Entertainment. That criterion alone drives productions but for local theatre company Pangdemonium, moving audiences is just as, if not more, important.
Says Ten Hui Yu, 34, of Pangdemonium’s Falling, a play that explores the challenges faced by a family with a severely autistic son: “It was heart-rending to witness the mother’s love for her son despite obstacles.” The associate director of a financial consultancy is a long-time Pangdemonium fan, having held season passes for the past three years.
From its start eight years ago, the company has never avoided thorny issues: mental illness (Next To Normal, September 2013), autism (Falling, May 2016) and Aids (Rent, October 2016). Instead, it is keen to spotlight overlooked parts of the community.
At the core are the founders – veteran actor Adrian Pang and wife Tracie. They were at a point in their lives when they needed a change. “We wanted to work on shows we wanted to do,” he said. Adrian had returned from the UK with his director-producer wife in 2001 and, at the time, worked in numerous theatre productions and television serials ranging from dramas to comedies.
The duo have been married for nearly 22 years and clearly work well as a team, laughing easily with each other during the interview. “She’s the boss,” Adrian says, chuckling. “Even when we’re grocery shopping, she’ll be telling me what to place in the cart.” They are in sync, however, when it comes to artistic decisions. “We share the same vision so we hardly have disagreements,” says Adrian.
Tracie agrees: “I respect his choices as an actor and he respects my choices as a director. We usually resolve disagreements quickly or we find another way of carrying on.”
Clearly, they are doing something right. Pangdemonium’s popularity continues to soar. In 2013, they launched Pangdemonium season tickets, which have seen an average of 80 per cent increase in sales each year. Last year, both Falling and Rent were sold out. The theatre company presents three productions a year, which run, on average, for two and a half weeks each.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
Says Adrian: “We seek to tell stories that are relevant to our community, that tackle challenging issues and ask difficult questions about our world.”
This year will see them further explore the topic of love with three plays grouped under the theme of family (and other “natural disasters”). The Pillowman, a psychological thriller about a child murder investigation was first staged 10 years ago; Fun Home is adapted from a Tony Award-winning musical about a woman’s relationship with her gay father; and the world premiere of Tango in May marks a milestone as it’s the theatre company’s first foray into brand new scripts.
Mark these months on your calendar for a roster of must-watch productions. (Swipe / click to scroll.)
As the company grows, it will continue developing new work and staging productions overseas. Adrian says: “We want to contribute to the development of the Singapore theatre industry, and its significance internationally.” This will not be done at the expense of the home audience, however. Says Tracie: “They are the ones who helped us get to where we are today.” They don’t take success for granted either. She shares: “Once you’ve built up a following, expectations change. There’s always this worry at the back of my mind, ‘Will it be the next one (that flops)?’ However, I don’t want to be driven by fear; I want to be driven by my passion.”
THE STARS THAT RISE
Meet the next generation of theatre talents.
PHOTOGRAPHY Vee Chin