latin America and was a supporter of the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua.

>> Here’s an excerpt of an interview conducted with Julio Cortazar by Jason Weiss:


“How do you start with your stories? By any particular entry, an image?”


“With me stories and novels can start anywhere. As for the writing itself, when I begin to write, the story has been turning around in me a long time, sometimes for weeks. But not in any way that’s clear; it’s a sort of general idea of the story. Perhaps that house where there’s a red plant in one corner, and I know there’s an old man who walks around in this house. That’s all I know. It happens like that. And then there are the dreams. During this gestation period my dreams are full of references and allusions to what is going to be in the story. Sometimes the whole story is in a dream. One of my first and most popular stories, “House Taken Over,” is a nightmare I had. I got up immediately and wrote it. But in general, what comes out of the dreams are fragments of references. That is, my subconscious is in the process of working through a story—when I am dreaming, it’s being written inside there. So when I say that I begin anywhere, it’s because I don’t know what, at that point, is to be the beginning or the end. When I start to write, that’s the beginning. I haven’t decided that the story has to start like that; it simply starts there and it continues, and very often I have no clear idea about the ending—I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s only gradually, as the story goes on, that things become clearer and abruptly I see the ending.”

… more of the interview in the paris review >>



“When the past is recaptured by the imagination, breath is put back into life”

– Marguerite Duras

About Duras

Marguerite Duras was born in Saigon, French Indochina (now Vietnam) on 4 April 1914. Duras died of throat cancer in Paris, aged 81. She is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse. She was a French writer and film director.

In her teenage years, she had an affair with a rich merchant, which inspired her best-selling work The Lover (1984), and also influenced other works: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema and The North China Lover. Her works have been produced in films, some of which she directed herself.

While her early novels were conventional in form, she later became more experimental in both her novels and films. Many of her works deal with human sexuality. The form of a typical Duras novel is minimal, with no character description, and much dialogue, often unattributed and without quotation marks. The novel is not driven by narrative, but by a detached psychological probing, which, with its complexity and contradictory emotions, has its own urgency.

Despite her success, her adult life was marked by a recurring struggle with alcoholism.

Duras’ role in FourPlays: ABCD

About The Malady of Death

malady of death

A man hires a woman to spend several weeks with him by the sea. The woman is no one in particular, a “she,” a warm, moist body with a beating heart-the enigma of Other. Skilled in the mechanics of sex, he desires through her to penetrate a different mystery: he wants to learn love. It isn’t a matter of will, she tells him. Still, he wants to learn to try . . .This beautifully wrought erotic novel is an extended haiku on the meaning of love, “perhaps a sudden lapse in the logic of the universe,” and of its absence, “the malady of death.” “The whole tragedy of the inability to love is in this work, thanks to Duras’ unparalleled art of reinventing the most familiar words, of weighing their meaning.” – Le Monde; “Deceptively simple and Racinian in its purity, condensed to the essential.”

Engagement Programme with Duras

Bridging FourPlays: ABCD with our audiences through our Engagement Programme, TheatreWorks is organising a film screening screenplayed by Duras, Hiroshima mon Amour.

This film works on the use of highly structured repetitive dialogue, mostly used on the female lead’s narration with the male lead, interjecting to say she is wrong, lying, confused or to deny and contradict her statements. Although he disagrees and rejects many of the things she says, he pursues her constantly. These conversations of persuasions and dialogues juxtaposed with innovative flashbacks, weave past and present together.

Quotes to share from Hiroshima mon Amour (1959),

“I meet you. I remember you. Who are you? You’re destroying me. You’re good for me. How could I know this city was tailor-made for love? How could I know you fit my body like a glove? I like you. How unlikely. I like you. “

“How slow all of a sudden. How sweet. You cannot know. You’re destroying me. You’re good for me. You’re destroying me. You’re good for me. I have time. Please, devour me. Deform me to the point of ugliness. Why not you? Why not you in this city and in this night, so like other cities and other nights you can hardly tell the difference? I beg of you.”



Film Screening of Hiroshima mon Amour to 20 Mar 2013!


