John Faulkner, founder of the British Theatre Playhouse, wears many hats – actor, singer, producer, director, and co-founder of a school of drama. His latest production, Out of Order, is to be staged from 11 to 15 April.
What first brought you to Singapore?
Brother Joseph McNally – founder of LASALLE College of the Arts – invited me to come over from the UK and work with him to establish the LASALLE School of Drama in 1991. We opened the school at Kallang Theatre in September that year.
What do you think of the Singapore art scene two decades down the track?
I can only speak for the performing arts. Many of the performers are world class – it’s great., There are still too few playwrights – and, sadly, too few full-length, locally themed plays. In terms of professional etiquette and discipline, it’s a work in progress!
Under your stage name Richard Denning you have performed in numerous plays in London’s West End and in the US. What’s been your favourite role?
I think it would be Ernest in The Importance of Being Earnest. One of the greatest English-language plays ever and a wonderful role that most actors would die for!
Performing cabaret at top London hotels must have been a great experience.
Is Singapore open to cabaret?
I’ve actually been performing cabaret here recently. But cabaret requires a very special kind of audience – one that appreciates classy, witty music and lyrics from, say, 50 or 60 years ago; and, above all, one that listens! I couldn’t say that kind of audience is really here yet, other than in very small numbers. It’s largely because people are so used to background music and endless pop music – not music you have to really listen to. They play with their phones, talk out aloud and get up and walk about in front of you. It’s extremely discouraging for the performers. But, slowly, it’s getting better.
Is there anything you miss from back home?
Sure! I’m not another expat waiting to disown his country, even after 21 years here. I love England, for all its faults. I miss the four seasons of the year, the English sense of humour and self-deprecation, not to mention the beautiful countryside, my many wonderful friends there and, of course, the theatre scene. Do I hear someone say “You must be mad, John!”?
Out of Order, one of Ray Cooney’s most-loved farces and winner of the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award, has a wonderfully improbable plot involving a married junior cabinet minister trying to bed the secretary to the leader of the opposition, also married, in an upscale London hotel. Everything that can go wrong inevitably does, including (of course!) the discovery of a dead body in the room. It’s a good old British romp featuring an unassuming hotel manager, an opportunistic waiter and a bungling secretary, not to mention various spouses.
Out of Order, presented by the British Theatre Playhouse, runs from 11 to 15 April at the Jubilee Hall Theatre, Raffles Hotel. Tickets through Sistic.