A play on the woman behind business tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze is part of the line-up for the Georgetown Festival. ZUHAILA SEDEK speaks to Singaporean actress Tan Kheng Hua, who will portray herTHERE are many questions surrounding the life of the 19th Century Chinese business tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze. But what is more mysterious is his seventh wife, Tan Tay Po. Not much is known about Tay Po as there hasn’t been much written about Cheong’s favourite wife. Some people say it was because of Tay Po that the businessman paid so much attention to Penang.
On July 1-3, glimpses into the life of the late Tay Po, who was 17 when she married 70-year-old Cheong, will be revealed at a lecture performance in conjunction with the month-long Georgetown Festival. The play, called No. 7, is inspired by Tay Po.
The play will feature Singaporean actress Tan Kheng Hua, best known for her character Margaret in the television series, Phua Chu Kang Ltd, together with lead actor Gurmit Singh.
In No. 7, the award-winning actress will portray four characters, one being a character in a movie she starred in called The Blue Mansion.
The role is quite a challenge for the 48-year-old actress as there is not much information available about Tay Po.
“I have used the lack of information as an advantage instead, and I will describe her the way I think she was.” Kheng Hua was in Kuala Lumpur recently for the launch of Georgetown Festival. She sees the play somewhat as a ghost story, but not the scary type.
“For me, anything old has a ghostly feel to it. There are plenty of mysteries in the life of Tay Po and the definition of ghost, in this case, should be expanded. I think there is plenty to showcase about Tay Po as there are just so many questions about her.” Interestingly, the lecture performance will be held in the Blue Mansion in Leith Street, Penang. The Blue Mansion is one of the best-preserved Cheong Fatt Tze residences outside of China. It used to be home for Tay Po and Cheong. Now, it is a boutique hotel.
“Stories of famous people are usually about men. The women behind the men are often overlooked. So this is an opportunity to highlight women who have played significant roles in the lives of these famous men,” Kheng Hua says.
The play is not merely about showcasing women, however. There is more to the performance than meets the eye.
“There is also the theme of conservation that we want to impart. Conservation is not only about preserving the main structure of a building, but it is also about preserving the idea behind what we want to safeguard,” she adds.
The script, written and directed by Singaporean Kaylene Tan, is still evolving as there are facts about the life of Tay Po still being discovered by the director. It was meant to be a monologue at first, until Kheng Hua’s daughter, Shi Ann, came in to partner her mother in the lecture performance.
“Kaylene and I realise that there is a need to relate to the younger generation. The idea of conservation must be passed on to them. Shi Ann will play a shadow character,” says Kheng Hua. She landed the role after Georgetown Festival director Joe Sidek contacted her. “Joe puts a lot of trust on us when it comes to the show. He truly believes in our ability and this encourages us to give our very best,” says Kheng Hua.
“When I feel scared about the performance, Joe will call and put me at ease.” Working in Penang for the project is an enjoyable experience for her. Kheng Hua is no stranger to the island as she has relatives there and Penang was the first trip abroad for her daughter. It was during the filming of the Blue Mansion movie that she got to see another side of Penang. “It reminded me of how things were when I was a kid. A time when children played outside the house, unlike these days when they are glued to the television or computer. The ambience is just so authentic and for some reason, Penang reminds me of the time when I used to write love letters. “Though Penang is developing, heritage is still alive,” she says.
She also admires the sense of belonging Penangites have for their state. “It is amazing that people I speak to in Penang can give me a full answer about things to do in Penang.’’ Kheng Hua loves nasi kandar and asam laksa.
“Malaysians have a good sense of humour and they smile all the time. It is different in Singapore — people quantify and qualify things constantly. I love my country very much and I am not criticising my home. It is just how I see it.” Apart from acting, Kheng Hua has produced acclaimed plays such as the Revenge Of The Dim Sum Dollies, a cabaret-style musical, in 2000. She has also created and executive produced the television series 9 Lives and Do Not Disturb. The actress never expected to be in the entertainment industry. She holds a bachelor in science with distinction from Indiana University. “When I was in university, I was looking for an elective subject and the Acting 101 class fitted my schedule. I loved the subject and when I came back to Singapore, I went to do theatre,” she says.
Tan once worked in the retail line and at night, she did theatre. “When I was 30, I decided to leave the corporate world. I was doing quite well in my job and was climbing up the corporate ladder. But because of my love for acting, I left my day job. After two years, things seemed to be going well and I am still an actress.” She is married to actor Lim Yu Beng.
She is also known for her onscreen sexy characters. But in real life, she never feels like she is one.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m old and I consider myself a jock actually. I’ve never been the type to go out and shop for clothes or make-up. But I won’t think too hard if it comes to buying sports equipment.” She loves sports.
