Tan Kheng Hua On Creativity And Not Having Favourites

Having appeared in more than 50 theatre and television shows, Tan Kheng Hua is no stranger to acting. She is a familiar face to our local public, especially as Phua Chu Beng’s wife Margaret on Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd many years back.

Besides being in front of the camera, Kheng Hua has been actively creating, directing and producing works in recent years. One project we really applaud was The Twenty-Something Theatre Festival held in 2016, which she organised and this year we can look forward to having her produce Tropicana The Musical in April. Always in a creative project, there is no stopping this woman who is a champion of all things local.

With all these works and a promising environment for The Arts to develop, can Singapore be a Renaissance City? We are simply so curious to know.

(Laughs) I don’t know what “Renaissance City” means. Singapore is the city that is my home. I love this city. It’s where I want to be. And that’s all that’s important for me,” Kheng Hua said.

Popspoken speaks to Kheng Hua about her career, how times have changed and finds out what she thinks about “The Arts”.

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Popspoken: When you were younger, what was your dream ambition?

Kheng Hua: I wouldn’t say I had very clear ambitions as a child. I always sort of wandered into things and then somehow, these things turned into great passions.

Popspoken: What is the journey like for you, when you eventually decide that acting is where you would like to be?

Kheng Hua: To be honest, there is no way to decide how anything can be where you would like it to be because you don’t ever really know. I do, however, remember being 30 years old, having just gotten married, gotten a flat and come back from a lovely tour of the TheatreWorks’ production of Lao Jiu in Perth and telling Yu-Beng I’d like to quit my full-time job and (do) acting from morning to night rather than sharing my day with a full-time job. And that’s what I did.

Popspoken: Were your parents supportive?

Kheng Hua: They are the most liberal and supportive parents. They were happy I decided to quit my full-time job because they thought maybe now, I would have more time to travel and hang with them.

Popspoken: Share with us your favourite show that you have done.

Kheng Hua: I don’t really believe in the concept of “favourites”. I do have a favourite daughter though. But then again, she’s my only daughter, and maybe that’s why she is my favourite.

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Popspoken: What are some words of wisdom you have received that really honed your craft today?

Kheng Hua: Yu-Beng said to me this which I use to lead my day as a person – in everything I do: Be Better.

Popspoken: You have moved on from just acting and into producing, directing work. How is that for you?

Kheng Hua: I think I just love to be creative in any way I feel like being creative.

Popspoken: How has the scene changed from then and now?
Kheng Hua: This answer will require enough pages to make a book. But I will say this – when I first started acting, we didn’t even have pagers. Enough said.

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Popspoken: Do you think there is a problem educationally or how we generally view The Arts in Singapore?

Kheng Hua: I think generally, The Arts all over the world has certain challenges, not just in Singapore. “The Arts” is a nebulous, abstract concept. And all nebulous, abstract concepts take extra time and effort to understand.

Popspoken: What is one hope you have for the performance arts scene in Singapore?

Kheng Hua: I hope for more of everything good for the performance art scene everywhere. Not just in Singapore.

Popspoken: What does it take for a local artist to make it internationally?

Kheng Hua: I believe in just doing the best you can in as much as you take on into your life, within reason and timing of course, rather than aiming to “make it internationally”. It is just important to be good as much of the time as possible and not just when you are abroad! That would mean home is relegated to a second cousin position, which is unfair.

Popspoken: Do you have any comments on the Amos Yee situation and if there is space for The Arts to facilitate the growing dissent?

Kheng Hua: I think it is more important to say, “There should be a space for dissent.”

Photographs courtesy of Tan Kheng Hua.

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