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Interview: The Cast of Singapore’s Army Daze

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Army Daze, the much-loved Singapore Singlish play, saw a completely sold-out run when it was staged at the Drama Centre from 21 to 26 August 2012. The play’s actors, Dwayne Tan, Joshua Lim, Stit Khalijah, and Fervyn Tan stopped by to answer some questions for us about their experiences of being in Army Daze.

Dwayne Tan

You are both a singer and actor; which one do you love the most?

I love singing most but without the acting, the song can mean nothing. So I value acting because of the dimension and depth it adds to a song.

Did you watch any of the versions of Army Daze? What did you think?

Unfortunately, I’ve only seen the movie. I was really impressed that Michael Chiang managed to capture so much of the essence of the various boys from different walks of life. That was what the army was about for me – coming out of one’s shell, learning to be independent and learning to adapt to a totally new environment, learning to get along with and understand people you normally would not associate with.

Can you tell me a bit about your character?

Malcolm Png is a total mummy’s boy. He is smart, into computers and does well at school, hence he’s a total nerd. However, he is not very physical and is a little out of his element at times which makes the army a bit of a challenge for him and funny for an audience to experience.

Did you do NS [National Service] here? If so, how does your experience differ from your character’s?

I did do NS here. My BMT (Basic Military Training) was very similar as I was quite like Malcolm. But I spent the rest of my army life after BMT in MDC, the Music and Drama Company which started the ball rolling for me becoming an actor and singer.

What has your experience been like being in this play?

I have always wanted to work with Beatrice Chia-Richmond and am glad for this chance. I am loving this experience and making many new friends here too. We laugh so hard during rehearsals that we have to stop the entire scene to compose ourselves. We just make each other laugh. Everyone is so good at what they do. I know the audience is sure to have a hysterical time and also take away a heartfelt story. 

 

Joshua Lim

Whoa! You were taught by Margaret Chan? THE Margaret Chan? What was the experience like?

Yes, THE Margaret Chan who crushed people like cockroaches! It was a very enriching experience. I learnt a lot from her class, but even more so when I had the privilege of acting alongside her in my theatre debut at Singapore Management University. Seeing her in action and sharing the stage with her for that musical production is something I will treasure greatly.

You’ve done a lot of stage work; what’s so fulfilling about being a theatrical actor?

Being able to feel the immediate reactions from a live audience… knowing that your performance is actually being watched by someone! There’s a certain magic in theatre that can’t be gotten in any other medium because each performance is different, each performance is a new product in theatre – until we finish the last scene, the show hasn’t ended! It’s unlike film or TV, where the audience is guaranteed a finished product, as soon as they start watching.

Would you want to work in other mediums such as film or television?

Definitely. I think acting in front of a camera is an immensely different ball game, one which has challenges I relish. I remember being told by television directors to “not act so big”, and so I just had to adapt. But having had a few experiences already, I’m more used to it, and would love to have more opportunities in future. 

 

Siti Khalijah

You’re the It Girl of Singapore Theatre, aren’t you? Everyone is talking about you since you won the Life! Acting award last year. Has this been a good thing or bad thing so far?

I’ve never seen myself as THE IT GIRL really! Haha! Things haven’t really changed much after I won the award actually, but I’m just thankful because it has given me more opportunities to work with many other wonderful people from the industry, so that’s a good thing!
 
Truth is, you’ve been around for a long time, way before your win last year. What drew you to theatre in the first place?

It all started when I did my very first school production in ITE back in 2002. I loved the feeling of it so much and didn’t want to stop just there. So I signed up for a year-long training programme with the Necessary Stage’s Theatre For Youth Ensemble in 2003, and I haven’t looked back since.
 
You act in both English and Malay; which medium of language are you more comfortable in?

I’m actually quite comfortable in both! No preferences there.

Do you prefer a comedic role or a serious one? Why?

Tough question. But i would have to say comedic roles, because it’s extra challenging. It’s not easy to make people laugh. Especially Singaporeans!

You’re perhaps the ONLY female comedienne of Malay ethnicity in the local English theatre scene to be considered one of the top comediennes in Singapore. Has there been any pressure to “represent” your community well?

There is actually, but a good kind of “pressure”. And I’ll always try my best to represent my community, by bringing out the many different attributes that make us who we are. Because contrary to popular belief, we do more than just “relax one corner”!

 

Fervyn Tan

Hey, a Penang Girl! Do you get to go back to Penang often? What do you miss most about Penang?

I go back to visit once a year, sometimes twice! It’s usually in December, when all my relatives gather to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. I miss my relatives there, especially my hyperactive little cousins! Although the families live so far apart, we’ve always managed to remain close. I miss the food too, definitely. Penang Laksa especially!

Is this your first professional play?

Yes this is!

How has the experience been so far?

I was really nervous, anticipative and excited all at the same time, but the experience has been amazing. Being in the same rehearsal room with so many awesome actors whom I have admired on stage and television felt incredible. Everyone has also been really friendly and helpful. I can’t stop thanking my lucky stars for this opportunity! 

Any lessons you learnt since you you’ve done this play?

I don’t think the learning will ever stop. There is so much to absorb even just by watching the other actors rehearse – their stage confidence, creativity, spontaneity, focus and so much more! But I guess most importantly, I’ve learnt about what I should improve on, in myself, as a performer.

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About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.