When it comes to selecting projects to stage next, Pangdemonium Productions’ criteria are as elemental as this: they have to be about relationships.
From exploring the cynical and twisted side of human relationships in the amazing ‘Swimming With Sharks’ to tackling sexual struggles of youths in ‘Spring Awakening’, the plays that the theatre company staged are reflective of the individual and communal struggle to surmount life's trials.
“Our plays are about relationships, and the bonds that tie us together and tear us apart,” Tracie Pang explains to inSing.
Adrian Pang and Janice Koh
Their upcoming production, ‘Rabbit Hole’, based on the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning script by David Lindsay-Abaire, follows the story of a family coming to grips with the death of a child. The story will allow the audience to witness how each member of the family process death in vastly different ways. As well as a playwright, David Lindsay-Abaire is a lyricist, librettist and screenwriter. His plays include ‘Fuddy Meers’, ‘Kimberly Akimbo’, ‘Wonder of the World’, ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘A Devil Inside’.
Directed by Pang, ‘Rabbit Hole’ stars her husband Adrian Pang, Janice Koh, Lok Meng Chue, Seong Hui Xuan and Eden Ang. It will be staged at the DBS Arts Centre from 21 April to 12 May.
“The play examines how a parent's sense of identity and very existence revolves around their child, and when that is taken away from them, the void is one that can never be filled. But life goes on. It has to. And the ones left behind – the survivors – have to move on as best as they can, in as meaningful a way as they can,” says Adrian, playing the central character Howie opposite Janice Koh who plays Howie’s wife, Becca.
NOT THE HOLLYWOOD VERSION
One thing ‘The Rabbit Hole’ is not, is that it will not be like the 2010 movie version starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, nor is it transplanted into a Singaporean setting.
“For the screen version, the filmmakers embellished the story so that they could take it outside of the world of the couples’ home, but the play has just that one setting, so that leads to a very intense piece of theatre,” Tracie explains.
“The dialogue has a rhythm that would just not work if we took it out of the US. I would only localise a play if I felt that its original setting was so far removed from what we know here that our audience could not relate to it,” she adds.
Just like in Lindsay-Abaire’s script, the play will be set in Larchmont, New York but although they’re sticking to the original, Tracie says that audiences can look forward to some surprises.
“We have created little touches to the play that are special and yet organic to the telling of this special story – with something as beautifully written as ‘Rabbit Hole’, you do not need to embellish, but we have certainly discovered some unique characteristics within the cast, all of which add that certain ‘extra special something’ to our version!” Tracie enthuses.
To prepare for their role, Adrian, Tracie and Koh spent time with a group of parents from Child Bereavement Support who shared their experiences of loss with the trio.
“A few of the parents had read the play ‘Rabbit Hole’ prior to meeting with us, and they all said how incredibly accurate the depiction of the play's characters were, and how their own personal experiences of loss were so beautifully and powerfully captured in the story,” Adrian says.
'Rabbit Hole' trailer
“Our time with them not only gave us a great sense of the depth and reality to the situation, it also showed me that the playwright had treated the subject matter with incredible authenticity and honesty,” Koh observes.
Adrian adds, “Their hope is that many would come to see the play because they will gain so much from it. And within our community in recent months, we have all been shocked and saddened by the deaths of young children in various tragic mishaps. So yes, we do feel an extra sense of responsibility to tell this story as truthfully as we can.”
REAL LIFE LESSONS
It also helps that both Koh and Adrian are parents so their connection with the play is that much stronger. And both of them agree that the play has many profound and relatable implications for them as parents.
“Being a parent has changed me, and has, inadvertently also changed the way I look at the world and all the characters I play. The situation that Becca and Howie face in ‘Rabbit Hole’ is truly every parent’s worst nightmare and, being a parent myself, the sheer pain and terror of it all is certainly not lost on me,” Koh says.
Despite the intensely emotional subject matter, ‘Rabbit Hole’ is not without its light moments. “Lindsay-Abaire has very astutely made sure that while the characters are mourning, they are not wallowing. They are witty, funny, lively individuals who happen to be going through an awful trauma in their lives,” Adrian says.
Tracie adds, “It is a wonderful heart wrenching play that I hope the audience will come away from having felt compassion and hope. You can't not get emotionally involved in this piece.”