The doorbell rings as she steps into the workshop filled with ticking clocks on the wall… it is a place where time flows through and about. “Hello? Anybody home?”, the young lady asks aloud. A figure steps out from the shadows and approaches the young lady. He looks like he is in his 70s, yet he walks with brisk firm steps. An ageless man in a timeless place.
He is the Watchmaker.
For Christmas 2014, I’ve been privileged to get another interesting role. Originally, I auditioned for another character and when I got to read a different part of the script, I liked the cryptic Watchmaker role immediately. I am once again thankful and humbled for the opportunity to take up this role written by the beautiful & talented scriptwriter, Lingual Tan; directed by the awesome duo Sandy and Jaslynn.
Originally, the title for the Christmas 2014 play for City Harvest Church was not titled “The Night I Met The Watchmaker” so I didn’t know the pivotal weight of the character. I didn’t even know that the Watchmaker represented God since I only read part of the script. I only thought the Watchmaker was a quirky old fellow and the script simply reminded me of A Christmas Carol – where the protagonist meets different Ghosts of Christmas.
It was only throughout the various rehearsals, practices and complete read through of the entire script that I got to understand how important this character was.
Becoming The Watchmaker
Preparing for the role took a few weeks to nail down. I asked Lingual what kind of character she envisioned the Watchmaker to be like and she mentioned…
Hrmm. I swapped out my original interpretation of a slow cryptic old man to be a fast, chirpy and irritating older person with a higher pitched voice. It worked for a while but as it would turn out later… I would lose the feel of being a caring and wise person if I stayed that way. So I eventually slowed down a lot to find a good middle ground.
Getting the voice right was crucial for the character, in my opinion. I listened to some English accents and some British accents just to try to nail down the voice but I couldn’t replicate them properly. So I just went with the flow and created an accent from… to this day… I don’t know where.
But for some reason, it worked. I wasn’t exactly British nor was I very English – but I was clearly not Singaporean. Until, maybe, when I spoke in Mandarin for my lines.
Even then, I gave the Mandarin lines as heavy an accent I could while keeping it close to the English sound quality. I had to sound like the same person… giving an accent in a different language is insanely tough. In the end, I don’t think I nailed it and there’s still much for me to work on if I ever have to do an accent in Mandarin.
Thankfully, when I was singing the line “Time is like a river… like a river of no return”, I was still able to maintain the “old man” quality. The tune came from the movie and song “River of No Return“, sung by Gloria Wood and made famous by Marilyn Monroe.
While getting into character, in the early stages, I started to bend my back to become an older man. But that put a serious strain on my back, so I bent my knee a little… that made my body curve a little more so while it looks like I’ve been bending over all the time, the bending of the knees seriously helped and made it all the more endurable.
Breaking Down The Watchmaker
As the show progressed, I sent the protagonist Samantha Sim, played by the amazing Sheila Jang, through various time portals/warps – it seems that I’ve trolled her the entire time. But as much as it seems I’ve been playing around, there were lessons to teach her… and to me as well. I learnt as much by saying the lines to her.
“Young lady / Where did you come from?”
Firstly, when I asked her where did she come from – as the Watchmaker, I already knew. I was answering her question with a question, to which she simply rebutted with another question. She had entered my place and when I called upon her, she got a fright.
This might be the way people react when they actually hear from God… they get a shock and wonder, where did God come from… when they’ve prayed to Him for answers.
“I’ve been here the whole time, you just keep missing me”
These were profound words. He’s always around – whether we’ve been expecting Him or not… but we keep missing Him.
*giggle* “So what can I do for you?”
When Samantha asks “God, do you always creep up on people like that?”
As the Watchmaker, I couldn’t help but giggle at what she said. Unconsciously, she addressed Him correctly. And yes, I think God does creep up on people unknowingly simply because we keep missing Him. And when you’re with Him, He wants to help.
“This is a nice one here you’ve got. Ooh! Vintage 1900 Victorian design! Complicated little bugger, this is. Tick tock, tick tock.”
Interestingly, when I did some research into watches for this line – I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the wrist watch prop that I took from Samantha was not wrong.
The “tick tock tick tock” was supposed to be a little thing that I would keep saying throughout but I couldn’t pull it off successfully, in the end, I only said it once which kind of lost the effect it should have. It’s one of the things which I kind of regretted not being able to pull off properly for the character.
“Time is standing still with this one. Not very well taken care of. A crack here, a crack there.”
