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Tan Kheng Hua in Pangdemonium's The Father: "I have always been brave about aging"

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Tan Kheng Hua in Pangdemonium's The Father: "I have always been brave about aging"
Tan Kheng Hua's next role in Pangdemonium's production of The Father is one that has torn her heart

Director Tracie Pang has described the script as an emotional read. Is there anything specific that attracted you to this role?
I am a bit of an emotional masochist on stage. I like my heart to be torn to bits. This play does that to me.

You play Anne, the daughter and caregiver of Andre, a 70-year-old man who's suffering from dementia. Have you had any experiences with dementia from any of your family members or friends?
It is amazing how many people we know have had experiences with dementia. It is everywhere. It certainly is a presence in my life, with people I care for in the throes of it.

Did you tap into your own relationship with your father for this role?
I loved my father deeply. And he me. I love my father in The Father (Lim Kay Siu) deeply too, so I know that feeling. In real life, my father passed away quite suddenly, so he was never a big burden to anyone. 

How did you make sure that what you're bringing to the character of a caregiver was as authentic as possible?
I just try to go through the moment of the play with as much presence of heart as possible, and to be wide open to the sorts of emotion — flaws and all — the character displays as written.

The cast of The Father
I understand that you spent time at the National Neuroscience Institute of Singapore and healthcare provider St Luke's for research. What were your biggest takeaways from that experience?
Duty, with love, is the best sort of care anyone can give.

Filial piety is something that's so ingrained in Asian culture — the notion that when you grow up, you take care of your parents as they've done the same for you. As a mother yourself, do you instill this ethic in your daughter?
I have told my daughter I will set aside enough money for her to get a caretaker to take care of me in my own home. Period.

Have your attitudes towards aging changed over the years?
I have always been brave about aging. I do the best I can to age gracefully and honestly. I find trying too hard to be young quite unattractive.

If you could remember three of the most meaningful snapshots of your life, what would they be?
The birth of my child, the death of my father, and hopefully, the third one is yet to come so it is something I look forward to.

You're working with OH! Emerald Hill in March and we'll be seeing you in the film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians this August. What else can we expect from you this year?
I am going to be in Pangdemonium's Dragonflies which is rerunning in June. 

Pangdemonium's production of The Father stars Lim Kay Siu, Tan Kheng Hua, Janice Koh, Frances Lee, Emil Marwa and Keagan Kang. From 2 to 18 March at Victoria Theatre. Book tickets.

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Text: Adibah Isa

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