(+8 GMT) before the undead come to life

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Casting and recasting Frankenstein PT 1

Hey there, Gavin here. As I've done with every production blog, its time to talk about the casting and how all these wonderfully talented (for the most part) people came to be a part of this (so far) twisted experience. I know I'm a little late with this but hopefully, as you read on, you'll get an idea as to why.

My original casting ideas were admitedly, very different from what is now the final cast. As early as June or July last year, I had already started talking to actors about the project. At the time, having just taken on the Director in Residence position at KLPAC, I had a lot of big, lofty ideas. I remember when all the KLPAC staff were introduced to each other, I made this embarassingly moronic speech about how I wanted to introduce new genres to the theatre scene, I wanted to do Sci-Fi, thrillers, horror. They all looked at me as if to say "Sci-Fi? Horror?........fucking idiot." Crazy thing is, I meant every word. I do want to sci-fi and I have plans for a science fiction version of 'Romeo & Juliet' that'll blow your fucking mind, if I'm ever allowed to do it. Maybe I should wait a while till everyone's forgotten about 'Romi & Joo Lee'.......

But yeah, back to casting. Originally I had wanted Jit Murad to play Frankenstein. He was the first actor I spoke to and I think this was June last year, before I had even started rehearsals for 'Double Bill'. We met up for a few beers (I had the beer, Jit's muslim so he drank sirap bandung) and talked about the play and Clive Barker. I also mentioned to him that wanted Zahim Al Bakri to play El Coco, Frankenstein's rival. I've always wanted to see those two on stage together and once I got the idea of pairing them up for Frankenstein, I remained incredibly stubborn about it and refused to consider anyone else for almost a year. But alas, it was not meant to be. With 'M' The Opera, PGL, the running of Dramalab and their own individual careers on their shoulders, they couldn't commit to the project. While I completely understood and respected their reasons, it totally fucked me because I couldn't, for the life of me, think of anyone else. So.....I went about casting the other characters first.....half hoping that I might accidentally discover someone, the way I discovered U-En while casting 'The Homecoming'.

I auditioned people (both new and old) over a span of two weeks in July (officially two weeks. unofficially, I was still casting up until Thursday last week). Mary George was the first person to be cast. It was actually a no-brainer. She was the right age, had the right look and her voice suited the character of Maria beautifully. Plus I had a lot of fun flirting with her while working on 'Double Bill' and looked forward to flirting with her somemore. I like flirting with women who I know will never want to sleep with me......I find it liberating. But more importantly, I wanted to give Mary an opportunity to carry a show. As one of the play's major players and also its narrator, the character of Maria was break that I knew Mary was hungry for, and to me, a hungry actor is someone worth taking a chance on.

Melissa Maureen was the next person to be cast as Veronique, one of Dr Frankenstein's victims and the female element in the play's bizarre love triangle. Melissa and I had worked together briefly on 'Table For Two', some soppy romance drama where I had a guest spot playing Cheryl Samad's loser, hippy boyfriend. Mel and I became friends and hung out for a bit and then, as it sometimes happens, we lost touch. Two years later, while working with Alvin Wong on 'Endgame', he kinda filled me in on what she'd been up to and I remembered her telling me at one point that more than anything, she wanted to do something totally fucking crazy and demented. So I figured......why not? She came in and read and that was kinda that. The two female roles were hard to cast because I saw a lot of actresses, a lot of whom had different things to recommend them. It was a tough call.

Actually wait.....I fucked up. The two ladies weren't the first to be cast. U-En was. During 'Endgame' rehearsals I went up to him and said -

Me : Hey, you wanna do Frankenstein?
U-En : Cannot.
Me : Why?
U-En : Busy.
Me : Why?
U-En : Just busy.
Me : Fuck you la. You're doing it.
U-En : Ok.
Me : Ok.


U-En : No, really. I'm going to be very busy.
Me : Relax, its a small role.
U-En : How small?
Me : Small.
U-En : Cool.
Me : Awesome.
U-En : What's the character?
Me : Dr Fook.
U-En : I like it.
Me : A chain smoking pathologist.
U-En : I'll do it.

That's how U-En got cast. I know I'm probably going to get shit for casting the same guy who was in my last two productions but you know what? I don't give a shit. The guy's good and fits the role like a glove so fucking deal with it people. Plus, after carrying 'Endgame' and to a certain extent 'The Homecoming' I wanted to give him something where he could have some fun.

Next up was Patrick, who plays President Garcia Perez. Truth be told, I actually read quite a few people for this role and nobody really stuck in my mind. The decision to give Patrick a call was really one of those impulsive spur of the moment things. I hadn't originally considered him for the show. I try not to repeat myself too much with my casting but one thing I realized while casting this show, its that the bigger your cast is, the more glaringly clear it becomes just how fucking small KL's acting talent pool is. We don't have many people to choose from and its as simple as that. And the more I thought about the kind of actor I needed for a character like Perez, the harder it became to get Patrick out of my head. I'd work with Patrick in a heartbeat, any day of the week, so I was thrilled he agreed to do it. And also, like U-En, this was a role I knew he could have some fun with.

