At every performance of The Importance Of Being Earnest, we invite our audiences to step into another world – a lavish, elegant soiree where conversations have been scripted by master wordsmith Oscar Wilde to the tune of Bach, Haydn and Mozart.
Providing the musical accompaniment for the evening are the new kids on the block: The Ensemble Dimension (TED) Players or, as we prefer to call them, Super Junior T’ang Quartet.
In our 2009 production of Earnest, the renowned T’ang Quartet lent their strings to our little celebration of wit and Wilde. Four years down the road, they have handpicked and trained four young, talented musicians – Seah Huan Yuh (First Violin), Wilford Goh (Second Violin), Martin Peh (Viola) and Lin Juan (Cello) – to play in their stead.
After making it through the auditions, the foursome went through an intensive training ‘camp’ with the T’ang Quartet, meeting for two-hour sessions three times a week. The process was a memorable one for them.
Recalls Lin Juan: “You get to work with the best. We got an inside view of how this group works. It’s a very unique process that they’re trying to pass down to us.” He jokes, “We’re doing well under the circumstances! They’ve played together for twenty-something years; we’ve played together for twenty-something days!”
While all four TED players have impressive credentials as solo musicians, Earnest marks their collective debut as a foursome – and it’s also the first time they have each had the opportunity to perform in a theatre rather than a concert or orchestra hall.
“This is definitely the first time we are [performing] as such an important feature of the play,” Wilford tells us. “The actors actually have to interact with us and we have to interact with them. I think, for all of us, that’s definitely a first.”
For the four young musicians, working with W!LD RICE has also broadened their horizons, allowing them to step outside their own little musical community and meet a group of individuals who are performers, like themselves, but in a very different way.
“The people that we’ve met are a very, very different bunch from our community of musicians,” Wilford points out. “We learn so much from watching them rehearse and go through the play. It was a very fruitful and enlightening experience for all of us – it’s great, seeing them onstage as their characters and backstage as themselves. It’s pretty amazing.”
Huan Yuh concurs that it was an interesting experience – and an “unnerving” one at times. “It’s a bit surreal when you gather in the green room with all these legends,” he observes, just as veteran actor Lim Kay Siu (who plays Reverend Chasuble in Earnest) wanders into the dressing room to change into his costume. “I used to watch Kay Siu on TV when I was growing up. Now he’s taking off his shirt in front of us!”
The TED Players were also impressed by the familial backstage atmosphere that’s characteristic of a W!LD RICE production. “Other than Kay Siu, they’ve all done this show before,” Lin Juan says, “But it’s amazing how welcoming they’ve been. We don’t feel out of place.”
“Everything is so well-planned,” Martin adds, in reference to the amount of attention lavished by the W!LD RICE crew on the cast – TED Players included.
Finally, we asked the four young men about the most memorable experience they’ve had so far in working on Earnest. With one voice, they concur that it was getting a make-up master class from W!LD RICE Artistic Director Ivan Heng.
As it turns out, Ivan had popped into their dressing room just half an hour before our interview and helped pluck and shape some of the TED Players’ eyebrows. “It was fun and informative,” Wilford deadpans, “And really very cool.”