Monday, February 06, 2006
Casting and other bits of nonsense

Hello all, the Gavman's here! I know 'the Gavman' is cheesy as hell but I'm in a funny mood so sue me. We've posted a few pics for your pleasure, as well as the front and back visuals for the postcard which should be out pretty soon. We'll be putting up the big ass image of the actual poster up pretty soon so keep a look out. Also, Jia-Wei took a bunch of photos of last Friday's rehearsal (Thor, U-En and Ian were the actors on call that night) which should be up within the next day or so. Would have them up sooner but I'm a moron when it comes to technology so I gotta rely on other people to do this shit for me, or at least show me how to do it but no.....nope, everyone's busy with other things.......I guess they're all busy locked up in a room somewhere learning their lines.:) Once we get the rehearsal pics up, I'll start talking a little about what's been happening during rehearsals, better if got visual guide, isn't it?? So for right now, I'd thought I'd talk a bit about casting and how I came to choose the actors.

I ain't gonna lie....with the exception of Thor and Patrick,this play was a bitch to cast. With Thor and Pat, it was almost as if I had no choice. Less than half way through the first page of the play, I saw Thor as 'Max', and it was the same with Patrick's character, 'Sam'. The thought of those two guys playing brothers, sparring together onstage was too good to pass up. It also occurred to me that these guys had never been in a play together! I couldn't believe, Life Sdn.Bhd2 doesn't count. What also excited me about getting these two to do it was that for the first time in a while, they would be playing roles completely against type. Normally Patrick is asked to play these aggresive larger than life chinaman type roles, which he does very well, but he's been doing too much of it lately and I really wanted to see him do something different. So the character of 'Sam' is a great departure for him because its a very subtle put down upon character. There's a lot of sadness and mystery to 'Sam' which is giving Pat the chance to go places as an actor that he doesn't always get the chance to go. I'm stoked about it, and I'm pretty sure he is too.

I was a little hesitant to call Thor at first, cos less than a few days before I read the script, he was at my place bitching about how he didn't wanna do anymore theatre.........we've all been there man.hehe. I called him anyway and if memory serves I believe the conversation went something like.......

Thor : Hello?
Gavin : Thor!
Thor : Ah!
Gavin : Gavin here.
Thor AH!
Gavin : You got five minutes or not?
Thor : Got.
Gavin : Hey, I know ......I know you said you didn't want to do anymore theatre......
Thor : Ah.
Gavin : AH! But what if I promised you that this time we sure have a lot of fun?
Thor : What's the play?
Gavin : The Homecoming.

Long silence

Gavin : Hello?
Thor : The Homecoming?
Gavin : Ah.
Thor : Pinter?
Gavin : Ah.
Thor : Crazy ah?
Gavin : AH! I'd want you as Max and Patrick as Sam. Sounds like fun, right?
Thor : Who's directing?
Gavin :

Long silence

Gavin : Er....hello?

Another long silence

Gavin : Hoi bugger!
Thor : Ah.
Gavin : So how?
Thor : Promise me something
Gavin : Okay.
Thor : Promise me it'll be better than your last production.
Gavin : Promise!
Thor : Okay.
Gavin Okay! So you're in?
Thor : Ah.

And that was how Thor came aboard. Next came the role of 'Teddy', the oldest of the three sons and, along with his wife Ruth, the one who comes home after six years (hence the play's title). My first choice was Pete Teo but his schedule wouldn't allow it. I talked to quite a few other people about the role but there was no dice. Either they weren't available or they weren't suitable. Then on the opening night of Caesar, I bumped into Ben Tan who I hadn't seen in a while. We got to talking, he asked me what I was working on. I mentioned I was getting ready to direct The Homecoming and he asked if he could audition for it. Now to be honest, I was hesitant. I hadn't thought about Ben for the role because it wasn't the kind of role you would associate with Ben Tan. Ben has a flamboyance to his person that kinda makes you not think of him when you're trying to cast a more low key character. But the more I thought about it, the more interested I became in casting Ben, because in many ways, it would be a huge departure for him. He's never played a role like this- low key, kinda gruff, straight...... and Ben hadn't done a play in a while and he was hungry to do something, ripe for a challenge. So he came in, auditioned and got the role. Actually, I'm really looking forward to his performance. I love it when actors do something different, y'know like Tom Hanks in 'The Ladykillers', Jim Carrey in 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', Jack Black in 'King Kong', Elijah Wood in 'Sin City'.....y'know what I mean?

Then there was the role of 'Ruth', Teddy's wife and the one whose presence, in more ways than one, turns the family household on its ear.....I won't say how but its gonna be so freaky!!! Anyway, this was probably the role I saw the most people for. One thing I knew for sure was that whoever played the role, she needed to be a fresh face. I wasn't completely against casting a familiar face, but it would have been a last resort. Nothing to do with talent mind you, I saw some hugely talented actresses. Its mainly to do with me wanting the character of 'Ruth' to be a surprise. If I had cast some big name, say Ida Nerina, you'd be waiting for her to do something. There would be all these expectations for the character because of who's playing her.....otherwise whaffor cast Ida Nerina, right? I wanted to avoid that. I wanted the audience to not really notice Ruth at first so when she starts to come into her own, she becomes all the more fascinating to watch. While I was in the midst of 'Ruth' auditions, Jia-Wei and I sat down to talk about the set (clever girl pulling double duty as production designer). As she is the set designer for the play, its only fair that she be allowed to read the play beforehand. I passed her a copy and the next time we talked, she told me she loved the play and Ruth's character. I half jokingly asked if she'd like to audition and much to my surprise (and hers a bit, I think), she said yes. She gave a great audition and that was that.

