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.
Leave a comment
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