Monk-ey Business!

Monkey may steal scenes, but it’s Joshua Lim’s Ah Tang who anchors Monkey Goes West with his kindness and big heart. Joshua chats with us about the perils of wearing white and the joys of working with kids.

What do you have in common with Ah Tang, your character in Monkey Goes West?

I think Ah Tang and I are quite dissimilar actually! Firstly, he’s half my age. Secondly, he had the misfortune of losing his parents at a young age. Thirdly, he’s much more gung-ho and feisty than I am. He’s been through a lot but he’s so resilient. I’m like a marshmallow compared to him!

However, we are similar in that we both love the epic story of Journey to the West and, of course, its hero, Sun Wukong!

How familiar were you with Journey to the West before you started working on Monkey Goes West?

I think almost everyone is familiar with it. How can anyone not have seen the movie that airs on TV every Chinese New Year, or the old-school Chinese TV series that contains the iconic theme song? I’ve actually read the hilarious comic book by Taiwanese writer Tsai Chih Chung – the one in Ah Tang’s hands when he first greets the audience.

What did you find challenging about performing in Monkey Goes West?

My costume was a bit challenging! It was totally white. White top, white shorts, white socks and white shoes… even my school bag was white. Don’t ask me about my underwear! Because it was white, I had to be very careful where I sat, what I ate or even what I held in my hands, because I didn’t want to get into trouble if I dirtied it!

What’s it like working with your director, Sebastian Tan?

This will be my fourth time working with Sebastian as a director. He’s the reason I’m in the theatre industry and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities he’s given me. I look forward to rehearsals with him because of his positive attitude and how he allows his actors to play and explore. Don’t tell him, but I’m secretly in awe of his comic timing and singing prowess!

What have you learnt from your fellow cast members?

The cast are incredibly funny people to be with. They are such natural jokers and such a joy to work with that it doesn’t feel like work at all. If I’ve learnt anything from them, it’s to enjoy what you’re doing as much as you can.

BFFs forever! Ah Tang with Sandy (Siti Khalijah Zainal),
Monkey (Sugie Phua) and Pigsy (Frances Lee).

How is acting in a pantomime like Monkey Goes West different from performing in other shows?

As a principal character in a pantomime, I have to interact with the audience – which makes the entire experience quite challenging but also very fun. I remember one show in which a boy in the front row was trying to alert me that another character was behind me. I couldn’t respond to him because I wasn’t supposed to turn around. But the boy was so fervent and vocal, it was hard to concentrate! Moments like that are what’s special about pantomimes – the audience is more engaged and invested in the story, and participating in it makes the show so enjoyable for them.

Did you enjoy working with the FIRST STAGE! Kids who share the stage with you?

Working with the children on stage was incredible. It’s great that the kids have a platform to be involved in theatre. I could see how much fun they had in learning the songs and choreography, and they looked so adorable in their costumes! I’m sure they learned what we adults also learn in the theatre: team work, discipline and hard work reap results.

What was your most memorable on-stage experience in Monkey Goes West?

There was one show in which I had a wardrobe malfunction! There’s a scene where I change out of my monk costume and back into my school uniform. During the quick change, the zip of the monk shirt got jammed. I couldn’t get it off! So I went on stage in school shorts and monk shirt for the next scene, which didn’t make sense at all. But there was truly nothing we could’ve done, and the show had to go on!

What do you love about Monkey Goes West? Why do you think audiences should come see the show?

I love everything about it! It features everyone’s favourite characters, an epic adventure, beautiful costumes, delightful music, gorgeous visuals, all woven into a hilarious Singaporean story with a big heart – what’s not to love!

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