Audrey Luo’s Animal Instincts!

In The Amazing Celestial Race, Audrey Luo plays multiple characters at a breakneck speed. It’s exhausting work – but also rewarding. Find out how she survives this intense show and what she loves about getting to perform live again!
Audrey channels her inner Tiger alongside playwright Dwayne Lau as Dragon!

You play so many characters in The Amazing Celestial Race – like Tiger, Rabbit and Snake, just to name a few. What’s that like?

It’s like doing a full-out sprint in a long-drawn marathon! For the 75 minutes of every performance, it’s just non-stop action because of all the quick changes we have to do. And this is a 44-show run! So it’s like sprinting every day, over a four-week-long marathon.

Every single performance is full-on. I did an ‘entrance and exit’ rundown for myself, and I have almost 20! I need to know exactly when I have to exit downstage right or enter upstage left, and remember where to go for my next headgear or pre-set costume. One of my routes takes me all over The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre – exiting through the theatre into the foyer, and then getting backstage again in time for my next entrance. Literally up, left, down, right, everywhere!! [laughs]  

Is this the most intense show you’ve ever done?

It’s really quite exhausting! At the end of every performance, my knees, my ankles, my elbows, my shoulders, my neck, everything – they’re just aching. When I’m off stage, I use all kinds of ointment and paste koyok [medicated plasters] on my body to help me feel better. I also soak my feet in hot water and Epsom salts.

Doing this show reminds me of what I had to do when playing the title role in Titoudao in 2015, which was also very intense. That was not an easy role for me. I was on stage for the entire two hours of the show, and had five monologues and wayang sequences to perform. [Ed: This Toy Factory production of Titoudao is available to stream here until 30 September 2021!]

But I still feel grateful and blessed to be doing a show as physical as The Amazing Celestial Race – it shows that I’m still alive and kicking! It’s really satisfying to know that I’m still healthy and athletic enough to do a show like this.

WATCH: Video highlights from our interview with Audrey!

Considering how intense this show is, how do you prepare for it? What are some things you must do before you go on stage before each performance?

In general, I make sure to stay hydrated. I drink a lot of water every day – to the point that my sleep is very interrupted because I keep running to the toilet!

Before each performance, I do warm-ups for everything. I stretch my muscles. I also start chatting with people backstage – not just because I’m talkative, which I am! But also to get my voice warmed up. Then I take either Vitamin C or Pi Pa Gao to warm up my throat. Maybe some coffee to wake myself up.

I also do my usual vocal exercises and tongue-twisters, as well as constantly recite my lines and study my script. That might look like I haven’t memorised anything [laughs] but, to me, it’s a very important kind of discipline – it helps in getting my lines into my muscle memory.

What or who else helps you survive this epic race?

It really takes an entire village to pull off this race! I’m glad that we have the whole backstage team to help us. Our assistant stage managers (ASMs) are very clear about our routes, and they’ve created a system – alongside our wardrobe team – to help us get into the correct gear. We’ve become a well-oiled machine.

This production contains a few firsts for you – like your first time performing in The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre, and your first time working with director Glen Goei. Can you tell us more about that?

I’m really glad for this opportunity because I’ve been wanting to work in The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre ever since it was constructed – really! I was thinking – ‘Wah, now that Funan is up, I really want to perform on this thrust stage if possible!’

And I’m very happy that I got to know Glen too! I’ve always wanted to work with either Glen or Ivan [Heng] in a deeper context, as directors. Glen is a very, very nice director – he appreciates all of us, and he’s a very generous and kind director.

COVID-19 shut down theatre companies all over the world. What does it mean to you to be performing for a live audience again?

I feel very excited and very grateful to have work, after almost a year of not being able to perform in live theatre. Over the past year, there have still been performances, of course, but you’re being filmed and showcased to your audiences digitally.

But now, to be back in the theatre, and to receive that instant feedback, the laughter, the curtain call, your audience screaming… And then standing ovation! Wah, I tell you, I cannot – I cannot take standing ovation! Until now, whenever there’s a standing ovation, it will bring tears to my eyes.

It feels so good to know that the audience really welcomes you back. You can feel that they want to watch the show – they want to watch you. They’re having so much fun! The laughter, the applause, the instant gratification…

Nothing beats live theatre. It’s really, really shiok!

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