SRT’s The Little Company is proud to present The Nightingale as it returns this March! Playing to rave reviews back in 2014, this restaging of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale of a bird and her best friend will feature a brand new cast, along with the same hit script by Mike Kenny and catchy songs by Ruth Ling that made the previous version go over so well.
We spoke to cast members Erwin Shah Ismail, Kimberly Chan, Leslie Tay and Natalie Yeap about the joys of working for a children’s theatre production, why it’s important, and even what bird they would be. Read the interview in full below:
Bakchormeeboy: Tell us a bit about your character and how you prepare for your role. Is it different from preparing for a more ‘serious’ role?
Kimberly Chan: I play the Nightingale, the bird that is brought to the palace and becomes the Emperor’s first friend. I personally don’t see any difference from any other role I’ve had to prepare from. As the Nightingale is a puppet, I have spent quite sometime observing birds and trying to translate some of their natural movements into the puppeteering.
Leslie Tay: Although this is a children’s musical, the Emperor is actually a very “serious” role as he starts off being a spoilt, sheltered and overindulged child but through the song of the nightingale, realizes that to be a better person, he has to look outside his cocoon and learn from those different from him. I drew on my own life experience of going away to the US to study music for 7 years to portray the Emperor’s process of growth. Singapore was my cocoon and the US represented the “great big wide world out there” (a song from the show). I realized my worldview was simply one of many and learnt to be more open and embracing of different perspectives.
Bakchormeeboy: What is the most rewarding thing about working for a children’s theatre production?
Natalie Yeap: Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and hearing them sing songs from the musical! And seeing how the story and the characters have affected them.
Kimberly Chan: Hearing the children react and engage with the story – their laughter is always heartwarming.
Bakchormeeboy: Why is children’s theatre such an important part of the local arts scene?
Erwin Shah Ismail: Children’s theatre is extremely important because it paves the future for theatre goers. Creating, presenting and sharing this very kind of environment and experience to a child, who could possibly be experiencing it for the first time, allows him or her to reflect at their own pace and be entertained at the same time. Children’s theatre also tags along well with child’s play which allows them to stretch their imagination. It is pivotal that the quality of work presented to children be of the highest quality because you cannot lie to children. They will call you bluff, in the theatre, in your face.
Bakchormeeboy: If you were a bird, what bird would you be and why?
Kimberly Chan: I would be a split between an owl and a seagull. Because I’m an observer who functions best in the wee hours but just like a seagull, I’m very loud and I tend to pick at my friend’s food.
Natalie Yeap: A HUMMINGBIRD! Because I am smol (small) and a little annoying.
Bakchormeeboy: What are some of the lessons that The Nightingale seeks to impart to its audiences?
Leslie Tay: The reminder to step outside our comfort zones and be open to learning more about people, communities and cultures different from ours. And how the power of music can soothe, revitalize, comfort and energize!
Erwin Shah Ismail: Other than friendship and love and forgiving, one other lesson I learnt in Nightingale is to actually appreciate our surroundings including nature. When the Protector was instructed by the Emperor to look for the Nightingale in the woods, he learnt what other wild animals sound like. And when he heard the Nightingale for the first time, it touched him and brought back memories he had forgotten.
Bakchormeeboy: What can audiences look forward to when they come and catch The Nightingale?
Natalie Yeap: Really catchy songs, beautiful set and costumes and most importantly, a storyline that will tug at your heart and affect you!
Leslie Tay: They can look forward to catchy tunes, a gorgeous set and lots of laughs!!
The Nightingale plays at the KC Arts Centre from 7th March – 20th April. Tickets available from SISTIC