CNA Lifestyle Experiences: Pangdemonium's aim to 'stir things up' continues with Dragonflies

CNA Lifestyle Experiences: Pangdemonium's aim to 'stir things up' continues with Dragonflies

Thought-provoking plays and musicals, and an eye for the next big talents have made Pangdemonium one of the go-to theatre companies in Singapore.

Pangdemonium Dragonflies
Pangdemonium's latest production Dragonflies, a dystopian family drama, was first staged at last year's Singapore International Festival of Arts. (Photo: Pangdemonium)

CNA LIFESTYLE EXPERIENCES: Win Cat 1 tickets to watch Dragonflies, including a pre-show dinner and post-show wine reception. Details at the end of the story. Exclusively for followers of our new CNA LIFESTYLE page on Facebook

SINGAPORE: Eight years ago, a new theatre company by the name of Pangdemonium came out promising “a**-kicking adventures in theatre”.

And it has certainly lived up to its motto, becoming one of Singapore’s top theatre companies with a loyal audience, thanks to its variety of quality productions that include Rent, Spring Awakening, Next To Normal, Fun Home and Tango.

Psychological thrillers, tear-jerkers, thought-provoking family dramas, karaoke session-level emo musicals – name it, and it seems like they’ve done it.

“It’s been pandemonium! There’s a reason we’re called that, you know?” quipped actor Adrian Pang, who launched the company together with his director wife Tracie back in 2010 with the comedy The Full Monty.

“During the first couple of years, we were really starting to find out who we wanted to be as a company, and over the last five, six years in particular, we’ve consolidated our identity, I suppose.”

Pangdemonium Dragonflies
A scene from Dragonflies. (Photo: Pangdemonium)

Tracie added: “And it’s never just fluff entertainment for us – it’s the human stories that move us. Sometimes they’re dark, sometimes painful, sometimes funny, light and amusing.”

This month, Pangdemonium continues its thought-provoking stage adventures with Dragonflies, a dystopian family drama written by Singapore-born and UK-based playwright Stephanie Street.

First staged at last year’s Singapore International Festival of Arts (for which it garnered three Life Theatre Awards awards, including best production and best original script), the play follows a UK-based Singaporean family that has been forced to move back to Singapore following disasters both natural and man-made.

It’s set in 2021: Donald Trump is serving his second term, Brexit is in full-swing, the climate is shot – and many countries like the UK have started banning immigrants.

Sounds like a pretty heavy-going piece, but the Pangs point out themes like these are exactly what Pangdemonium’s loyal audience embrace.

Pangdemonium (Adrian and Tracie Pang)
Pangdemonium's artistic co-directors Tracie and Adrian Pang. (Photo: Pangdemonium)

“What has become gratifying and encouraging for us is we’re discovering year upon year that there are people out there who similarly want their theatre experience to be stimulating and even disturbing and disruptive in that way. And contrary to assumptions, many Singaporeans do want to engage – and a lot of our audiences are young, actually,” said Adrian, who is part of the Dragonflies' cast.

Tracie, who directs the piece, pointed out that that the idea of young people being disinterested in such social issues is not quite true. “We’ve had some of the young demographic who enjoy how the pieces of work we present challenge them. We’ve had comments on how they want to be pushed or want to see a world outside their bubble.”

It isn't just the varied range of themes and genres that continue to draw audiences to Pangdemonium shows every year. It has also developed a reputation as a company with a keen eye for the next big thing: You could be watching a theatre star-in-the-making. 

Even familiar faces outside of the stage scene are giving it a go.

Pangdemonium (Spring Awakening)
These days, Pangdemonium is also known for spotting new talent, such as the cast of their 2011 rock musical production Spring Awakening, which featured the likes of Nathan Hartono and Julia Abueva (centre). (Photo: Pangdemonium)

Pangdemonium’s young alum include folks like Tabitha Nauser, Mina Kaye, Julia Abueva, Erwin Shah Ismail, Andrew Marko, Thomas Pang. Oh, and a certain Milo-loving, Sing! China-singing dude named Nathan Hartono, who made his acting debut in the rock musical Spring Awakening back in 2012.

“It started with that – we were very keen on having a cast of 12 young people who we wanted to be all fresh and new. And it’s kind of continued from that,” said Tracie of the Spring Awakening cast.

“For us, finding new talent is very exciting. I love to discover what I can get out of new actors.”

And it’ll be the same with Dragonflies. Playing alongside familiar names such as Adrian Pang and Tan Kheng Hua are new faces such as Jamil Schulze and Elizabeth Morse.

“At the heart of it, it comes back to our so-called motto or slogan,” said Adrian. “For us it’s more than just a glib way of talking about who we are. The stories we want to tell – we want to figuratively kick people’s asses and stir things up a little bit.”

Dragonflies runs from May 18 to Jun 3 at Victoria Theatre. Tickets from Sistic.

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Source: CNA/mm(pw)

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