Dear friends,

Please note that Engagement Programme: film screening of Hiroshima mon Amour has been postponed to 20 Mar 2013 (Wed) form 7pm – 9pm. Directors, Vertical Submarine will introduce how this film has influenced their creative process in the making of FourPlays: ABCD.

Guests who have RSVP-ed with us will be informed with notifications via email or text of the changes.

We thank you for your kind understanding and hope to see you on 20 Mar 2013 for the film screening.


TheatreWorks Engagement Team

Tales from the Cast…

We speak with all 4 cast members of FourPlays: ABCD about their emotions, feelings and state of mind at this halfway point. While these 4 members may not be prolific writers or personalities like the Arlt, Borges, Cortazar and Duras, they each have an interesting tale to tell…


Tell us about yourself, who you are?

V: I’m Vanessa Vanderstraaten, (reluctantly) turning 25 in July, Eurasian. I enjoy theatre, literature, Smurfs Village and ogling Andrew Garfield.

T: Hello, I’m Tim, and this is my first time performing with TheatreWorks.

S: I am a French who has been living in Singapore for 4 years. I started to be involved in drama since 1997 in France. Ever since, I performed in different plays in French until I received the opportunity to perform in English for the first time in Vertical Submarine’s FourPlays: ABCD. Last year I acted in the French play, Venice under the Snow in Singapore with the French Stage.

R: Rayann Condy

What do you do?

V: I’m a full-time actress, presenter, host and model. More interestingly, I am also mummy/slave girl to two precocious cats, and in my free time I enjoy sleeping, playing poker and Big Fish Games.

T: I suppose the best answer would be that I ‘do theatre’. Right now that encompasses singing, dancing, acting, producing, directing, choreographing, writing…many parts of this one concept, career, lifestyle that only theatre people can embrace in all its risks and unknowns and singular moments. But the entry point for me was performing from my teenage years, and over time my appreciation for the other integral components of the theatre grew to where I am now – a hunger to do everything.

S: I am a professional in Human Resource management. I am working for a French company selling services to broadcasters.

R: I am a professional actor (BA Hons Acting Lasalle College of the Arts) and theatre director who also dabbles in corporate training and education from time to time.


Where do you come from?

V: Born and bred in sunny Singapore.

T: I’m from New Zealand originally, and proud to be a Kiwi. I also do a great impression of Murray from Flight of the Conchords.

S: France

R: I was born in Canada, immigrated to Australia then adopted Singapore as a PR nearly a decade ago.


Is there one word that best describes you?

V: Darwinian

T: Well, I’m a Libran, and a big proponent of all things cosmic so I tend to agree with the description of Librans being balanced…Balanced is probably the word.

S: Adaptability

R: No, on both levels 😉


What are your personal goals as a member of cast for FourPlays: ABCD?

V: To work with my director and co-actors and bring these four texts to life.

T: Ideally, and I’m sure many other actors would have a similar objective, to play my roles as best I can in the Universe of the plays, to represent the essence of what the original writers intended their readers to see, and what our directors intend for our audience to experience. At the same time while trying to be a good company member to TheatreWorks, Vertical Submarine, and my co-actors, I try to bring out characters from within myself that I’ve not had the chance to play before. Characters of vastly different backgrounds and inclinations from myself, in the frame of times and lifestyles far from anything we know today.

S: This is my first experience in an English play and I want to learn from a professional team

R: To not behave like a director.


Share with us your experience working with Vertical Submarine and other members of cast?

V: It’s been a great deal of fun getting to know everyone and working together to bring these 4 amazing stories to life. Working on the Duras piece was especially fun as we were all equally confused, and finding clues and making discoveries about the text together was a very enjoyable process.

T: So far, it’s all been quite gentle, with certain ease. We’re all discovering this together with guidance and overall curation from Joshua and Justin…and rehearsing in that wonderful big room means there is plenty of air around the process – both literally and figuratively – giving a feeling of freedom. And I’m acting with friends, really. I think we are each quite compatible with each other in this project. And with a cast of four and with steady progress being made, there has also been plenty of laughter in the room – if you make a joke out of something, there aren’t as many people inconvenienced, in terms of rehearsal progress, as there might be on a show with a larger cast with musicians, etc. And without realising it at the time, I think this internal comedy has been essential – after all, ABCD isn’t Neil Simon or Noel Coward. We need lightness as well as balance.