Then came 'Lenny', the middle child and the biggest role in the play (at least in terms of dialogue). I didn't see too many people for this role. Mainly because I just had trouble seeing anyone doing it! I auditioned a couple of people but for some reason, I believed that going the 'normal' auditon route wasn't gonna work for this character. I started to pay more attention to the people around me, particularly the non-theatre people. I figured I had Thor, Pat and Ben, it would be great if the seconf half of the cast could be newcomers (Jia-Wei hadn't been cast yet). So I started approaching friends and strangers. If I thought they had an interesting look, or interesting demeanour or whatever la I happen to find interesting about them, I would ask them if they'd like to audition. Some told me to get fucked, but most of them said yes. That was how I came to cast U-En. He's a mate and we catch up for a drink every once and a while. One night, we were guzzling beer and I looked at him and I saw Lenny. I know that sounds like bullshit but its true. I saw Lenny.......I didn't know if he could act or even if he WOULD act but what the hell, it was worth a go. He read for me a couple of days later and I cast him on the spot. He was the only one who didn't have to wait for an answer.

Last but not least, the role of 'Joey', the youngest, the stud, the guy who's, in Lenny's words, "had more dolly than you've had cream cakes....". When I was rehearsing Caesar I asked Michael Chen if he wanted to play the role. I thought he would've been great for it so I ran up to him all excited but the asshole said no.........trying to give me some bullshit about wanting to continue his studies or something. (joking ah brother) This role was the most fun to audition in the sense that I had the most entertaining bunch of auditionees. The problem was I had a very specific physical type in mind for 'Joey'. The character works in construction in the day and is in training to be a boxer at night, so naturally I needed to find someone of a certain physical type so he would at least be physically convincing. And everybody who auditioned for the role was either the right build but couldn't act or could act but not right physically. Ian is a trainer at the same gym where I work out so I thought of him one day and thought "Hmmm .....I wonder..." He was keen to give it a go, so I had him read for it. Physically, he was great, but what I really liked about his reading was he gave 'Joey' a sincerity that I thought would make for a very interesting interpretation. I had my cast.

As you may have noticed, with a couple of exceptions, none of the people in the play were my first choice. It doesn't always work this way. My last production, 'Double Bill' for example, was the total opposite. Pretty much everyone in that production (except Lennard and Cheryl) was my first choice. When you read a play with the intention of staging it, its only natural that you are going to have a 'dream cast' in your head. But its important to not get too locked in to that idea because you never know what little gems you may find by taking another route. Casting The Homecoming has been one of those routes that's paid off very far.

Bye for now. Cheers.


At 6/2/06 20:20, Blogger patrickteoh said...

Hi Gavin. Great piece of journalising here. From now on this will be the way most plays get promoted. Thanks to our brudder, Afdlin Shauki whose kick ass blog was what gave us the idea to go down this route. Loved your conversation with Thor. Typical. BTW, the old fuck hasn't replied to my sms's nor has he called to bitch. Business picking up in SKOOBS you think? Sounds like you guys had fun while I was away sick. Bastards! Throat is still fucked. Got antibiotics. Took them. Got slightly better. Now it's gotten worse! Yes, Sam is a great character to play. So much outside and a lot more inside. It will be a great challenge.

BTW, I've never been called "Pat" so many times in one paragraph. The name is "Patrick" lah. Niama!

At 7/2/06 08:37, Blogger U-En said...

Eh, Uncle Sam.

U-En's Infallible Cure for Influenza, Sore Throat, &c.


1 X 75cl bottle of highland single malt.

1 X Pot of hot tea (of your choice)

125mg refined white sugar (or brown, it doesn't matter)

4 X lemons

Squeeze lemons into tea. Add sugar and stir. Drink the tea.

Place whisky bottle on dining table. Drink the whisky. When a second bottle mysteriously appears, go to bed.

Repeat if necessary the next day.

At 7/2/06 12:50, Blogger commonjack said...

i seem to be getting called 'asshole' a lot these days. haha. sorry lah ... my bad decision to go down the law degree road when i was young and misguided has led to me being forced to turn down your most gracious offer for the role of "joey".

from your description - 'joey' sounds like a great character for me to have tried!

glad you found someone else to play him so that this play can be put out there...after all, M'sians love a family drama right?

don't worry - offer me another role lah for a play after June! (wah - where did that come from? so thick skinned ah me? must be because i keep getting called 'asshole' these

g'luck with the play dude! will be linking this site up at my site soon!

Michael Chen "the asshole with unfortunate priorities".

At 7/2/06 14:43, Blogger Gavin said...

yeah man, you're priorities are all over the place! but its cool dude, ian's doing a great job and i'm sure they'll be other chances for us to work together again in the future.

oh and just to clarify, this is not a family drama la! don't say drama, we won't sell any tickets!!! its about family, got drama a bit but also got a lot of really funny scenes. we've yet to have a rehearsal where we don't all crack up. hopefully, that'll be something we can carry through to performance. see ya mike.


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March 24 - April 2nd
@ Pentas 2,
Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KL Pac)
Sentul Park, Jln Strachan

All shows @ 8.30 pm
except Sunday matinees 3pm
(No show on March 27) Tickets: RM35;
RM20 for students, senior citizens and disabled

To buy call KLPac 603-4047 9000; or
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603-2094 9400

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