FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHT - DPAC in association with CHIN SAN SOOI presents Emily of Emerald Hill
Pearlly Chua in her stellar 200th performance as Emily of Emerald Hill
Have you seen...Emily?
Damansara Performing Arts Centre in association with Chin San Sooi presents Emily of Emerald Hill celebrates the 200th performance played by Pearlly Chua since 1990.
Emily of Emerald Hill had its World Premiere in humble surroundings, the Guthrie Chemara Club House, Seremban on 17th November 1984. The producer was Liau Siau Suan, the director Chin San Sooi and Leow Puay Tin helmed the title role.
Since then, it has gone on to create Malaysian and Singaporean theatre history by being the most performed play in full, abridged, added or without the playwright’s permission locally and abroad such as Hawaii, Scotland, Hong Kong, Canada, Sydney and Wollongong.
Also, the play has been introduced as a text in the school curricula and university Theatre and English Language faculties.
Pearlly has played Emily more times than anyone else. Up to date she has performed the role 165 times. DPAC Arts Festival 2014 will present 35 performances throughout the month of April to reach the 200th milestone: with 15 student packaged shows, 8 corporate shows, 8 public shows and 4 charity performances.
It is 1950. Emily, the matriarch of Emerald Hill, introduces her household members and recalls her childhood days. She recounts her early marriage to a man twice her age and her battles with some of her in-laws to gain the favour of her mother and father –in- law.
She succeeds. She has three sons and a daughter. She makes use of her eldest son especially to gain the upper hand in the struggle for power in the family. The eldest son is sent to England to study law but he becomes a horse trainer. Upon Emily’s demands that he returns to complete his studies in Singapore, he commits suicide.
After a whirlwind of marketing and preparation for the new year, Emily continues her narration of her early exploits as a mother and especially her quarrel with her husband who has gone to stay in his mistress’ house. She plots his return and finally he dies in hospital without saying anything to her. On examining the part she played in the death of her son and her husband, she begins to understand herself and leads a new life, letting go of her other children and living in the old house all by herself to a ripe old age.
STELLA KON (Playwright)
Stella Kon is descended from two Singapore families with strong links to historical Emerald Hill Road. She grew up in the house called 'Oberon'.
Her father was born at No.2 Emerald Hill Road, in the house of his grandfather Dr. Lim Boon Keng, the founder of the Singapore Chinese Girls' School, and the house was later used as one of the school buildings.
Stella's mother was born at 117 Emerald Hill Road, in the house of her father, Seow Poh Leng. In the style of those days, the large mansion was given a name as well as a street number, and it was called 'Oberon'; for Seow Poh Leng was a lover of Shakespeare and
an actor in the Singapore theatre before the war. He died during the Occupation. After the war, his widow, known to her friends as Polly Seow, presided over a large household at Emerald Hill.'Emily of Emerald Hill' contains Stella's memories of 'Oberon', and of her grandmother who was its matriarch. The character of 'Emily' is a composite of this formidable lady, and of other strong-minded women known to the writer. The tales told are fictions, based on myths told in many families, and they do not present a factual story. Yet in the sense that image can be stronger than fact, these scenes convey a haunting picture of Singapore's life in the earlier decades of this century.
Stella herself was born in Edinburgh, grew up and was educated in Singapore. Although the grandmother of 'Oberon' was a thorough Nyonya, Stella herself was not brought up to speak Peranakan Malay; she does not wear the costume or cook the cuisine. After
marriage, she lived for almost twenty years in Malaysia and Britain. Her view of Singapore is an exile's view, both detached and nostalgic.
Stella has written several other plays, and has won the Singapore
National Playwriting Competition three times.
CHIN SAN SOOI (Director)
Chin San Sooi was at the School of Speech and Drama London under a British Council Scholarship in 1969-70.
He has been involved in Malaysian Theatre since the 1960's. He has directed many Shakespearean plays and local Broadway musicals among others, and written and directed numerous plays over the years - among the more notable have been Lady White, Morning in Night (A Musical), Yap Ah Loy - The Play, Reunion (A Musical), Kuala Lumpur Sentral (A Musical).
He directed Leow Puay Tin in Stella Kon's Emily of Emerald Hill in the 1980's - Puay Tin did 21 performances of Emily. In the 1990's he directed Pearlly Chua in Emily of Emerald Hill and Pearlly has done 103 performances of Emily!
In 1986, San Sooi was invited by the East-West Centre to direct Emily of Emerald Hill with Leow Puay Tin and in 1996 he directed Zhang Boils the Ocean for the Chinese Theatre Workshop at the Abrons Theatre and Chinese Taipei Theatre in New York.
San Sooi is a founder member of Five Arts Centre and continues to do theatre that speaks of Malaysian experience.
PEARLLY CHUA (Actress)
Pearlly took on the challenging role of Emily in 1990 to raise funds for Singapore Lions Club (Cairnhill) and Singapore Action Group of Elders charity drive for the Sage Elders’ Village project. It was a very successful outing as it raised about S103,000
Since then, she has performed the play to critical acclaim in Seremban, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Penang, Melaka, Johor Bahru and Kuching among other venues such as hotels, restaurants and clubs for a total of 103 performances to-date in revivals of the play in 1995, 1999 and 2002.
Some of the performances were successful fund raising projects for the Kiwanis group in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Twice she was invited by the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies to perform in 1997 and 1999 when it held its conference in Kuala Lumpur.
She has many fans, some of whom would travel distances to see her perform.
Pearlly’s other stage engagements were Chin San Sooi’s Lady White in 1983 as Maiden Green and in 1989 as Lady White, Chin San Sooi’s Reunion (a musical play) in 1994 as Khoo Siew Hoon, Claire Wong’s Mergers and Accusations in 1998 as Leslie Ryan, Leow Puay Tin’s Mrs Yang’s Birthday Party in 1998 as Mrs Yang and Roland Lee’s Jiang Qing (Her Story Untold) in 2000 as Jiang Qing.
Pearlly also devised and directed a play, Identity AIDS in 1988.
“The audience was held spellbound and silent by the intensity of Chua’s performance.” - Sunday Star, 1990
“Emily was a real gem.”
The Star, 1995
“A performance of tremendous courage and power.”
The Sunday Star, 1995
“powerful and fresh”
Her World, i995
“…enchanting, skillfully played. Pearlly Chua…kept the audience awed.”
The Leader, 1995
“Superb play, sayabas Pearlly.”
The Star, 1999
“…was a class of its own and was truly a joy to watch.
The New Straits Times, 1999
“ a stella performance.”
The New Straits Times, 2002
“…an overhelming experience.”
New Straits Times, 2004
“Brilliant. Simply brilliant. A stunning tour de force from start to finish…”
“…an unrivalled piece of theatre…a unique experience…”
Mark Sheridan, Australia, 2012
“… hugely entertaining and thought-provoking …”
Sally Hammond, Food and Travel, Australia 2012
“…a wonderful play..”
Narelle Tasker North Shore Times Sydney March 2012
Original script: Stella Kon
Director: Chin San Sooi
Actress: Pearlly Chua
Date & Time: 17 - 20 April (Thu - Sun) 8.30pm
24 - 26 April (Thu - Sat) 8.30pm
27 April (Sun) 3.00pm
Venue: Theatre, DPAC
Ticket: RM88, RM68, RM58 (Student), inclusive of RM3 handling fee
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for special student packages or corporate deals.