S: So far, working with the team has been very pleasant. We listen to everybody’s point of views to propose the best acting possible.

R: It has been a very interesting process thus far as we have visual artists working with professional theatre actors and amateur actors. So there are different levels of ability, expectation and process. So it makes for an unexpected journey as no one shares the same method of working. This also creates interesting dialogue and makes you investigate the elements of process you normally take for granted.


It has been almost a month into rehearsals, what challenges have you faced? How did you manage overcome them?

V: As these texts were not written as plays, there is sometimes a great deal of narration. In terms of staging, it then becomes challenging to find actions to do because you don’t want to be a puppet behaving exactly as it is narrated, but you don’t want to be distracted from the narration either. You’ll just have to buy a ticket and see if we succeed in finding a middle-ground

T: There have definitely been moments of confusion about what exactly a character is saying, how they’re saying it, how they’re feeling when they’re saying it. It’s a bit like those moments when you have to re-read a paragraph of a novel because the implications aren’t totally obvious. And, to use another novel analogy, it’s a bit like a “choose your own ending” situation. There are a few ways certain moments could be played or interpreted…more ways than I’ve encountered in other roles I’ve played. When these challenges arise, we might sit for a few minutes reading the section quietly until Joshua or one of the cast has a realisation moment, or offers an opinion that sets something off in another person and leads to a collective clarity. Collaboration at its finest!

S: Rehearsals have started only 3 weeks ago for me. My biggest challenge, which I haven’t overcome yet, is to be at ease with the English script. Knowing it by heart will help to overcome it.

R: Actually it’s only been a few weeks, I think the main challenge for me at the moment is getting to grips with the text, working out what’s its about, what it means and how to play it. It’s literature not a play so it needs a different approach that is interesting to discover.


In your opinion, what do you feel is the most defining moment of the performance?

V: I don’t think there is a singular defining moment, but there are many beautiful tableaux in each of the 4 plays, and this is largely fuelled by the intricate relationships between the characters. Whether it’s Enrique and Luba in a heated argument or Quelic and Irene quietly passing the time, I think the audience will be able to find many moments that will resonate for them.

T: I think I’ll mostly leave this one to our audience to discern and decide, as there are many possibilities across the four plays, and we are, afterall, vehicles (Vertical Submarines?) for the texts. But for me, a highlight in this (and any) piece is the catharsis, the surrender, the resolution, the acceptance…it might not be an easy step to take, but it always furthers us.

S: Too early to tell

R: It’s probably too early to say but I doubt it will be just one. So far Luba is mad and fun


Has FourPlays: ABCD influenced your personal life?

V: Yes. Because of our rehearsal schedule, I now have dinner at 6.30pm instead of 7.30pm.

T: Well, our evening rehearsal schedule has kept me out of the wine bars, and artistically enriched! So in more practical terms, there’s something that has fed both the wallet and the soul. At this point I’m still on the memorisation side of my characters, and we’re still finalising blocking, so when I’m free of the pages and everything flows will be the ripe time for personal epiphanies. These epiphanies will then be discussed over wine.

S: No, luckily my personal life is not influenced by the plays I act in.

R: Only in that I no longer have one as I’m at rehearsals every night.

A mysterious masterpiece…


000xtg6s 4231-marienbad2 Last Year at Marienbad. Photo Courtesy Rialto Pictures. marienbad1last-year-at-marienbadlast-year-at-marienbad4

“Marienbad” is a love story, although not a “story” in the conventional narrative sense, since the fragmented images cannot be scanned chronologically. The “story” is not told rather it is described using a juxtaposition of physical images, through memories and associations, projected through a space-time continuum, which destroys both linear chronology and fixity. Resnais built a captivating puzzle-like film, a labyrinth, which at time resembles the optical illusions of Escher or the surreal world of Magritte.

