Four writers – a dissident, a poet, a journalist and a government hack – are under house arrest, ordered to write the living biography of the First Emperor of China. Confined to write the authorised biography of the Son of Heaven is a task laden with dangers. A psychological twister, the smell of death permeates the stifling writers’ lair. The scent of suspense is thick with waifs of espionage. History, truth, a severed head, and power are the ingredients of this multimedia story.
Four writers are confined somewhere in our past, present and future. They carry out their imperial duties in a space warp void of everyday distractions such as time, daylight, or the four seasons. They must write the definitive story while the Emperor still lives. They write with uncertainty. Each stroke of the pen, click of the keyboard, and fleeting thought is being recorded. This is the digital age of surveillance. Who exactly is watching? Who is manipulating? Who is in charge? The Emperor has done many great things, but oh, the terrible, cruel things he has also done. So what does one write? Especially if one loves life, and truth, but the price of truth is death.
Presented as part of the Singapore Festival of Arts 1998.