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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Casting and recasting Frankenstein PT 2

Hello and welcome to the next exciting episode of'Casting and recasting Frankenstein'. I know I said I would get to it after lunch the day before yesterday but life intervened. I can't remember exactly what happened but never mind. The bottom line is I'm doing it now.

To play the role of Camilo Bozuffi, the tailor who strikes up a rather unusual business arrangement with Dr Fook (U-En Ng), I really only had one actor in mind - Reza Zainal Abidin. Prior to this production, Reza and I had worked on a number of things together, both on television and stage, and I am a huge fan of his, not just as an actor but also a friend. Reza is very much like Douglas, in the sense I find it almost impossible not to smile when I see him. Anyway, he agreed to play the role and when I read him with U-En, they both had a very nice rapport with each other. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, Reza had to drop out of the production last week. I must confess this threw me for a loop, very much for the same reason I was thrown when Jit and Zahim said they couldn't do it - I just couldn't see anyone else in the role, or more to the point, I didn't want to see anyone else in the role. I considered Ben Tan as a replacement, and even spoke to him about it, but as a fair bit of his stage time would be opposite U-En, that kinda put me off because I was concerned it might smack too much of 'The Homecoming'. And this was already three weeks into rehearsal, I didn't have the time to go out and look for someone fresh. I needed someone solid, someone I could trust to deliver in a short space of time and I needed him now. So I thought about it and called in a favour from a dear friend. I called Ari Ratos.

Ari, bless his heart, has been meaning to take a break from theatre for like, I don't know, the last ten years. But everytime he tries to get out, they keep pulling him back in! (Anybody get that reference? Anybody? No? Losers.) I called Ari up and it went something like this ......

Ari : Hello?
Me : Ari.....
Ari : What do you want?
Me : No, I was just......
Ari : What do you want?
Me : Nothing, I just....
Ari : You never call me unless you want something so what is it?
Me : Ari.....
Ari : Gavin......
Me : I'm in a bit of a fix.
Ari : No.
Me : No what?
Ari : The answer's no.
Me : You don't even know what I'm gonna ask.
Ari : The answer's still no.
Me : Ari, don't be an asshole. I've got a serious problem.
Ari : Someone's dropped out?
Me : Yes.
Ari : And you need a replacement.
Me : Yes.
Ari : No.
Me : Come on!
Ari : Call Ben Tan.
Me : I did. He can't do it.
Ari : Call Lennard Gui.
Me : What?
Ari : Call Mark Teh.
Me : Ari.....
Ari : Mark Beau.
Me : Ari, will you please....
Ari : Call.....
Me : Shut up Ari, you're doing it!
Ari : Ok then.
Me : Great.
Ari : I'll do it but i don't want to.
Me : That's good enough for me. See you Monday.

That's pretty much how Ari came aboard. It sucked to lose Reza but these things happen I guess. At the end of the day, you gotta take the good with the bad and keep chugging along.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had wanted Zahim and Jit to play El Coco and Dr Frankenstein respectively. When they confirmed they couldn't do it, so began the long painful process of trying to think of who else there might be. One day (I can't remember where but I'm fairly certain there was alcohol involved) Rashid asked me why I hadn't considered him for the play. I looked him right in the eye.....and honestly had no answer. I had just gotten so used to thinking of Rashid as a comic performer that I just didn't think of him. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was a great idea. Rashid's been doing comedy for years and was really hungry to take a break from that and do something audience's haven't seen him do before. In a strange way, its almost like watching a fresh face. I love watching people work out of their comfort zone and I figured that if Rashid could channel the same kind of energy into this role that he does with his comedic roles, he would be electric. I auditioned him and that was that. Look forward to seeing a very different kind of Rashid Salleh performance next month. Plus I hear he's been pumping up......

Dr Frankenstein was a bitch to cast. I went through the list of names but just didn't feel comfortable with any of them. No knock on their talent or anything like that, I just wasn't confident they 'fit' the role. Then one day, I was walking aimlessly around KLPAC (which I have sometimes been known to do) and saw a poster for an acting class that was going to be conducted by Mano Maniam. I thought to myslef "Of course!! Why didn't I think of him sooner? Mano would kick major fucking ass in the role!!" I called him up and asked him if he would be interested. He told me he would want to see the script and rehearsal schedule before he gave an answer. I was like "Sure whatever, you the man!" Anyway, He read the play, really liked the character but still needed time to think somemore about it. About a week went by and then I finally got an answer from him. He was in. The cast was complete and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. During the first week of readings, I grew to really love Mano in the role, mainly because I could tell that he was loving it and that's something I don't see enough of in this industry. Here was an actor who had delicious lines, knew he had delicious lines, and was hellbent on savouring every word. It was a pleasure listening to him read.

Unfortunately, it never got beyond the readings. A week into blocking, Rashid called me and informed me that Mano had suffered a heart attack. I was floored. I waited a couple of days as I was told he wasn't taking any calls or allowed any visitors. When I finally did speak to him, we talked about his condition, joked around a little and played with the possibilty of him staying on the production but deep down, we both knew it couldn't happen. It broke my heart to have to replace him but there was no way I could, in good conscience, keep him on. The only thing that mattered was that he rest and get well. What makes me smile is although he knew it wasn't a good idea, he still wanted to do it, and I could tell it was just as hard for him as it was for me, and that meant a lot. It meant a lot to me knowing this was a project he really cared about, and I'm grateful for the short time that he was involved. His presence in the rehearsal was felt deeply by everyone and there was indeed a void when he wasn't there. But he's doing fine and will continue to be fine so long as he rests and allows himself the time to get better. I wish him well and regardless of whether he's here or not, he's still part of this production.

I read a few actors to replace him (originally as an understudy when I was still kidding myself that Mano might stay on) and ended up casting Kennie Dowle, who I had worked with on 'Julius Caesar'. He played....well...Julius Caesar. Kennie's been rehearsing with us for the last week and, to his credit, has picked things up very smoothly. I have no doubts at all that he will do the character justice. Its not easy replacing an actor half way through a production. Its not an enviable position to be in but Kennie has genuinely impressed me with how good he's been about it. He's thrown himself into it with a lot of passion and really, at the end of the day.....what more could a director possibly ask for?



Blogger Bottie Bots said...

From my all time favourite trilogy- The Godfather III. Speech delivered by Michael Corleone when he was heading towards making his family business legit.
HA! Am I a winner then?? (wink wink)

2:58 PM  

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