“…profoundly mysterious and disturbing, a para-surrealist masterpiece…”
– The Guardian, 2011

Check these links for more info:

Join us for the screening of the Last Year at Marienbad (1961) where we explore more about this classic French romantic-surrealistic film, and how this translates to Vertical Submarine’s conception of FourPlays: ABCD!

*Please email or call 6737-7213 (Brendan) to request for an invite to the Film Screening


Film Screening on 7 Mar 2013, 7pm at 72-13! (By Invitation only)

A series of engaging programmes will be organized in conjunction with our upcoming production, FourPlays: ABCD, by Vertical Submarine, TheatreWorks Associate Directors.

Film Screenings at 72-13 (By Invitation only)



7 Mar 2013 (Thu), 7pm – 9pm
72-13 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 239007
Screening of Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
Directed by Alain Resnais
Length of Film: 94min



Not just a defining work of the French New Wave but one of the great, lasting mysteries of modern art, lain Resnais’ epochal Last Year at Marienbad has been puzzling appreciative viewers for decades. Written by radical master of the New Novel Alain Robbe-Grillet, this surreal fever dream, or nightmare, gorgeously fuses the past with the present in telling its ambiguous tale of a man and a woman (Giorgio Albertazzi and Delphine Seyrig) who may or may not have met a year ago, perhaps at the very same cathedral-like, mirror-filled château they now find themselves wandering. Unforgettable in both its confounding details (gilded ceilings, diabolical parlor games, a loaded gun) and haunting scope, Resnais’ investigation into the nature of memory is disturbing romantic, and maybe even a ghost story. 

Vertical Submarine will share how these films had inspired their creative process in the theatricals of FourPlays: ABCD.

*Please email or call 6737-7213 (Brendan) to request for an invite to the Film Screenings.

(ADV) Performance Reading at Library@Esplanade

A series of engaging programmes will be organized in tandem with our upcoming production, FourPlays: ABCD, by Vertical Submarine, TheatreWorks Associate Directors.

Performance Readings at Library@Esplanade, Open Stage

malady of death2 Mar 2013 (Sat), 2.30 – 3 pm
Library@Esplanade Open Stage

Excerpt of The Malady of Death (Marguerite Duras), Performed by Vanessa Vanderstraaten

Free admission

Join us at this dramatised reading of FourPlays: ABCD at Library@Esplanade by one of the cast members. Following the reading, TheatreWorks’ Associate Directors, Vertical Submarine, will share more about what it takes for them, primarily known as a visual arts collective, to create a new piece from print to stage.

Check out other Engagement Programmes during the month of March here!

About Roberto Arlt

Part of a 4 part series, we will feature a writer each week on our blog. Going with the alphabetical coincidence, ABCD, claimed by our associate directors, Vertical Submarine, we ‘speak with’ Roberto Arlt, Argentinean novelist, dramatist and journalist, who authored the story of Luba.

roberto arlt

“The problem is, you can’t tell people these things. They’ll think you’re crazy. And I say to myself: What can I do with this life inside me? I’d like to give it … to make a present of it … to go up to people and tell them: You need to be joyful! You know? You have to play at being pirates … to build cities of marble … to laugh … to set off firecrackers”

–       Roberto Arlt


Roberto Godofredo Christophersen Arlt was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 2 April 1900. Similar to some writers, part of the traumatic experiences in the relationship with his father, became material for several of Roberto’s writings. He passed away on 26 July 1942 from a stroke after a lifetime of hardships.

Arlt’s life was not smooth sailing. After being expelled form school at the age of 8, he started working on odd jobs ranging from clerical work, to a tinsmith apprentice, welder, ship dock, before he started his writing as a profession at a local newspaper.

A Treasured Columnist he was described to be, Arlt greatly influenced by Latin-American literature, Arlt was known to be one of the founding modern Argentinean novelists. Though he suffered criticism for the rough use of language in his writings, he was praised for this particular approach. Undeniably, Arlt was probably one of the first novelist to use language from the lower and middle class. References came from various sources, his hometown Bueno Aires, vulgarities, foreign language, Castilian Spanish talk, scientific language and also lyricism.

