Portrait of a marriage hit by miscarriage
The heartbreak of miscarriage forces a couple to re-examine their relationship in Until Death, a new play from The Haque Collective and Method Productions.
Inspired by intimate films like Marriage Story, in which a picture perfect couple struggles through a messy divorce, The Haque Collective weaves together various narratives from popular culture and their own personal experiences to portray a relationship upended by pregnancy loss.
About a fifth of pregnancies in Singapore end in miscarriage, meaning pregnancy loss before 24 completed weeks of gestation. After this it would be termed a stillbirth, although some countries – such as the US and Australia – make this distinction at 20 weeks. While most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, about five percent occur in the second.
The effects can be devastating. At whatever stage the pregnancy ends, the loss can cause a rollercoaster of emotions including numbness, sadness, disbelief and depression. It’s enough to put any relationship to the test, which is the theme of Until Death.
The Haque Collective performers are alumni of Haque Centre of Acting & Creativity (HCAC), which describes itself as ‘Singapore’s first acting studio for everyone’. Method Productions was set up when it became clear that many ‘creative double-lifers’ – individuals who are talented actors but hold down part-time or full-time jobs – need more opportunities to perform on stage. With that in mind, Method Productions puts on solo shows, improv shows, staged readings and monologue slams. This is the creative ecosystem behind Until Death.
The A List spoke to artistic director Kamil Haque about the creative process behind the play and its difficult subject matter.
It seems like the mission you have set yourself is to democratise theatre in Singapore.
Singapore’s theatrical landscape is small and cannot provide the variety of roles reflective of its cosmopolitan population. Many performers who come through HCAC are not afforded the opportunities they deserve because of their lack of professional-level work experience, or the associated credibility of graduation from a traditional conservatory-style programme – or because they lead dual lives straddling the corporate and creative worlds. The Haque Collective was assembled in 2019 to provide roles for these ‘creative double-lifers’ who can speak to the richness, diversity and complexity of Singapore.
What was the process behind Until Death? It sounds like there was improvisation, with actors bringing their personal experiences to the table, and then a process of weaving these strands into a narrative.
We brainstormed and improvised scenarios that ultimately I made the final call on. I then consulted a brilliant screenwriter based in LA, Raymond Creamer, who gave the story more structure. In the second phase we began recording more structured improvised scenes for transcription and script refinement to get it to about 80 percent ready. This led to a closed-door staged reading of the script to get feedback from various people.
In the final phase we put the finishing touches together – props, set, lights, wardrobe, and refining the inner life of the characters. The process was arduous, at times inspirational and at others frustrating. On the plus side, the actors and I have lived with these characters for so long we have a greater sense of ownership, embodiment, and accountability.
You say that Until Death is inspired by movies like Marriage Story and Kramer vs. Kramer, and by Michael Weller’s play, Loose Ends. Conflict breaks out in Loose Ends when a man finds out his partner had an abortion without his knowledge or consent. Marriage Story is about the disintegration of a partnership, while the very title of Kramer vs. Kramer is indicative of conflict. Did you conceive Until Death as a portrait of a relationship as much as a vehicle to highlight the prevalence of miscarriage?
You’re spot on with that question. This play is about the private moments that happen every day in homes all around the world; the stuff that’s hidden behind closed doors. We all have conflicts that are unique and specific to each relationship and yet so universal because, underneath it all, we all have the same needs and desires.
This fictional couple may have the right plans and intentions but, just as with the pandemic, the delicate balance of co-existence can topple in an instant. It reminds me of a Mike Tyson quote: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The impact of a late miscarriage on a couple is the emotional charge behind the drama in Until Death. Do you feel, and did the actors feel, that this impact is to some extent unacknowledged and therefore not openly discussed?
In researching and putting Until Death together, we were shocked to learn how often miscarriage happens. There is still so much stigma and silence shrouding the topic. When expectant couples are beset by this unfortunate event, they are saddled with the emotional baggage, mental health fallout, shame, isolation and grief that come with it.
On a personal note, the cast and I have had people contact us to say it’s too triggering because it’s actually happened to them, or they’re trying to conceive and don’t want to jinx it. Some of these people are old friends and acquaintances, and if not for this play, we would never have known what they were going through. I’ve also had people quietly say thank you for staging a story like this.
With this play we have the opportunity to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Isn’t it time we begin normalising the conversation about miscarriage?
Replies were edited and condensed for clarity.
Book your seats for Until Death here.