Backstage with Adrian Pang
We sat down with Adrian Pang to find out what he’s been up to as he expresses his love for theatre. Many of us grew up watching him, but of late he has not been on TV as much due to his managing of Pangdemonium. We find out more
Words by Johnson | Photos courtesy of Crispian Chan
Adrian Pang first entered Singapore’s media scene through acting and hosting in English and Chinese television programmes produced by MediaCorp and SPH Mediaworks. Some popular titles include Channel 8’s blockbuster drama Portrait of Home, and Channel 5’s Deal or No Deal.
But it is with theatre that his heart lies. Being in the industry for 26 years, he has worked in plays such Sleeping Beauty, The Comedy of Errors, and The Mens Womb. Of all the plays Adrian has been involved in, ‘The Magic Fundoshi’ won best comedy at the London Fringe Theatre Awards.
Unknown to most, there was a time when Adrian lost faith in his craft. As a youth, Adrian became disillusioned and encountered pessimism from the complaints of his fellow co-actors. He got home after a depressing day of rehearsal; switched on the TV and saw a BBC documentary about a woman in Israel named Elaine Levy, who was diagnosed with severe Tourette’s Syndrome. However, she always wanted to act and be part of the theatre culture.
“She did not let her physical impairment keep her from being involved in theatre,” recalled Adrian.
Adrian was so moved by Elaine’s story that he wrote to BBC in hopes of getting in touch with her. To his surprise, Elaine replied with a letter several weeks later. One of the things that stood out to him was: “Stick to the fight. It is when you are hardest hit that you mustn’t quit!” Till this day, Adrian keeps the letter by his desk.
It is clear that theatre has changed Adrian Pang’s life in and out, especially when it has taught him to be humble and re-learn lessons about empathy, compassion, patience, and tolerance. “These are all the qualities that we all need more of in a world quickly going down the toilet,” expressed Adrian. He added that he truly believes theatre has the power to move people in many meaningful ways.
Adrian shared an incident where he could relate to the signature theatrical phrase: ”The show must go on” and he did not leave any details out. “I did a musical a few years back where I had to deliver a song on a second-floor balcony. At the end of the song, I was plunged into a complete blackout. I had to step back five paces, turn left and walk seven steps all in total darkness,” he recollected.
But one eventful night of that production, he finished his song and was plunged into complete darkness. Adrian stepped back six paces, only to fall onto the underside of a metal staircase. He stumbled down to the ground level, swiped his hand across his forehead to wipe away the sweat, only to find his hand dripping with blood. In true theatre fashion, Adrian went on stage and did the rest of the play with blood dripping down his face and did not leave the stage until the show came to an end.
What was funny and memorable was that the audience had thought it was part of the story. “I was playing a young LKY, and they must have thought I had been caught up in riots or something,” joked Adrian.
Living up to Pangdemonium’s motto: “Ass-kicking adventures in theatre”, their upcoming show Urinetown: The Musical, will gleefully satirise politicians, populism, “people power”, capitalism, corporate corruption, and other musicals too.
This musical, that originally premiered in 2001 and based on a book by Greg Kotis, will catapult what you have known musical theatre to be, into a new dimension.
With its demented (but uncannily familiar) depiction of a dystopian world, a playlist packed with outrageous songs, and a cunning knack of making you laugh “til you wet your pants”.
Adrian is staying faithful to the original script, but he will add a dash of “pangdemonium” to it. He pointed out that although it might be frustrating to deal with the rather interesting restrictions on our little island, it also challenges Pangdemonium to be more creative. It doesn’t get any more authentic than that.
Adrian also brought up that it will be the musical’s 20th anniversary and explained: “The very fact that the musical is about a city where people have to pay to pee in public toilets, and people are severely punished for the smallest misdemeanours, is something that is very familiar to us living in Singapore.”
When asked how Urinetown came to be under Pangdemonium, Adrian exclaimed: “We read the script, listened to the music, fell in love with it, paid for the rights, and can’t wait to start working on it!” He hopes that this musical is a sobering wake-up call for us all to be genuinely constructive rather than just haters.
Urinetown: The Musical, will be playing at the Drama Centre Theatre on the 27 September - 13 October 2019.