Time Out Singapore: ‘Why Do We Do What We Do?’

Sharda Harrison - WDWDWWD

10 Dec 2014: ‘If I were an animal, I would be a humpback whale because I love the ocean,’ Sharda Harrison muses. ‘Whales are intelligent, graceful and gentle. I consider myself a very refined animal anyway, and I would like to imagine in my crazy mind that, in some sense, I am a whale.’ It’s an apt starting point to our conversation, as she has always grown up around animals. With Bernard Harrison – the former chief executive officer of Wildlife Reserves Singapore – as her father, Sharda spent most of her childhood in the Singapore Zoo, and was taught to love and care for our environment.

‘I’m not against the consumption of meat, for I would be a hypocrite to say that, but my father always said that if you have to eat an animal, make sure you can kill it,’ she explains. ‘We are living in fast times. We eat meat on a massive scale, which has led to us treating animals as though they don’t have a conscience or feel pain, and I wanted to explore the question of why we do what we do.’

And that is precisely what she’ll be doing this month. Taking that question as her title and starting point, she devised a solo show simply titled Why Do We Do What We Do? It is produced by Pink Gajah Theatre – a company she runs with her mother and brother, film artist Sean Harrison – in collaboration with literary arts group Word Forward, with whom Sharda has worked for a few years.

The performance tells the story of a disgruntled zookeeper and her two tiger charges, the spirit of a cow that had been slaughtered for meat, a chicken that stumbles into a predator’s den, and other characters. ‘This is a show that questions the collective conscience,’ she says. ‘The Japanese have a ceremony where they thank the fish for being a source of food. Have we forgotten the sacred ways of the land, earth and sky as we move towards higher skyscrapers and bigger economies?’

While she acknowledges that we might not want to confront these ideas, it’s why she set up Pink Gajah in the first place. ‘The name of the company means “pink elephant”, and the subject matters we talk about are like the pink elephant in the room – no one wants to talk about them,’ she shares. ‘We want to start exploring all the topics that have been forgotten or that currently need to be addressed so we may reflect, remember and learn as a society.’

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Time Out Singapore: Hossan Leong

To celebrate his 20th anniversary in showbiz, beloved local actor/comedian Hossan Leong, 43, has decided to put together a show to look back on his journey in the entertainment industry thus far. While the path hasn’t always been easy, he has managed to maintain an infectiously optimistic attitude. Gwen Pew catches up with ‘Singapore Boy’.

Hossan Leong, aka 'Singapore Boy'. Image courtesy of Marcus Mo.

Hossan Leong, aka ‘Singapore Boy’. Image courtesy of Marcus Mo.

29 Jun 2013:

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The title of the show, Hossanah!, is a tribute to Leong’s grandmother, as that is how she used to pronounce his name. ‘This show is a “thank you concert” dedicated to my family, friends, fans and everyone who’s supported me over the past 20 years,’ he explains.

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Leong never received any formal theatre training – in fact, he had originally studied to become an electronics technician at the French-Singapore Institute, having been kicked out of Anglo-Chinese Junior College after failing his Mandarin exam four times: ‘I can speak and understand the language but I just don’t understand the squiggles [of Chinese characters]!’

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His first acting role was in Alvin Tan’s 1993 debut production of Off Centrewith The Necessary Stage. ‘I got thrown in the deep end and ended up spending six months researching what it’s like to have mental issues. It was intense!’

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When Leong was six, he asked his parents for a piano. His mum asked if he was sure he’d play it, and then used her entire life savings to buy him a second-hand one, which he used until his teens. Piano remains one of his passions.

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Though supportive, his father didn’t take his acting career seriously until he started appearing on TV and was eventually conferred the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture in 2010: ‘I’ve never seen my father cry – but at the ceremony, he was in tears!’

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He applied for a place at Sydney’s renowned National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) and got through to the final audition round, but the dean at the time – Tony Knight – said he was doing Leong a favour by not accepting him. Now Knight is a Programme Leader for Musical Theatre at Lasalle, and has invited Leong to help direct the school’s graduate show next year. ‘I’m a firm believer that when one door closes, a window opens.’

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‘My most embarrassing moment was when I did my first TV show [Channel 5’s Under One Roof in 1994],’ Leong admits. ‘No one had taught me how it works so I assumed that since the longshot camera was at the back of the room, I had to shout really loud. The guys on the sound deck were not happy as they indicated that the mic was actually right in front of me!’

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He gets nervous before each show: ‘I feel constipated before I go on stage! But you know what they say – if you’re not nervous, you’re not doing it right. And once I get going, it’s fine; I enjoy entertaining.’

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One of the songs that inspired him the most is Whitney Houston’s ‘I Look to You’. Can we expect a rendition of it in Hossanah!? ‘I’ll try!’

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What else can we expect in the show? ‘An updated version of We Live in Singapura!’