I met Rauf Fadzilla at KLPAC where he had come to see 'Endgame'. He mentioned to me that he was a writer and that he had written the 'demon' piece for 'ROJAK!', a show The Oral Stage' had put on not too long ago. I remembered the piece and told him I liked it. The he asked if I remembered him as one of the demons. I didn't remember him but I remembered the demons being pretty freaky so I thought this guy could probably play a flesh eating zombie named Follezou so I asked him to come in and read for me. And Rauf's a small guy so I wanted his partner in flesh eating crime to be the total opposite. He had to be a huge fucker. I've known Bharani for a couple of years now. Didn't know him well but I remembered he was tall as fuck and actually quite gentle which was exactly what I was looking for in Mattos. I('ve said many times that one of the thiings I like about working with newcomers is they don't try to act. They're not trying to give you a performance. Instead they give you something that is very honest and sincere, which is why Bharani and Rauf were cast. They play it like it is. They're not trying to kiss anyone's ass. They make a cute couple actually.

Next was Reuben Arthur, who was recommended to me by Deda at the KLPAC academy. I had never met or heard of him prior to his audition. All I knew was that he had done some church productions, which always scares the shit out me, mainly because the few church productions I've seen......well, let's just say the only thing good about them is the intention. Church productions are like pantomimes without the jokes. (althought I must confess I haven't seen a church production in over ten years so maybe things have changed) Also I started to have nightmarish visions of him telling us we were all going to burn in hell for putting on this show. I'm like "Dude I already know I'm gonna burn, so I might as well put on whatever fucking show I want!" But thankfully, Reuben was not at all like that and seemed to revel in the play's gory glory so he was cast as the Cardinal......cool role. He's having a lot of fun. Hehehehe.

I was having a lot finding someone to play Cockatoo, the loyal right hand to El Coco, the play's hero. Again, I read a shitload of people. There were two people (who I won't name) who read beautifully. I wanted to cast them. They wanted to be cast but ultimately couldn't because of work. This actually happened a few times while casting this show with a number of characters, and as a director who's never cast anything this big before, it was a fucking trying experience. I had read Michael Chen a week earlier for Cockatoo and Lazaro. I was seriously considering casting him as Lazaro (after Na'a Murad, my choice for Lazaro had to pull out) but after losing my other two possiblities for Cockatoo, I gave Michael a call and asked him to come back in for a second audition. Now some of you may read this and think "Wah, fucker only call people after these fucker says no and that fucker says no..." and you'd be right. But that's the way these things work sometimes. When I'm acting and its a role I want, I don't give a shit who was offered it before hand, all I care about is that I'm the guy playing it now. And Michael feels the same way.... I think. If he doesn't, he fucking better. He's proving to me with every rehearsal that I made the right choice. He's passionate about what he does and you can't buy that.

Next came casting the role of Lazaro, Maria's dim-witted friend. Well, I was in a fix and couldn't really think of anyone. One day I was sitting with Douglas Lim over a coffee .......

Me : Hey man.
Doug : What?
Me : Do you love me?
Doug : You know I do.
Me : Do you love and respect everything I do as a person, friend and fellow artist?
Doug : You know I do.
Me : Do you wanna play a role in Frankenstein In Love?
Doug : No.
Me : What?
Doug : No.
Me : Why not?
Doug : I can't.
Me : To busy being SUPERSTAR is it?
Doug : That's right. I'm too busy breaking bridges.
Me : But you'll be even more of a SUPERSTAR once people see the radical change in characters you play. They'll be blown away by your amazing talent and versatility. They'll be amazed that they still want to watch you even when you're not singing about some chick you just knocked up and who obviously cannot afford a proper doctor and who clearly has no respect for a decent clothes hanger.


Doug : Ok, I'll do it.
Me : Cool. You know what they say "One chapter closes....."

Okay guys, I'm going to stop here and return to the casting process after lunch. Stay tuned for casting and recasting part 2.



Blogger Bottie Bots said...

If you ever decide to do a Star Trek version of anything, I wanna be in or else I will transport you to the Delta quadrant (nowhere near seven of nine but closer to the phage)or set the phaser to kill. Oklah, I'll just hold my breath.
Resistence is futile.

9:33 PM  
Blogger Jo said...

Okay dude. I know that we've never gotten past the "hi" or mutual nod of acknowledgement (yes I'm here at KLPAC again, yes you're here at KLPAC again, so what) stage, but if you're doing Sci-Fi, think JOHANN LIM.

No pussy Star Trek nonsense (why is the default setting of phasers NOT kill?!?) - think lightsabers and the Force. Seriously though, have you read Stephen Donaldson's The Gap series? Starts with The Real Story, and is a really dark book. Great read.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Gavin said...

don't worry, what i have in mind is more MAD MAX than STAR TREK with bits of STAR WARS and ENDER'S GAME thrown in........and some FIFTH ELEMENT.

and yes, I will think JOHANN LIM. and maybe next we meet, i'll be sober and we can actually have a conversation.

haven't read The Gap series. will look for it, thanks.

6:07 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home