Peter Sau's one-man show gives a nod to the late Kuo Pao Kun
After a decade-long career in theatre, Peter Sau is taking a long hard look at himself by roping in some "friends".
As part of the Esplanade's Studios season, the actor/director is staging Tell Me When to Laugh and When to Cry, a one-man show where he gets under the skin of some characters he has played through the years.
With help from some dolled up mannequins, Sau has resurrected an array of roles. There's Mosquito Man, the civil servant obsessed with dengue mosquitos from Cake's Nothing; Mother Men Sao, the sexually-repressed housewife who's also on the censorship board, from Drama Box's House Of Sins.
You also have the HIV-positive Daniel from Checkpoint Theatre's A Language Of Their Own; the taxi driver Branson from W!ld Rice's Cooling Off Day; and a new persona that embodies his other campy characters in Gaga Peterina.
Throughout his first one-man performance since 2005's Teochew Porridge, the lives of the characters collide with each other even as they "interact" with Sau himself.
But it's more than a celebratory parade of characters-as part of the ongoing Kuo Pao Kun Festival, Tell Me When To Laugh is also an unconventional tribute to a mentor.
Sau, who was a student in the pioneering batch of the late theatre doyen's Theatre Training and Research Programme in 2001, said it was triggered by his beloved teacher's 10th death anniversary this year.
"I learned a lot from him and I was thinking of whether I should be staging another KPK play like other companies and individuals. But as a student, I think I've learned more than beyond his work - and I've realised I've been so lucky to work with so many other directors and playwrights," said Sau.
While there is a subtle direct nod to Kuo in the show (one of the characters will be uttering lines from Descendants Of The Eunuch Admiral), it was his spirit of creativity more than anything else that inspired Sau.
"It was the integrity of the individual voice, which is found throughout his plays, from The Spirits Play to Sunset Rise. And before he passed on, he did tell me, Peter, you have to keep reviewing yourself. Which is why I wanted to revisit that space again," he said.
Which is where the characters come in. "I love playing people on the fringe, people who may look normal but are actually larger than life. There is a part in all of us that is fringe-the pent-up emotions and secret desires we all have," said Sau.
And in keeping with his mentor's treasured advice to take stock of the past to forge ahead, he pointed out that he isn't merely reprising his characters. "It's a continuation. People think that when a play's over, the characters' lives have ended. But that is not so - they live in me."
Tell Me When To Laugh And When To Cry runs from Aug 8 to 11, 8pm, Esplanade Theatre Studio. Tickets at S$25 from Sistic.
By Mayo Martin
01 August 2012
Peter Sau as Mosquito Man in Tell Me When To Laugh And When To Cry.