Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Frankenstein blog is up....

Hey guys, the production blog for Frankenstein In Love is up and running. Its a little bare at the moment but that'll change as we get our shit together. The address is www.frankenstein-in-love.blogspot.com. See you there.

Peace.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Frankenstein cast

Hello there ladies and gents, boys and girls, pals and gals. The Frankenstein in Love blog will be up in the next couple of days. Just wanted to drop a line to let you know who's going to be in it and the team behind it.

I'm happy to say that the creative team will consist of the same group of crazy lunatics who have been with me since the beginning. Jia-Wei will be designing the set and Paul Hasham will be building it and both have told me that this is the one production they've been aching to get started on. Jia-Wei has been talking to me a little about her ideas for the set and its going to be fucking awesome!

I'm particularly pleased with the cast. Once again its an odd mix of veterans and newcomers but what's great is that the extablished actors will be, for the most part, be playing completely against type so it'll be really interesting to see what they come up with. Here's the cast.

Rashid Salleh, Mary George, Melissa Maureen, Michael Chen, Rauf Fadzilla, Bharani, Patrick Teoh, Reza Zainal Abidin, Douglas Lim, Reuben Arthur, U-En Ng and Mano Maniam. Don't know about you but I'm fucking pumped!! Talk again soon.

Peace.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

And so it ends.....for now.

Hello everyone. Sorry its taken me a little longer than usual to wrap things up over here. Been having a bitch of a time trying to finalize the cast for 'Frankenstein In Love', which is the next play I'm directing. More on that later but now, back to Endgame. Its been interesting to take a little time to think about the run and the various responses people had towards it. We knew from the beginning that the play was bound to divide some people simply because of its very nature, the fact that it didn't conform to the more conventional structure and logic that audiences have grown accustomed to over the years. But I think we all took some weird sadistic (or masochistic, depending on how you look at it) pride in that. I remember one night during a smoke break, U-En, Alvin and I were talking about it and we really had no clue how people were gonna react to it. But then again, we had the same fears and insecurities about The Homecoming.

As for the performance.....okay, when I've got a play opening, I'm a fuckin' wreck. There's always this little voice in the back of my mind saying "Anything could happen, its live man! Fucking live! What are you gonna do if they fuck up? Nothing and you know why? Cos there really is NOTHING you can do." And the thought stays with me from the time the play opens till the day it closes, cos even if we have a kick ass opening, its not like a film. When you watch a film for a second time, its still the same film. Your perception of the film may change but the film itself, is still exactly the same film you watched before. Unfortunately, this isn't the case with live theatre. Anything can happen from night to night and its up to the actors to take everything in thier stride and just fucking do it. There are so many things that could potentially hurt a performance. The actors could be tired or sick or maybe they're just not feeling it or there's a technical fuck up or they got a difficult audience or the energy's not there or the pacing is off or the rhythms are off or the fucking weather or traffic causes us to start later than we would like and the focus is affected.......the list goes on. And being an actor myself, it causes me to be all the more aware of each of these potential problems. So yeah, I'm a stressed little bunny come opening night.

To be honest, I was completely blown away by the response we got. I thought we would probably average out at around 60-70 people a night, and even then I thought that was pushing it. Our publicity was very low key, it wasn't a easy play to describe to first time theatre go-ers and Beckett's name has a tendency to scare some people. Can't for the life of me imagine why.:) In the end, there was only one performance in which we played to less than a hundred people, and for a Beckett play, that's fucking awesome. But what was really fascinating about the run for me, was that each night, the audience's reaction would be totally different from the previous night. One night, we get a laughing audience, the next night a listening audience, and so on. It really kept the actors on their toes. There was no safe place where they could relax and go "Oh, the audience loves this bit!" because there was no such bit. Every night different audiences picked up on different things and it was amazing to see and hear how different people interpreted it. Whether they liked it or not was another matter altogether, but regardless of how they felt about it, they kept talking about it. They wanted to figure it out, they wanted to make sense of what they just saw. And as I stood there, listening to people argue about it, I couldn't help but smile. Fuckin' Beckett, man......what a trip.