To me, this was an ominous sign. I recall some old movie scenes where time stopped on a watch meant that life had stopped somewhere. That someone had died. Time standing still with the watch could have meant that someone important to Samantha had died. In the play, her father might have died and she did not make it back in time to see him.
Thus, making it irreversible for her and she may live on with no family, no friends… at a career that betrays her conscience even though she is in her dream land.
The cracking of the watch here and there symbolized that when we’ve got something or someone important in our lives – we often neglect it, creating cracks when we should have taken greater care. We should be careful with the things we say to people… simple words that mean nothing to us could stay as a hidden wedge that drives relationships further apart.
Clock on table randomly rings
We had 3 runs for the Watchmaker show and each time, the clock on my table would randomly ring. I would have to react accordingly and carry on with the lines for the show.
When a normal person like Samantha takes up the “weird clock”, the alarm goes off and she hurriedly puts it down, shutting it up – the clock went off because it wasn’t used to being handled by normalcy. Originally, this was intended to be a cuckoo clock but we couldn’t find a suitable one in time.
This small little thing symbolized to me that God would keep the “weird ones”… the “cuckoos” closer to Him because He would make sure they get more attention and work.
“Time – oh, such precious commodity. Everyone is obsessed with time. Time is like a river… like a river of no return.”
In this cryptic line, I’m actually trying to let Samantha know that time is precious. That she, herself, was obsessed with time – but she used it all on her work instead of trying to keep the relationship with her father strong.
There is no turning back when you intentionally decide to cut off a call to spend time from someone close to you. It might have taken a lot of courage for that person to call you. When a family member calls, he/she might seem annoying because you’re used to the calls – but an interesting quote I saw said this…
We grow up thinking that our parents will never understand our struggles but truth is that they invest their time making sure we never understand theirs.
Time will keep flowing. It’s the most important thing we’ve got that we will never ever get back… so choose who you spend it with carefully. Spend it lavishly on people who deserve it the most. You can always get another job, there will always be another opportunity… but once you lose the loved one, you can’t get another one to replace it.
“Fix this? Why, yes! I can fix anything. Any clock. Unlike relationships… hard to fix that one. If you don’t take care of it, it breaks down, it dies. Like a broken clock. She needs some serious work. Real bad, real bad!”
God can fix anything. Yes, He really can. Clocks, no problem-o. Anyone who has ever experienced a broken relationship knows that it takes some serious work to restore it.
Very often, neglect can cause a relationship to break down as well. It’s not “doing something” that breaks a relationship, it’s “doing nothing” in a relationship. It often happens to once loving couples and without knowing it, the relationship simply dies. Not only does this apply to human relations, it also happens to our own relationship with God.
The things that happen to us, the things that don’t happen to us… how do we handle it? How did we handle it? Maybe it’s a good time for us to be much more careful with the relationships we’ve got in our lives.
“I don’t know? It depends. … You are not from here, are you? Where do you hail from young lady? Singapore! Yes, I know that accent. No matter where you go, you’ll always carry a little bit of your roots. Don’t you miss home?”
For me, as a Singaporean, I carry an accent with me once I step out of my country. It’s part of my identity and I’m actually, extremely thankful to be a Singaporean. In an earlier scene, Samantha actually laments to her father that Singaporeans are so low-class – which naturally drew a response from the Singaporean crowd.
Singaporeans often complain. More than once, I’ve heard people saying that complaining is in our Singaporean genes. But truthfully, I haven’t heard much complaints because I’ve surrounded myself with positive people. I tend to cut off the naysayers in my life extremely early.
So no matter where you’re from, acknowledge it. Be real. No matter where you go, just be yourself.
“Yes, I read in the papers. Singapore’s a small but rich country. The government runs the country like a hotel. Runs it well like a well-oiled clock!”
These lines, to me, are kind of patriotic lines. But to Samantha, I gather that she left Singapore because she mentioned Singapore wasn’t even in her plans. There’s a lot of opportunity exactly where you are planted at.
God didn’t plant you where you are just so you can uproot yourself if you didn’t like it… sometimes, He plants us where we are just so we can make the biggest impact here.
This isn’t to say that we should not explore outside our borders, but like how Jesus wasn’t recognized in His own hometown, sometimes, we just don’t recognize the awesomeness that’s around us already. The grass will always seem greener on the other side until you get there.
“Life is full of choices… choose wisely.”