It is because of sports that she has a great physique. “I am not the type who eats a lot when stressed and I don’t like exercising in the gym. But I do love sports such as scuba diving or skiing.” For the Georgetown Festival, there will be, apart from No. 7, over 80 programmes including theatre, music, dance, film, art, opera, food, fashion, photography and talks. The festival celebrates George Town making it to the Unesco’s World Heritage Listing on July 7, 2008. For more information about the festival, visit www.georgetownfestival.com.
George Town, Penang is celebrating its third anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the 7th of July 2011. The George Town Festival is a month-long festival scheduled in July to celebrate and applaud the arts scene and the heritage of Penang. Amongst the convivial array of events that we have lined-up for the month are dances, music concerts, plays, film screenings, inspirational talks for the youth of Penang and food festivals to name a few. The festival also boasts several exclusive works from prominent artists who are both locally and internationally acclaimed. Guests and audiences will be indulged in the copious fascinating events all congested in the duration of a month.
The following are the highlight of the festival :
- Peranakan Penang – Scheduled to be the Gala Opening for George Town Festival 2011. Peranakan Penang is a cultural and fashion showcase of the exquisite Peranakan jewelry paired with elegant evening dresses. The opening will feature international supermodel Ling Tan and ” Jewelers to the Stars”- Mouawad with Amee Philips, Venessa Diamonds, OE Fine Jewelry, the Elegance Club, Rafflesia – The Pearl Centre, Jonathan Yun, Fuan Wong and Lee Hwa Jewelry ( Singapore ).
- Pro Musica Workshop & Gala Concert - A gala-operatic concert featuring four outstanding international singers : Julie Mossay ( Soprano, BELGIUM ), Ines Madeira ( Mezz0-Soprano, PORTUGAL ), Enrico Casari ( Tenor, ITALY ) & Kittinant Chinsamran ( Baritone, THAILAND ) supported by students of the Master Classes which precedes the concert. The Pro Musica Workshop for the Advancement of the Voice Students from the region has been conducted for the last few years in Penang by eminent voice teacher Ms Loh Siew Tuan ( originally from Penang ).
- no.7 - A lecture/monologue performance produced and performed by Tan Kheng Hua ( of Phua Chu Kang ), assuming the role of Tan Tay Po, the seventh wife of the successful Chinese tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze.
- 12 Monkeys & More - A collaborative performance by Ghaffar Pourazar, Jitti Chompee and Zubin Mohamad ( Fulbright Scholar/Choreographer ) where each individual piece portrays the character and movements of a monkey, brought alive through each individual`s background and beliefs.
- Vertical Road – Akram Khan Company ( London ) will unveil a new major-company production entitled Verical Road in the George Town Festival 2011
We would like to request the pleasure of your participation in the festival. For additional information or any enquries, please head over www.georgetownfestival.com.
Classical Spanish Guitar Concert at Khoo Kongsi
Saturday 28th, May 2011
His curiosity grew and gave him a chance to collaborate with numerous artists. He has experimented with many styles and has participated in more than 1000 international concerts. Watch him live and let him sooth you with his versatility and charm.
We will be hosting a concert at the Khoo Kong Si on Saturday 28th starting from 7pm on. We will also showcase a puppet show performance before the
The concert is free of charge.
Penang Global Tourism
Alliance Française de Penang
Don’t miss a unique dance performance in Penang at the Town Hall on Sunday, May 22nd!
Didik Nini Thowok (dance) and Elizabeth D. Inandiak (readings)
Music credits : Alex Dea
(‘songs’) from the book of Elizabeth D. Inandiak, inspired from the Javanese epic ‘Serat Centhini’, will be read by Elizabeth while Didik, an Indonesian dancer, will perform traditional dance according to the text. The presentation will be accompanied by traditional Malay music. As is the case for all Javanese classical literature, The Book of Centhini is sung in fragments, and also danced to the music of a celembung (thirteen double-stringed cythara), a gamblang (xylophone) and a gambus (seven-string lute). In the process of rendering these cantos in French, Elizabeth D. Inandiak constantly sought to preserve their oral origin and ritual character. It is therefore under this song and dance form that she is presenting some excerpts of her version of The Book of Centhini, in collaboration with the great Javanese dancer Didik Nini Thowok who incarnates all the characters of the poem, male and female, from the most refined to the most outrageous.
Admission: RM15 (AF members/Children/Students) / RM20
(Non Members/Adults) for now.
Date : May 22th, 8pm.
Venue : Penang Town Hall
Recommended for mature viewing, 12 and above only.
Call us to book and buy your tickets!
Special thanks to our sponsors and partners for our French Art and Film Festival:
The French Embassy, Penang State Government, Penang Global Tourism, Martell, Golden Sands Resort, Alliance Française de
Special thanks to ESCATEC, AFPG’s main sponsor for 2011!
IT has been said that behind every successful man is a supportive woman.
But though the names of tycoons are etched in the annals of history, often very little is known about the women that were their pillars of strength.
The life of one such lady, Tan Tay Po, is set to be explored in an upcoming monologue play ‘#7’.
It will be held over three consecutive days from July 1 at the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion (also known as The Blue Mansion) in Penang, as part of the George Town Festival.
