Shane Mardjuki is set to play transsexual Maggie Lai in the restaging of Purple.
And looking at that photo, I must say, he looks perfect for the role of, to quote the show’s flyer, “a lavatory cruise addict who transforms into a hairdresser, masseuse, transvestite, transsexual, stripper, prostitute and movie star”.
Or, as the piece’s playwright and set designer Goh Boon Teck put it: “a boy who wanted to be a girl badly.”
With Toy Factory concentrating on bringing their work to schools and overseas, the bio-play, which had two sold-out runs in 1995 and 1998, will be the group’s only public offering for 2012—and it looks like they’re pulling out the stops.
Set to run in August at Joyden Hall at Bugis+ (formerly Iluma and, ahem, a stone’s throw away from the historically glam Bugis Street), Goh revealed they’ll be trying to recreate the circus environment for this 21st century version of Purple.
And it does seem like it during this morning’s press con where a member of Circus Swingapore (there’s a school for circus arts here!) performed a Cirque du Soleil piece as a teaser, hanging upside down and doing some mid-air acrobatics. Wah.
We were also treated to a performance of I Am Woman by Purple’s three larger-than-life nurse characters played by Elizabeth Loh, Matilda Chua and Rebecca Spykerman.
But of course, at the heart of it is Maggie Lai’s tale, which Goh had come across 17 years ago in a magazine. “I couldn’t stop crying,” he recounted. And luckily for us, he did stop to write it out.
As for why they’re restaging Lai’s journey towards acceptance, it was the current anti-foreigner atmosphere, the idea of the “other” and the tensions in difference, that prompted Goh to do so. “It’s very, very sad that the issue (tackled in Purple) is still relevant today,” he said.
Rather than directing it again, Goh roped in Skinned Knee Productions’ Rayann Condy (who also directed Toy Factory’s Equus and acted in 881 The Musical). Getting a foreigner (and long-time Singapore resident) to helm the piece would give it a new perspective, explained Goh.
And of course, it was Condy who zoomed in on Mardjuki, who takes over the role from the now Sydney-based Dex Tan (who also did M Butterfly).
Not only does Mardjuki have that kind of androgynous thing going on, he’s actually, erm, dressed up for the part elsewhere.
Having seen him in other productions, Condy quipped, “He’s very delicately handled gay roles as well dressed ridiculously campy in drag.”
Mardjuki’s incidentally currently swaggering onstage as a dude in SRT’s Twelfth Night, along with Purple co-actor Spykerman (who’s also doing her bit of cross-dressing as well in that show).
“I’m looking forward to this. And it’s very rare that I look forward to work,” he deadpanned. “I am always ready to be a woman. There’s a lot of waxing to be done. A lot of hanging out in dodgy alleys for research.”
(Purple runs from Aug 2 to 18 at Joyden Hall, Iluma, Bugis. Early bird tickets available from Sistic starting today.)