This may be Peranakan actor G.T. Lye's swansong

Kain Chik Dua Mungka: Double Faced stars (from far left) Lee Yong Ming, G.T. Lye, Frederick Soh and Christina Wee
Kain Chik Dua Mungka: Double Faced stars (from far left) Lee Yong Ming, G.T. Lye, Frederick Soh and Christina WeePHOTO: ERWIN TAN

Actor loves to make people smile, but finds it difficult to summon the stamina to put on more shows

Veteran female impersonator G.T. Lye, 79, will once again play the demanding matriarch in a new show titled Kain Chik Dua Mungka: Double Faced. But this performance might just be his last.

The veteran actor tells the media after a short preview of the upcoming Wayang Peranakan play: "I'll be very honest with you. I am unwell...(if) anything happens to me, there won't be another matriarch like me. This may be my swansong."

While he has no major ailments, Lye finds it difficult to summon the stamina to put on more shows.

Yet his passion for Peranakan culture has kept him going for 33 years, since he first performed - initially as a man - in 1984.

He says: "You won't be able to see the genuine Nonyas of old. The way they walk, the way they talk... it's all gone. When they sit down, they throw their dresses up and make sure their two feet are together, and their gestures and the way they deliver the language; it's all gone.

"But then people love (to watch) it and you can only be happy when you see other people smiling.

"When you make people smile, inside you is a bigger smile. That's why I continue doing this," he adds.

  • VIEW IT / KAIN CHIK DUA MUNGKA: DOUBLE FACED

    WHERE: The Drama Centre Theatre, Level 3 National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Aug 25, 8pm, and Aug 26, 2 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $48, $58 and $68 (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: www.sistic.com.sg/events/cmungka0817

This will be Lye's return to the Gunong Sayang stage after a 12-year hiatus. He was also consulted on the play's dialogue and language.

The work delves into the relationships in a Peranakan family. Matriarch Bibik Bisu (Lye) bears grudges against daughter-in-law Poh Geok (Cynthia Lee) as she was ill-treated under the latter's care. Bibik Bisu then instigates her son, Chong Guan (Frederick Soh, who also wrote the play), to get a second wife, Betty (Christina Wee), since Poh Geok cannot have children. Betty soon bears the long-awaited descendant and drama ensues.

The play will be performed in Peranakan patois with English surtitles.

Playwright Soh says: "It will be very nostalgic for audiences to see Lye on stage again and this is like a sequel to a show (Gunong Sayang Association put on) in 1986.

"I think, for the younger people there is a lot of interest in the language. When you go to Wayang Peranakan, you actually go back in time. You feel nostalgic because of how they speak and dress. So it helps you to understand the culture better."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran artist G.T. Lye's swansong?'. Print Edition | Subscribe