More of these qualities were seen in his short stories which reinforced his style of using confused chronology, fragmentation, chaos and ‘warped personalities’ in a downward-spiraling society.

His work influenced later writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and  Julio Cortazar (The other Argentinean writers featured in FourPlays: ABCD).

Julio Cortázar, author of the Argentine ‘anti-novel’ and the big name to have emerged from the Latin American literature boom of the 1960s regarded Arlt as a master, whilst award-winning writer Ricardo Piglia and ‘mass novelist’ César Aira have also cited him as particularly influential.

– Kate Bowen (2011)


You might wish to check out other writings from Roberto Arlt:

–       Diary of a Morphimaniac (1920)
–       Mad Toy (1926)
–       Seven Madmen (1929)
–       The Flame-Throwers (1931)
–       Bewitching Love (1932)
–       The Littler Hunchback (1933)
–       The Gorilla Handler (1941)


Roberto Arlt: Direct from Buenos Aires’ Underbelly
Writers no one reads

Building an entire world with words! An interview with our Associate Directors, Vertical Submarine

Vertical Submarine (From Left: Justin, Joshua, Fiona)

Vertical Submarine (From Left: Justin, Joshua, Fiona)


In light of our coming production FourPlays: ABCD, we take the opportunity to find out more from the directors, personally.  Here’s what Vertical Submarine has to say about their latest work to be staged.


1.  What inspired you to create FourPlays: ABCD?

The richness of the text, the beauty and elegance of the prose from these four diverse authors. All the stories were written in a highly descriptive yet naturalistic manner that puts the reader in an immersive experience. This somehow equates to building an entire world with the use of words.


2. What attracted you to these 4 writers?

With the Latin American (Argentinean) writers, there was a strong sense that the Latin American condition is a parallel to our own; fragmented and heterogeneous but at the same time with an element that is eternal and universal. From this, we can only draw parallels if we ever hope to continue on any path. Any inclination to attempt an intersection will definitely end up at precisely that; an intersection. This is not what we want. We want to continue infinitely and the only way of doing so is by drawing parallels because parallel lines never meet.

With Marguerite Duras, it was the sense of detachment to the corporeal despite the extremely close physical proximity. One is able to feel the sense that the prose is trying to achieve an intimacy that is beyond mere sexual or even romantic pleasure but something almost spiritual and transcendental.


3. What are some issues explored in FourPlays: ABCD? How are these issues relevant to our audiences?

Loyalty and betrayal, losing one’s own space and a sense of impending displacement, failure to achieve intimacy and the decisive moment to act.

We live in strange times where secularism and capitalism rules almost every aspect of our daily lives. Our sense of ethics and social responsibility is often eroded and reduced to what is merely legal out of fear for the Law. But all the more, in these strange days, one needs to realize that sometimes being on the safe side of the law may not necessarily be ethical and socially responsible. Sometimes it is necessary to act decisively even if it means breaking these boundaries.


4. Being primarily a visual arts collective, how has it influenced the creating and directing of FourPlays: ABCD?

Having worked in visual arts for almost a decade now, one comes to realize that the most important thing is not the form it takes but rather the meta-narrative that floats, if you will, about the work. In FourPlays: ABCD we’ve finally learned how to be selective about what is essential to the work and what can remain excluded.


5. Your first attempt at creating Theatre was DUST (2011). How has that experience influenced the making of FourPlays: ABCD?

With DUST (2011), being our first full-scale theatrical experience, we approached it very cautiously and so we built a lot of walls, literally and metaphorically. But the experience has taught us that there are areas within this discipline that begs exploring and so, with FourPlays: ABCD the walls have come down and we’re even willing to sleep with the door open. We are approaching the creative process more openly now i.e. open to suggestions, ideas from the actors in the making of FourPlays: ABCD. This method of creation also resonates with the way we are dealing with the set design.


6. Is there one word that best describes FourPlays: ABCD?


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