You are here
Revisiting familiar characters after 30 years
THE boys are back - 30 years after their "daze" in the army, Malcolm Png and his friends Ah Beng, Kenny, Johari and Krishna are set to return in the sequel to Michael Chiang's hit local theatre production Army Daze.
Directed by Beatrice Chia-Richmond and produced by Annie Lek, Army Daze 2 will feature original music by Don Richmond and will be staged at the Drama Centre from Aug 4 to 20.
The original Army Daze began as a novel, telling a light-hearted coming-of-age story about five young men going through National Service (NS) in Singapore. It was turned into a stage production in 1987, and restaged at least six times over the years. A movie version was released in 1996.
Perfect time for a sequel
Reveals Chiang: "(A sequel) was never something we planned for. In fact, it was always suggested to me back in the 1980s and the 1990s, but it didn't appeal to me so I always said no. But when we did the 25th anniversary in 2012, I felt, hey, it has been long enough now."
So, two years ago, as the show's 30th anniversary was approaching, he realised it was the perfect time to do a sequel since it would coincide with the 50th anniversary of NS.
After discussions with Chia-Richmond, the actual script was then written in about two months.
Army Daze 2 is set 30 years after the original with Hossan Leong playing Malcolm Png - now the director of public affairs for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). His son, Justin (played by Andre Chong) is about to enlist for NS.
Other familiar characters being revisited include Teo Ah Beng (Joshua Lim), who is now an entrepreneur, and Johari Salleh (Saiful Amri), who runs an ayam penyet fast-food chain. Kenny Pereira (Shane Mardjuki) is now a sought-after interior designer, while Krishnamoorthi (Ebi Shankara) is a successful architect. Even Corporal Ong will make a comeback, with Chua Enlai filling his boots.
For Chiang, it wasn't that hard to figure out what each character would be like 30 years on, especially since he still feels very much connected with each one of them through the play's multiple restagings. "I kinda know everyone quite intimately. I know Malcolm's anxieties, Krishna's playfulness, Kenny's eccentricities ... I want to make sure the audience can recognise the characters. Like how Malcolm is a scaredy-cat, though he cannot display it because he is a colonel now, but his anxieties still can come out because his son is going to NS," he explains.
The play will also focus on the lives of the next generation, as Justin goes through Basic Military Training with his friends Donovan (Tahir Ansari), Zai (Irsyad Dawood), and Kuan Yew (Tay Hwan Haw).
Contemporary elements will be added as well, such as the introduction of Ariston - a social-media influencer played by Jo Tan.
Catalyst for the story
Explains Chiang: "Social media will be one of the underlying themes. How disruptive or how it can impact your work. Even something like SAF can be impacted by what social media says about deployment and things like that. That's the catalyst for the whole story."
Ultimately though, the heart of the show is to still remain relatable as the original always was.
"I think (Army Daze) makes every single Singaporean come together, because not just the boys, but every family has had a brush with NS. Whether it's your brother, son, cousin, or boyfriend, there is no family that has not experienced their version of NS," adds Chia-Richmond.
- Army Daze 2 runs from Aug 4 to 20 at the Drama Centre, #05-01, National Library. Showtimes are at 8pm from Tues to Sat, and 3pm on Sun. Tickets cost from S$43 to S$98. Visit www.sistic.com.sg for tickets or more information