Bernard Sam discusses the joys of dissecting Jean Tong’s witty play, Hungry Ghosts.
What attracted you to your role?
One of Hungry Ghosts’ main themes is the fluidity of identity, so it’s fitting that the role I play also shifts and embodies different forms throughout the play. It’s truly a gift for any actor to have a role that’s so malleable and layered. A challenge, sure, but a good challenge to have.
What were your first impressions of the play and what compelled you to say ‘yes’ to this production?
The first time I saw Hungry Ghosts was at the Cybec Electric readings in 2017. It was a pleasant surprise to see a story I’m familiar with grace the stage; and with such complexity and wit. At the time I never expected that I’d be approached to help develop the play, and a few weeks after the development I joined the cast. It’s been a surreal experience and an honour to be a part of the team.
Can you tell us what you enjoy most about Jean Tong’s writing?
Jean’s writing on Hungry Ghosts is poetic and yet so colloquial. While there aren’t any orthodox conceptions of character in this script, her writing often alludes to hidden intentions or personalities. The text is intelligent, current and rich while never taking itself too seriously. It’s been a pleasure to explore the world she’s written.
Can you tell us about some of the challenges of this script?
This script demands play and being open as a performer. The quick shifts between scenes and embodiment were something I never had the opportunity to play with before. For me, breath and physicality were lifesavers during these moments.
Do you think this is an important story to tell? Why?
I think the story presented in Hungry Ghosts is very relatable. Everyone leaves home eventually and we’ve all thought back about how our experiences have made us who we are. At first glance, we’re often defined by stereotypes or stories about where we’re from. However, who we are is more than that and the play tells this universal story.
What is unique about Petra Kalive’s rehearsal room?
Despite being a text-heavy script, Petra really encouraged us to use physicality to tell this story. From the beginning, we crafted a physical sequence that has really informed the work and it’s one we continue to use as a warm-up pre-show. It’s been a very welcoming and collaborative rehearsal room, with the entire team experimenting and working together to find the best way to stage the play.
What is at the heart of the play?
I think what lies at the heart of the play is the story of someone who’s left home. Someone who’s trying to work out who they are, amidst a mystery and scandal from home.