I’d Like To Know: Rei Poh

Rei Poh turned heads and won praise playing multiple characters in Grandmother Tongue. He chats with us about the importance of work and play, his inspirations as an artist, and getting out of his safety zone.

Do you have a ritual as a performer?

Yes, I have this lucky underwear that I wear on stage and it has not been washed since 2006… NAH! =) I don’t really have a ritual per se. The trick is to have a lot of fun beforehand, be it playing games or just talking rubbish. Backstage, Shou Chen, Jalyn and I would often do nonsense stuff like video-ing ourselves dancing, and we find ourselves entertaining the whole crew. People might think it is unprofessional but I assure you it is vital to an actor’s craft. It ensures that we build a bond in which we are always actively listening to one another. Playing = Listening.

What keeps you up at night?

Sometimes, the idea of death… be it my own or of someone I love. (This took a dark turn real quick!) Tip: get plenty of milk and exercise in the day so your brain will be too tired to even think… unless you’re like me, and your brain is only active at night…

Rei and his cast mates, Shou Chen and Jalyn Han,
having fun backstage in last year’s production of Grandmother Tongue

You’re throwing a dinner party for five guests – dead or alive, real or fictional. Whom would you invite?

1) Uncle Kuo Pao Kun! I’ve never had a chance to meet him. I was still in my second year of drama school when he passed away.

2) My partner, Zee Wong. (Because I’ll be slaughtered if she’s not invited… joking, okay!) Because we share our passions in life and I would want her to be with me at this pivotal party in my life!

3) My late grandfather, whom I’ve never met before. He passed away before I was born. My father talks a lot about him, but I never knew him. Grandmother Tongue reminds me a lot about the loss of one’s culture, which brings to mind something Kuo Pao Kun once said – that we are “cultural orphans”. This resonated really strongly with me.

4) Can I break the rule? Rules are meant to be broken, right? MY FRIENDS! Look, what’s a party with five people!? Let’s get all the people I love. I shall volunteer to forfeit my last slot because I’ve already invited all of my friends! =)

What’s one of your pet peeves?

I cannot stand people who are arrogant! Family values are really important to me, so I also cannot take people who keep talking about family but don’t treat you like family.

If you were entertaining a visitor from overseas, what’s the one place in Singapore you’d take them to?

Just a neighbourhood here, doesn’t matter which part of Singapore. I think those are the most attractive places. When I’m overseas, I prefer visiting the suburbs and leading the life of a local, rather than going to touristy places.

Rei in rehearsal, playing one of his seven characters in Grandmother Tongue

What’s one thing you’ve done in the past few years that you’ve never done before?

I’m ordinarily a sucker for safety zones, and prefer keeping to routines. So it was quite a big change for me to live in Melbourne for two years – when I was studying drama at the Victorian College for the Arts – without knowing anyone there.

Tell us about the theatrical experience that changed your life.

Being an Associate Artist with Drama Box changed my life. I learnt a lot with that company, from how they view theatre and what it means to practise what you preach as an artist. I’m glad to have a theatre family like that, who have helped me grow as an artist and a human being.

Attending W!LD RICE’s traditional kenduri also inspires me a lot! I had a chance to be a part of my first kenduri when Grandmother Tongue premiered in the 2016 Singapore Theatre Festival. Everyone in the cast, crew and creative team gets into a circle in the theatre, and Ivan Heng gives a speech about the work we do and why we do it. You will leave a kenduri feeling valued as an artist, and with a renewed appreciation for the sense of community in the theatre!

If you could import something that you can’t get in Singapore, what would it be?

Can I import people over? Special shout-out to my Melbourne Family: Katy, Peter, Dirk, Anna, Liv, Mick, Felix, Katerina and Draf! I’ll get you in a flight case and ship you guys over! (Not in a murder-y sense, there’ll be holes for breathing!)

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