The role of Tan, the little-known seventh of tycoon Cheong Fatt Tze’s eight wives, will be played by Singaporean actress Tan Kheng Hua of Phua Chu Kang fame. She is Margaret in the Singapore sitcom.
Kheng Hua conceded it was quite a challenge to play Tay Bo as there were few clues to go on.
“It’s even hard to find out what race she was, or where she was born, as different sources have different theories on her origins,” she said of Tay Bo.
Historians do know that she married the then 70-year-old Cheong at the age of 20.
But nonetheless, she decided to take on the role as the story struck a chord with her.
“These are the things I felt I could explore in the play. I will be sharing my insights on making the house a home, and the role women play in this,” Kheng Hua said.
“I will touch on what’s it like to be a woman then and now. At first glance, life seems rather different for women today but if you look at it deeper, you wonder if much has changed.
“It will definitely give audiences much to think about,” Kheng Hua said.
She is particularly looking forward to the play in the historic Blue Mansion, and finds it surreal to recreate Tay Bo’s character in the exact same building Tay Bo called home a century ago.
The play’s writer and director Kaylene Tan said that the original script was still evolving as new information was being uncovered.
“We might infer things but we won’t put them in her mouth. We’re not going for a complete fictionalisation but we don’t want just boring facts either,” Kaylene said.
“We want to strike the right balance.
“Penangites should come and watch as it will be a good opportunity for them to see the mansion and fall in love with it through Kheng Hua’s eyes,” Kaylene said.
Kheng Hua herself has fallen in love with Penang, calling it her favourite runaway spot, one she visits at least several times a year.
And each time she’s in town, she will make sure she gets to sample Penang laksa, her favourite dish.
“When I come here, I know what I want to do and how to do it,” she quipped, adding that she found the surroundings rather comforting.
“In Singapore, I live in a row of shophouses, all of which have their own unique identity.
“Over here, I can similarly pick out things that I remember growing up with and in a sense, it gives me comfort,” she said.
She urged Penangites to continue their efforts in protecting and preserving the historic aspects of the city.
In closing the interview at Chowrasta Market on Thursday, Kheng Hua added: “It’s a real privilege to be part of the play. Invite me back next year!”
For details of the performance, call the organisers at 04-2616308.
Event: Rock 4 Rights
Date: 2 April 2011 (Saturday)
Time: 12:00pm – 12:00am
Venue: Fort Cornwallis, Penang
Admission: Free and open to public
Since the inaugural launch of the MyConstitution Campaign on 13 November 2009, the Bar Council Constitutional Law Committee (BCCLC) has launched 8 out of the 9 phases of the campaign over the last 1.5 years. Each phase was on a specific theme of the Federal Constitution, and saw the launch of its own Rakyat Guides booklet and Rakyat Service Advertisement.
On 2 April 2011, the final (9th) phase of the MyConstitution Campaign will be launched at the “Rock 4 Rights” event at Fort Cornwallis, Penang. In addition to producing its 9th Rakyat Guides booklet and Rakyat Service Advertisement on “Elections and Democracy”, the Committee has also produced a music album entitled Radio Demokratika.
Radio Demokratika contains 12 original songs written and performed by 12 local independent bands. Each song is a message on human rights, democracy and constitutionalism. Radio Demokratika is sold at all Rock Corner and Victoria Music Centre outlets in the Klang Valley for RM29.90 per CD.
“Rock 4 Rights” is a 12-hour non-stop concert and carnival organised by the BCCLC in partnership with Frinjan and Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and supported by Yes. Malaysiakini is the online media sponsor for this event. The event is also endorsed by the Penang State Government. This one-of-a-kind initiative will start from 12pm until12am.
A total of 18 bands will perform; a combination of bands from the Radio Demokratika album, the Bangkit album (produced by SABM), Frinjan and others. There will be performance arts and film screening as well as a variety of food and beverage stalls, arts and crafts stalls, a counter for festival memorabilia, CDs by the performing artists and voter registration booths. Unregistered eligible voters are strongly encouraged to register at the voter registration booths.
“Rock 4 Rights” will be officiated by YB Prof. Dr. P. Ramasamy, Deputy Chief Minister of Penang at 8:00pm on 2 April 2011.
This is what we hope to achieve through this event:
* Better outreach to youths from the ages of 18 to 35 on the concept of elections and democracy;
* Better awareness amongst local artists and youths on the concept of elections and democracy;
* Increased participation of youths in the Malaysian political process through the conduct of voter registration drives during the concert and related events; and
* Greater media coverage and publicity on issues pertaining to the Federal Constitution.
The Bar Council wishes to thank all its partners and sponsors for making this event possible.
Latest Blog Entry
Guided Heritage Tour
11am / 1.30pm / 3pm
Admission fee RM 12.00 per person.
14 Leith Street,
10200 Penang, Malaysia
Tel : +604 262 0006
Fax: +604 262 5289
Share With Friends