I grew up in Malacca, my family moved there when I was four or five. We lived in this shophouse on Jonker Street and I was the baby of the family for a while. We had this kind of dungeon at the back which doubled up as a toilet; when you went into it, you never knew if you were going to come out.
My downfall began when I discovered the wonderful world of girls through a secondary school production of the musical Oliver. At the auditions there were 17-year-old girls just flouncing around in all their pubescent glory and from then on, I was hooked.
I’ve been an actor for 18 years now and it’s a pretty silly occupation when you think about it. The whole notion of pretending to be someone else, speaking somebody else’s lines and getting paid for it is ridiculous.
It’s a misconception that actors choose all their roles and productions. A lot of the time, there’s no choice. We’re doing this for a living to feed our families. Sometimes you just have to take a job and try to imbue it with some semblance of credibility and dignity. If you have a script that’s a pile of s**t, no one can save it.
To be involved in the creative process from the start, to be involved in coming up with the story, the characters, and the script is very liberating. It’s being able to find a voice for yourself as an individual.
The theater scene has been very vibrant in the past year, with theater groups producing more and more varied works, but it’s still hard for the scene as a whole to really “grow” if arts funding keeps getting cut year after year. It’s really been a case of same s**t, different year.
It would make a world of difference to fledgling companies to be able to sustain themselves financially with some dignity, and keep producing work with integrity and consistency. If only the declaration that Singapore is an “arts hub” was actually supported by a viable infrastructure that justifies it.
There is the time and place for fun-filled, feel-good fluff, but theater is also so much more than that. The challenge is to make people choose to come to the theater for intellectual stimulation—without being pretentious—and an emotional experience—without being wanky.
I am proud to say that I learned my so-called craft on the stage and I would go so far as to say an actor hasn’t tasted what it really feels like to act unless they go on stage.
How do I want to be remembered? I don’t know. Without Tracie and my boys, I’d be nothing. My two boys are the production that I’m proudest of; it’s corny perhaps, but they are. If anything, I’d like to be remembered for being their father.
I’ve always been terrified of being stuck in a rut. When you’re stuck, you start looking back and reminiscing and there’s something icky about that. Keep on moving, keep on moving forward, otherwise you’ll die. I’m like a shark; you stay still, you die!