Meet the cast of David the Best: Huang Wenhong, Goh Seok Ai, Jo Tan, Pat Toh and Renee Chua. We speak to the cast to find out how rehearsals have been.
Huang Wenhong: lead actor (plays many roles including: a little hooligan, a small-time actor, a photographer, a son and a husband.
Goh Seok Ai: Wenhong’s backup singer/dancer
Jo Tan: Wenhong’s backup singer and dancer (blur, bespectacled, and also named Jo), a Japanese intern very passionate about her unique job experience in Singapore, and a well-known local director.
Pat Toh: Da Hong Hua, a girl who has a crush on Wenhong.
Renee Chua: one of the emsemble cast, ‘Vanna White’ on some occasions, and attention grabbing small time actor on others, a professional escort for a Geylang boss and a taxi driver who is having an extramarital affair.
Huang Wenhong: The theme of the show was inspired by a book I’ve read titled Small Giants: Companies that Choose to be Great instead of Big. David the Best, was named by Heng Leun (director) – a reference to the biblical story of David and Goliath.
The show concept took reference to talkshows Heng Leun and I watched in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In Hong Kong, talk shows are called “dong-tok-xiu”, it will be too American if we brand this a “stand-up comedy”. Thus, both of us decided to create a new style of talkshow with a local touch and have named it “tok-kong-show”.
Wenhong shares his big 3 challenges he faced while preparing for the production.
“Ist: Time Issue – No time as I have to rush for rehearsals after going off air.
2nd: Time Issue – No time to earn extra cash.
3rd: Time Issue – No time to sleep.”
While physique and meeting expectations prove to be challenging for the ladies, it was reading the script in Mandarin that floored one of them. Literally.
Jo Tan: Meeting the director’s expectations! Heng Leun believes so strongly in all of us, even in a Kantang Kid like me, that you really are driven to push your limits and see what you can do.
Renee Chua: Heng Leun is a very talented and experienced director, working with him is exceptionally satisfying and yet, there’s also a certain amount of self imposed pressure on my part to meet his level of expectation, which constantly pushes my limits too.
Goh Seok Ai: The biggest challenge for me is the dancing. I’m always known for having 2 left feet.
Renee Chua: Playing some of the characters is a great challenge, for example, the taxi driver is already high strung the moment he steps on the stage. So without the build up on the stage previously, and having to immediately enter that high emotional state, is exciting!
Pat Toh: The character I am playing is very feminine and sweet thus I had to work very hard to control my natural tomboyish physicality. I had to walk as if my thighs are stuck together, move my hands around as if they are plucking stars and flowers, I was challenged to connect deep down with the girl in me. Another challenge was reading the script. I think I can survive with my spoken mandarin, but when it came to reading the script I was so nervous on the first read that I broke out in cold sweat and my whole head went numb. I think I must have fainted for I can’t recall what happened next.
What’s a comedy without laughter? The cast of David the Best balances well between work and play. They let us into their favourite parts of the production.
Pat Toh: The people, the team. Listening to everyone’s opinion, watching everyone working and playing.
Renee Chua: The team! The actors are fun, talented and very giving, the production team is exceptionally professional and it’s very rewarding to work with the director. And of course the script, it is provoking, smart, fun and entertaining.
Jo Tan: Just for now, the bits that I’m not in….only because that means I’m sitting backstage watching the action and laughing my head off. There are some really lethally hilarious moments in this show.
Goh Seok Ai: I love the improvisation, which has helped to build certain character in this production. Ideas are thrown in, which are very refreshing. And of course the laughter. There’s not a rehearsal that is not filled with laughter.
Rehearsals include improvisation work for the cast, resulting in an ever-morphing production.
Goh Seok Ai: There’s always new findings in every rehearsal and I’m pretty sure that it will carry on even during the show, which will improve this production.
Jo Tan: Rehearsals have been fabulous – challenging, personal and very dynamic. It’s a really friendly and intimate team, from the fellow actors to the director to the production crew, and we’re all having fun finding and creating things together.
Pat Toh: Rehearsals have been good, I always discover something new at rehearsals. Sometimes after the initial laughter and fun I think it is about looking deeper into these people so that can be hard work.
Renee Chua: Rehearsals are getting intensive and demanding as we work deeper with our characters, which is expected at this phase of the production.
The cast reflects on the production’s theme.
Huang Wenhong: I hope that audiences can reflect upon the following after watching the show – “Am I small or big? Do I want to be small or big?”
Jo Tan: I think these are hard times and everybody is struggling to stay afloat, not only theatre companies and practitioners. But while not everybody who’s struggling can be said to be a David, theatre is definitely in the position to take on Goliaths – a lot of people who may or may not know better consider it ‘artsy‘ enough so that theatre can take on big sensitive issues without entitling the sensitive parties to seriously take offence.
Pat Toh: Yes, I do think that it is harder for smaller companies and artists to survive. Probably because bigger companies have more funds to advertise their work and many people tend to view visibility and commercial value as good work. But I think that with more exposure to different art forms, Singaporeans will be more open to different styles of theatre. And if I am to look at the story of David and Goliath, despite David‘s size he defeated the giant with a simple slingshot. Maybe I am an optimist, but I feel that one may be small but you can create your own niche. Big or small it is still something, and it all contributes to the art.
Goh Seok Ai: David and Goliath moments are found everywhere in Singapore. Even theatre companies or young artists face the David and Goliath situation. But it’s how the small company or young artist deals with it. Small-sized David can beat the big-sized Goliath, but one must always remember that when you have grown to the size of Goliath, you must still remain modest as when you were a small-sized David.
Renee Chua: It is just a natural cycle for all things, where the small and young struggle to compete and find their own standings amongst the established giants. Then those who can’t meet the challenge will be eliminated while those who can, gather experience to grow to become a giant in their own ways (fame, standing among the peers, wealth, size, etc)
The ‘David and Goliath‘ moment, according to our discussions during rehearsals is understood as ‘big’ doesn’t necessarily mean formidable and the small can defeat the big. According to the Old Testament, Goliath, a giant from Philistines, was undefeated until young Israelite, David come along, who then rule Israel and Judah at the age of 30. So being small doesn’t necessary mean being at a disadvantaged position.
Big theatre companies can afford the resources and fame to carry out commercially successful productions, while small theatre companies have the flexibility to experiment and space to explore. Some small theatre companies survive well with their own unique artistic vision, some are not content to be small, so they want to grow big. Some big companies leverage on their size to put up productions that small companies can’t, some big ones are burdened by expectations.
Of course, if we are talking about small being amateur and big being experienced, then we are back to the natural cycle of elimination of all things. I do admit that amateur or young artists require some degree of gentle nurturing, but hard knocks do shape the artists in us.
This discussion of Big vs Small comes to an interesting ending in our production, so stay tuned!
Read our preview of David the Best and Director Kok Heng Leun’s thoughts on the production here.
David the Best by Dramabox
Performed in Mandarin with English subtitles
Date: 19 – 22 Nov 2008
Time: 8pm & 3pm (Sat Matinee)
Runtime: 1 hr 30 mins
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre, NLB Level 3
Tickets are available at Sistic: $58, $48, $38, $28