Turning Channel 5 comedy show The Noose into theatre is seriously tough, even for veteran comic actors Chua Enlai and Suhaimi Yusof.
They reprise their TV roles as pole-dancing Thai correspondent Pornsak Sukhumvit and reporter Jojo Joget in stage show The Noose & Kakis... 11 Months Of Fresh Air. It runs at The Theatre @ Mediacorp from March 31 to April 2.
Both actors are used to long breaks between shoots for The Noose. The stage version requires lightning-quick costume changes, so they can switch between the roles required for each skit poking fun at hot-button topics such as SMRT train breakdowns.
"On TV, you have ample time to change between shoots, but these Superman-quick behind-the-scenes changes are something else," says Suhaimi, 47.
"S**** the script, how am I going to change in 30 seconds? At the moment, that's the biggest challenge," says Chua, despite his years of theatrical experience.
A staple on Channel 5 since it first aired in 2007, The Noose has won hearts and eyeballs for topical sketches parodying taxi drivers or gamblers at the integrated resorts.
BOOK IT / THE NOOSE & KAKIS... 11 MONTHS OF FRESH AIR!
WHERE: 1 Stars Avenue, The Theatre @ Mediacorp
WHEN: March 31 and April 1 at 8pm; April 2 at 2 and 8pm
ADMISSION: $65 to $135 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
It scored an International Emmy Award nomination in 2011 and, two years later, Chua's alter ego Pornsak won him a Best Comedy Performance award at the 18th Asian Television Awards.
The actor is also seen in major theatrical productions here, such as Wild Rice's pantomime Monkey Goes West in 2014. Yet, he says, the stage adaptation of The Noose is a completely different challenge.
First, comedy is hard to pull off and impossible if the audience does not go along with the jokes.
"The thing about TV is you're performing for the camera, which has no reaction at all. What's going to be interesting is doing this in front of an audience. Hopefully, they don't walk away after 30 minutes," he says. "It's quite challenging and I'm really scared."
The Noose's executive producer and head writer Prem Anand, 43, says the stage production was a natural next step. The Noose actors often host private events in character and did a well-received live set at nightclub Tab a few years ago.
"People appreciate that we try to be funny without being malicious. It's just people laughing at issues everyone is talking about," he says.
He adds that Mediacorp may expand into a comedy festival in the future. For starters, The Noose & Kakis will alternate comic sketches on topics such as train breakdowns, Uber and the haze with stand-up comedy from performers such as Kumar, Fakkah Fuzz and Rishi Budhrani from Singapore, as well as Harith Iskander, Rizal Van Geyzel and Kavin Jay from Malaysia.
The theatrical adaptation of The Noose will also feature Alaric Tay in his role as skunk-haired reporter Andre Chichak and Judee Tan as North Korean correspondent Kim Bong Cha. Michelle Chong, who plays domestic helper Leticia Bongnino, among other characters, is busy with a movie and is not in the show.
Tan, 35, is also co-writer and director on the stage version of The Noose skits.
"Live TV is much easier than theatre," she says. "In TV, you have post-production and you can do all sorts of magic with it. In theatre, you do this manually. You keep rehearsing over and over, you edit your production until it's ready to go."
Or as Suhaimi puts it: "For TV or radio, you make some mistakes here and there, the audience may hardly notice, but for theatre, it could be quite strange. Like you're on a spaceship and one tiny, 2cm deviation off course can send you to a different planet."
Tan was assistant director on theatre troupe Toy Factory Productions' Mandarin musical Glass Anatomy in 2013. She also has plenty of experience with quick- change stage comedy, thanks to her regular stints with long-running parody revue Chestnuts, the brainchild of director Jonathan Lim.
Two years before Tan appeared on The Noose in 2011, she was nominated in the annual The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards in the best supporting actress category, for her performance in Chestnuts Does Christmas Like A Hard Candy Virgin. She lost, however, to Neo Swee Lin in Nadirah.
Tan says the regular characters on The Noose give it a different feel from Chestnuts, in which each show is anchored around the big-name film or musical of that year.
She hopes to have her own production company one day.
"I really love theatre. I want to introduce theatre to a wider audience. People know about The Noose because it's on TV. Now, maybe because of The Noose, they'll be interested in theatre," she says.