[Interview] Cast of THE FATHER

There’s definitely something sinister going on around Andre. His daughter and her husband are behaving very oddly, while an unfamiliar presence in his home nudges him with a sense of unease.

Nominated for Best Play at the Olivier and Tony Awards, Pangdemonium will be presenting THE FATHER in March 2018. THE FATHER is a theatrically thrilling exploration of a 70-year-old man’s deteriorating mind as he sinks under the terrifying weight of dementia. The part family drama, part thriller, part mind-bending mystery is told with gripping suspense and brutal honesty. Experience, through the lens of Andre’s fracturing mental faculties, his perception of the world around him as it begins to warp and crumble. Who will he become, and how will his relationship with his daughter transform throughout the ravages of dementia?

To understand more about the production, we interviewed Lim Kay Siu (who plays Andre), Tan Kheng Hua (who plays Ann, Andre’s daughter and caretaker), and Janice Koh, in a mystery role known as ‘woman’.

What’s going to surprise people about this show?

Janice Koh: I know it’s about a serious topic, but the play is also quite funny! I think it is rare to experience dementia from the point of view of a patient. There is also nothing that can quite replicate the excitement of watching a ’live’ performance on stage, alongside other bodies in the same space. The show feels different every night—it’s a shared experience, it’s electric.  It’s best that audiences come with no expectations. Don’t read the reviews, there might be spoilers!

What’s the most challenging aspect about bringing this script to life?

Tan Kheng Hua: The emotionality of it. it is a painful journey the character I play goes through. but I am a bit of a masochist when it comes to acting so it’s a challenge I happily take on. ​

Janice Koh: I think the play is a challenging one for actors. Kay Siu, for instance, plays the Father, a character who swings wildly from moments of authority and lucidity, to intense grief and confusion the next. To do that and keep the character emotionally honest and accessible through the play is quite demanding.

How similar or different is your character to you?

Lim Kay Siu: I’m stubborn and egotistical as well! However, I wouldn’t understand the aspect of him as a father since I don’t have any children. While I love his charisma and his sense of humour, I find his cruelty troubling, although I do understand that he’s suffering from dementia, which I don’t have.

Tan Kheng Hua: Well, we are similar in that I like to take care of people—but only certain people, and there are very few of them. However, once they make the list, they have me in a big, big way. I think the character I play in The Father is different in that she is more awkward in the caregiving role. Yet, I love all the characters I play. I don’t judge them. I find everything I can to make them as 3 dimensional as possible. As human as possible. ​

How do you get into the zone of playing your character? 

Lim Kay Siu: I think it’s so well-written that it’s not really about method acting, it’s really about just serving the play. I tend to breathe and relax before I start. And the same when it’s over. We also eat together a lot—and that helps us unwind when the play is over.

Tan Kheng Hua: By having very good co-actors who bring you into the reality of the show. It also depends on the show—but I guess I often like to stretch my hips a bit. Breathe. Maybe look through my lines. And play a fool with the crew. ​

If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be? 

Lim Kay Siu: I love this part, so I would not want to play any other character.

Tan Kheng Hua: I want to be The Father. ​

What will the audience be thinking about on their way home after this show?

Janice Koh: It would be great if the audience went away feeling like they had a chance to step into the shoes of a dementia patient for a while. Only when we see the world from the other side, can we then start to understand and empathise with those who must live with dementia day after day. I also hope the play brings families and friends of dementia sufferers some comfort as they realise that they are not alone on this journey.

It would be great if the play would prompt people to find out more about the disease and become more sensitive to those who are living with the condition. At the moment, Singapore has insufficient resources and capabilities to cope with the anticipated rise in dementia care, and this needs to change urgently or the demands on family members will be overwhelming. Hopefully, a play like this can spark more conversations around this topic.

Without giving anything away, what’s your favourite line of dialogue? 

Janice Koh: I actually wanted to be part of the production because I loved the script! My favourite line is “I feel as if I’m losing all my leaves, one after another.”