A huge thank you to everyone who checked out the blog and the show. Its not entirely over yet as we'll be taking it to Penang in November after Frankenstein closes. So it looks like we'll get to fuck with a few other people's heads before hammering down the final nail in the coffin. Hehehe....should be fun. In the meantime, keep a look out for the Frankenstein In Love production blog which should be up and running once we start rehearsals at the end of August. Its a horror play by Clive Barker, the guy responsible for Hellraiser, Candyman, Nightbreed and other lovely, gory tales. There will be blood.....lots of it. Bring on Halloween.

Thanks once again.

Peace.

Monday, August 07, 2006

We've come to the end... for now

The show has closed. I sit here at home. Again, it's past midnight and I can't sleep. I am sad for a number of reasons. Endgame... well, I had the best and worst times of my life. I've had the great honour and pleasure of working with a truly excellent group of people, and I will not trade that for anything, but if ever I were asked to play Hamm again in future, I think I'd refuse.

We had a decent last show. After it, we had a Q&A with the audience. Someone asked the very good question: What moral do we, as actors (i.e. as people) take away from Endgame? At the time I'm afraid I hadn't given the question much thought, having concentrated for a long time exclusively on delivering Hamm properly, rather than bringing him (or a part of him) away with me. As a result, I gave a very asinine textbook answer and stole some ideas from Nani and Kelvin. No shame, this Chinaman. I apologise for that.

Here is what I should have said:

Playing Hamm has forced me to re-examine some very basic things in my life. Love. Absence. The utterly unspeakable pain of losing something you never knew you had until you lost it. I can say this with some clarity now because a) it's 1.30am, and b) I am a still a little tipsy from the cast party.

Maybe you'll ask how can acting a character in a play screw you up so much? Maybe you'll ask if life is so pitiably shallow and inconsequential that a mere script can change the way one lives? Moreover, what's there to guarantee that, tomorrow, one won't latch on to something else and, dammit sod, one's back to being the idiot one was all along?

These are valid questions. My answer is that one never stopped being that idiot in the first place and that, having found the Truth, or whatever you want to call it, you also realise simultaneously that it's too late to do anything about it anyway.

So, the moral is this: If you ever have something important to say, say it before you turn to dust and ashes.

Someone loves you, love them back.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Well, here we are

It is past midnight and I can't sleep, so here I am. The show has opened and it was, well, an opening. Nani and Kelvin performed excellently. Alvin had some problems initially, but thought quickly on his feet and devised some good saves, so all went well in my opinion. Gavin spitting nails, but that is what he normally does on opening night. Self ho-hum. I believe I did better last night. Nell was around and laughed a lot. Always a fine thing to hear The Nell Laugh. Listen to Beauty and the Beast on RedFM weekday mornings for more of the Laugh. Hah. Nell, see, I got plug your show on the blog. Me so clever.

For those of you who didn't come tonight, here is what happened:

Thor messaged me at about 7.16pm. This is what he said: "Dont let d hair grow baldy. N remember d 1st line u limp dick. I'll b listening."

It's good to know that one has friends. I wish this were a Fringe production of Endgame and he were playing Nagg. Emasculated prick. Btw, hallo Cindy. Did you enjoy the show?

Took a while to put make-up on. Foundation. What the hell is that? Never mind. Then eye-shadow. Okey-dokey. Right as rain. Then Jia-Wei says Idiot you forgot to put on the white powder. Hah? You didn't say white powder yesterday, etc etc.

Then Gavin says "everyone on stage. I have sixty-three years of tosh to spout at you" so off we go and listen. Thankfully, I don't have my glasses on, so I can't see the ugly prat. Then go back to dressing room to work out what "white powder" is. Jia-Wei has inconveniently disappeared. Then realise that I'm bald. Make up goes on the whole head, not just the face. Say a few dignified words in Old French.

Then say to Alvin: Oi cepatlah shee-shee. Or was that yesterday? Don't remember.

Then Lawrence says "Nmrvsthshte" or something like that, which roughly translates as "It is now 8.15, doors will open in ten minutes." So, blind as a bat (because no glasses), I grope my way to props table, pick up the crap I am obliged to brandish, then grope my way to chair with help of Lawrence. Sit there for quite a while.

Then play starts and everything goes upside down for about 80 minutes.

Play over. Grope way back to dressing room. Take off makeup. Appreciate the things women do. Fail to understand why they do it when they are already so beautiful anyway. Hah.

Go outside. Run into some very nice people who enjoyed the show. It was nice of them to say they liked it.

