Saturday, December 22, 2007


When I dropped by Novena MRT the other day, a flood of memories washed over me. Alliance Française was located just next to it, and it used to be the usual venue of the annual drama production of the School of Communication and Information of NTU.

I enjoy acting, even though I'm not very good at it. People tend to think of it as something very easy to pull off - that's what it looks like on the outside, but try doing it. You need to warm-up, and relax. You need to understand the character. You need to think, feel and behave like how the character would think, feel and behave. It's a serious mind-whack for the serious minded. I've seen actors who can break into tears at the word 'go' - it's amazing. I could never really fully go into any character... my own persona would always invariably show up, and the character would be some wierd mish-mash of someone like me but not me.

I began to act in secondary school, during my days at Umar Pulavar Tamil Language Centre. It was a short play, where I had a role as a lawyer with a comic bent, but the comic fell flat as most of the drama was quite serious and intense (screaming and shouting and adolscent problems etc.). It was then re-staged on radio where I couldn't bear to hear my own voice on national radio.

Then in University, to escape the label of "the ECA-less person", I joined Paparazzi Productions, the drama troupe of the school. In 2003, I played this dude called Uncle Louie in Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers". To jazz up the character, I was told/I decided to have a New Yorker accent throughout the play. But, this too backfired as everyone else was speaking in Singapore English/Bukit Batok/whatever accent. So I was the only tall Indian man speaking in a crazy New Yorker accent and scaring all the small kids in the audience because the stage was so high and I was so tall and it was like some giant walking in and out. But I really enjoyed playing Uncle Louie, not because the character seemed to be the easy-going (suspected gangster) Uncle of 2 young boys, but because of a particular scene which involved the gangster side of the character being displayed to the boys at a particular scene.

Then the next year, the format of the drama production was changed. Instead of the traditional one-big-drama format, the director decided to make it a medley of 7 short plays. (My friend, who was the director, is a very talented theatre actress, scriptwriter and director of quite a number of plays. She has had quite a number of public performances and this medley was her "maiden directorial venture", to quote the cheesy film magazines.) Aptly entitled "A Bowl of Bon Bons", each of the actors had to play at least two different roles, in two short dramas. I played a work-obsessed executive who ignores his wife's feeling in "Split Decision", where the wife decides to leave at the end of the play without the husband even realising it.

The other play was called "Sure Thing", and this I really enjoyed. The story's premise was that anything could go wrong between 2 people who meet each other in a restaurant - the conversation might or might not develop depending on the things you say - or not. So, when the lead characters (there are only 2 folks in the play) meet, every time the girl or boy says something "politically incorrect" during a chat-up, a bells rings and the play is rewinded to the time just before the faux pax occured. The the right thing will be said and the conversation will develop. It was an amazing experience because my co-actress and myself had quite a bit of chemistry, and no two rehearsals were ever the same. There was a lot of experimenting and fun in doing that play.

Those were the memories of Alliance Francais - I decided not to act after that, as I felt it was a good experience enough to last quite a while. And it's not as if I'm some Daniel Day-Lewis. But I enjoy going to plays and dramas, where Thondan was the latest. I recently read about Pondok 2000, and it seems quite interesting too.

The main thing that puts me off, and many others I believe, is the price of tickets. The high price is needed to recover costs of props, venue booking, meals for actors and so on. But unfortunately, it is passed on to audiences as well. It can't be escaped, but I guess we simply have to choose which performances we wish to go to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i remember watching that play..lava and i thought u were awesome as uncle louie.we absolutely loved it.hope all's good..take care mic!