The most obvious wise words I say in the entire show. For every decision we make, we must be prepared to bear the consequences – be they positive or otherwise.
With these words, I end the first appearance as the Watchmaker.
I usually breathe a sigh of relief once I end this scene. So I have lots of respect to Sheila as she has to keep holding her character strong throughout the entire show. We’re just about halfway through the entire show.
“I see you still don’t get it”
Having gone through her first “time journey”, I would think that it’s a lesson to her that she wasn’t abandoned like the orphans. She did not have a hard knock life. She was well-taken care of by her father who slogged day and night to drive a taxi. Who took out his fixed deposit for her and even thought of making sure she had her favourite food with her when she went over.
She was immensely loved and cherished… but she chose to abandon that. The children in the orphanage had no choice in the matter and while one wished for a better tomorrow by going out to find her parents, the other orphan said in a resigned tone that her parents completely abandoned her.
The next time journey is quite clearly, about cherishing her friend… that even though the friend was a little messed up, she still went out of her way to help. She placed herself in danger but she did it anyway. The small sacrifices we ask of our friends, sometimes… don’t ignore the bigger circumstances that they have to deal with when you are gone.
Finally – the last time journey was to get to her defining moment. As I said in the beginning of the entire play with the voiceover…
“For everything, there is a season. A time for every matter under heaven. A time to weep; a time to laugh. A time to mourn; a time to dance. For every tale, there’s always a beginning. And in our lives, that defining moment.”
The church scene where she received her watch was her defining moment.
What are your defining moments? Have a think… go further back. You are who you are today because of the experiences you’ve had. Remember them. Every strength and weakness you have now could very well stem from a past experience; you can make your strengths stronger and deal with your weaknesses if you could just recall the source.
“Me? I’m the Watchmaker. I believe you’re ready. It’s time.”
In this scene, the Watchmaker returns her watch by giving it back to her in the original form she received it in… with love and hope. Interestingly, even though she’s been in church for a while… she clearly has been out of touch so much that even after all that she’s been through… she still doesn’t get who I am.
And when she asks who I am, I simply say… “I’m the Watchmaker”.
This was another profound moment for me. Sometimes, God will show up in our lives in different forms and He won’t reveal who He is. He simply reveals Himself in a way that our minds can relate to and accept. It’s up to us to see if we can recognize Him, which – just like Peter’s Confession – makes it all the more powerful that Peter recognized Him while the rest do not.
God will work miracles in your life even when you don’t know who He is. We may not understand why He does things a certain way as our minds simply cannot comprehend nor withhold the vastness of His Being… but with our limited knowledge and understanding, He simply asks us to believe in Him with faith.
The Final Laugh
The show starts with a voiceover of the Watchmaker… and ends with a laughter as the poster that used to read “Broken Clocks, Broken Watches, We Will Take Them All” to become “Broken Hearts, Broken Lives, He Will Take Them All” inspired by the song “So You Would Come” by Hillsong.
No matter what happens… God will always have the last laugh. Here’s the song, it was written for you and me.
What Do People Say?
As the Watchmaker, I found it interesting that people would come up to me asking… “Who are you, really?” just like how Samantha asked me in the play. Since they already knew me as the Watchmaker, I simply asked them… “Who do you think I am?”
Yes, maybe it’s a play from Peter’s Confession again – but I didn’t want to tell people outright “I am God” as, just saying that is kind of blasphemous to me. I’d let people make their own inference and decide who the Watchmaker really was to them.
Some other things people have said of my performance…
- Pastor Kong’s favourite character was the Watchmaker – to which I’m extremely humbled to learn of
- The accent was very believable & that I’ve managed to pull it off well
- They loved the opening voiceover and the ending laugh
- They were concerned for my voice and my back – they’re both 100% okay!
- Impressed with how I stayed in character throughout all the rehearsals
- Consistent performance throughout – which kind of kept me on my toes even more!
- Some friends couldn’t tell it was me even though they were watching throughout
If you’ve read thus far, I want to say a huge thank you. This is a long read. Most people wouldn’t make it to this point. There’s just a little over 3,000 words in this post.
I hope you’ve been blessed and I sincerely hope that you will treasure every relationship you’ve got. Take this opportunity to say “I love you” to that special someone, that family member, call up that long lost friend and arrange a get together. Do leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
God bless you greatly and abundantly!
Watch “The Night I Met The Watchmaker”
Catch the entire show’s recording in the video below.