Next, run into the hyperactive FireAngel and Suanie. Do the obligatory camwhore thing, complete with back-to-front up-yours salute. You can no doubt see it on their blogs. FireAngel's hair has grown. She very pretty. Some more, her birthday. Forgot to wish her Happy Birthday, but there you are. I am a prat.

Go upstairs to Joe's Balcony, where Great Party is said to be in progress. Find pitiful desultory whimper instead. Say a few dignified words in Old French. Run into May from the embassy. Temporarily forget who she is (sorrylah May, it has been a few years) and valiantly dig self out of hole. May is quite clever. She is not fooled.

Am very exhausted at this stage.

Run into Rashid (Nani's papa) and Fati (Nani's mama). Yak for a while, but then they have to cabut.

Then want to cabut myself, but Alvin says: "Eh... err... heheh... err... can give me a lift home ah?"

I say: "Why?"

He says: "My car bungkus oready."

I say a few dignified words in Old French.

"Oklah"

Spend the next two hours driving the bugger back through a traffic jam to his house in Muar or somewhere.

Then get home. And here I am. It is past midnight and I can't sleep.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

tick tock

four more hours 'til we open.

i'm on the verge of throwing up.

the gav tells me to use it for the stage.

but i need a paper bag, just in case.

enjoy.

Opening Night

Hello All! Tonight is opening night! I thought maybe before you head into the theatre I should give you a little clue as to what the production design is going to be, lest you walk into the theatre and go "huuuuuhh?". Most of what I'm about to write is already in my designer's notes in the programme, but isn't it much easier reading it off a brightly lit screen than squinting in the dark at 12-point American Typewriter font? On another note, please purchase the programme - unlike other programmes, we do have some juicy bits in it. (Available at the Pentas 2 merchandise counter for RM 5.)

So. Designing Beckett has been a trip, to say the least. I wasn't and still isn't, very familiar with Beckett's work. I knew he was a writer of absurdist plays, and I read the college staple - Waiting for Godot. 3 years on from my History of Modern Theatre class, I had forgotten most of what I'd learnt about Beckett. So I read Endgame like how I read every script that comes my way. Except this time around, the usual methods of dissecting a script didn't result in any aesthetic epiphanies. You see, the more I tried to interpret the text in allegorical or symbolic terms, the less it made sense to me. Hints of a Brechtian approach popped up, but feeling as unsure as I was, I just dismissed it as a whim. I sat on it for a few days, trying to put something down on paper, researching at the same time. Everything I read about Beckett just confused me even more - he was known for his distrust of any kind of exegesis and was notoriously evasive when it came to assigning any sort of definitive meaning. If that's the case, then why are there so many bloody opinions or critical definitions by the hundreds of so-called Beckett experts? What, really, is the 'Beckettian ideal'? GAH!

So, feeling extremely confused and a little disheartened, I had a chat with Gavin and asked him if he would be adverse to the idea of workshopping the set (i.e. we develop the set as rehearsals progressed...) After all, the set consists of - a chair on castors, 2 windows and 2 'ashbins. The question was how we were going to place them, how big should the windows be? etc. I didn't know a thing - all I knew was that I wanted desperately to steer away from symbolism and create a purely functional set. Of course, Gavin agreed (at which point I removed my stiletto from his crotch.) Why the aversion to symbolism, well, I guess you'll have to come and watch the play to fully understand it. When you watch Endgame being performed, its meaning is inherently contained within Beckett’s textual and physical choreography. To design something symbolic would immediately contextualize the play, which I felt, would not lend itself to the verbal imagery. My goal was that everything on stage is not there to tell you anything, but they’re to help the actors tell their stories. Everything on stage is there because the actors need it, and because it’s mentioned in the script.



When we moved into our rehearsal space, links between Beckett and Brecht began to appear. First, I started noticing lines in the dialogue that were clearly addressing an audience, and then I started noticing Beckett’s choreography of Clove’s movements and how they were never superfluous or gratuitous. Both of these, from a design perspective, complement Brecht’s philosophies of action design and the alienation effect. Funny that, how things come full circle.

Anyway, after weeks of experimentation, we’ve decided to go the route of keeping with Beckett’s original set directions while employing Brechtian methods of execution. I’ve attempted to separate the audience and the action. For once you are not invited into the world of these characters, but merely remain as the spectator, the voice of rational being who is liable to simply observe. The whole set is exposed, as with the workings of the theatre, to reiterate: This is a play, these, its actors and you, the audience.