He’s best known for being the Hokkien-spewing, show tune-singing, glitter-loving Broadway Beng, but Sebastian Tan will be stepping into bigger shoes this month: He’ll be making his Wild Rice directorial debut by helming the company’s annual pantomime. Written by Alfian Sa’at, Monkey Goes West is based on the legendary Chinese story of Journey to the West, and as expected from the theatre company, it’ll bear a local twist. Gwen Pew chats with Tan before the show opens.
5 Nov 2014:
While it’s not Tan’s first time directing – he has previously directed shows as part of Singapore Management University’s Arts Festival and assistant directed with Singapore Repertory Theatre’s The Little Company – he still gets a rush of emotions ahead of rehearsals: ‘I’m feeling nervous, excited, powerful, happy, anxious, fabulous – the whole works. I’m like a pregnant lady now, ready to give birth come 21 November. Now, push! Breathe! Push some more!’
It was Tan who suggested staging a play based on Journey to the West: ‘When Ivan Heng [Wild Rice’s artistic director] first approached me about directing a musical,I wanted to bring something different to the usual Wild Rice panto table. I chose something that speaks to me, but is also an epic story that’s popular in both the East and the West.’
The story is one that he’s loved since he was a child: The endless adventures part of the monk, Tripitaka (who is Singaporean in this adaptation), and his disciples Monkey, Sandy and Piggy evoked so much of my imagination even to this day. I love it for its richness in terms of story, themes, colours, costumes, sets, lights… everything!’
He sees the transition from actor to director as a natural one: ‘As an actor, I’m like a kid, playing and exploring. As a director, I’m like the kid growing up to be an adult – I draw from the many experiences I had as a kid and apply them to what I do. I have a lot more responsibilities and a wider, broader vision, and I believe it will make me grow even more artistically.’
He’s focussed on Monkey Goes West, but he’s already booked up until 2016: ‘I’ve started to work on some projects, like my concert with the Singapore Chinese Orchestra next year, and the Broadway Beng movie is out in 2016, so watch out!’