Cooking up romance on stage

Shane Mardjuki and Denise Tan (both above) during a rehearsal of Hello Goodbye.
Shane Mardjuki and Denise Tan (both above) during a rehearsal of Hello Goodbye. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Denise Tan and Shane Mardjuki star as opposites in romantic- comedy play Hello Goodbye, but end up falling in love

You would think that for someone who can whip up risottos, quesadillas and stir-fry dishes, cracking an egg with one hand would be a walk in the park.

But that was surprisingly the opposite for theatre actress Denise Tan, who will be cooking on stage for the first time in the new romantic-comedy play Hello Goodbye.

Speaking to Life before an evening rehearsal, the 39-year-old says her homework was to master a one-handed egg crack "with expert flourish" - something she did with limited success even after using more than a dozen eggs.

"I would say that on my first try, I had a 25 per cent success rate," reveals the actress, who plays the outspoken and fiery female lead Juliet, who has a passion for cooking.

Describing herself as a "middling home cook" with "no fancy training or show-off techniques", Tan, who is one third of the Dim Sum Dollies, says she had a far easier time learning to flip eggs in a frying pan - another skill she has to ace on stage.


    WHERE: DBS Arts Centre

    WHEN: Tomorrow to Sept 26, 8pm

    ADMISSION: Tomorrow and Friday previews, $40,$30 and $15 (SRT Youth); Tuesday to Thursday, $50, $40 and $15 (SRT Youth); Saturday and public holiday (Sept 24), $60,$50 and $15 (SRT Youth) from Sistic (call 6348-5555or go to

She says with a laugh: "I'm really good at the egg flip. I spent all night watching YouTube videos and the trick is to start off with flipping toast, which I did. I can now flip one two eggs at the same time, but I still cannot crack them."

She stars alongside actor Shane Mardjuki in the play, which opens tomorrow. Mardjuki, 36, plays Alex, an avid collector of memorabilia who is introverted and quirky.

It is the second time they are working together on stage. They starred in Pangdemonium's The Rise & Fall Of Little Voice last year.

In Hello Goodbye, Juliet and Alex move into an apartment thinking that they each have the place to themselves. Hijinks ensue when neither refuses to move out. It is a case of opposites attract when they find themselves falling in love.

Presented by The Singapore Repertory Theatre, the play is directed by Lisa Spirling, who is based in the United Kingdom. She has more than 17 solo directing credits under her belt such as Boeing Boeing, Beowulf and The Vagina Monologues. Hello Goodbye marks the first play she is directing in Singapore.

While Spirling, 36, says Hello Goodbye is very much a light-hearted romantic comedy, she stresses that it is far from a predictable one.

The play "goes somewhere a little bit darker" in the second half, set 10 years later, and looks at what happens after "happily ever after".

"It's really easy to be in a relationship early on when it's crazy, romantic and fun. But then what happens when life gets in the way; money, work, property, children and everything else?" says Spirling, who is married to a theatre director. They do not have children.

Mardjuki adds: "The show does not just pick up on the fun and sexy bits. It explores what a couple need to do to make stuff work and what is worth fighting for."

Both actors say they are able to relate to the mistakes each of their characters make in the play, thanks to their personal experiences.

Mardjuki says: "Like Alex, a lot of men make the mistake of being too comfortable and not putting in the scheduled maintenance work that relationships need. As a man, I am guilty of many of these acts."

The Fly Entertainment artiste is married to teacher Jin Pang, 33, and the couple have a 15-month-old daughter, Ellie.

Tan, who is single, says she is all too familiar with the passive- aggressive behaviour women tend to exhibit while dating.

She says: "You want them to know (your thoughts), so it really frustrates you when they don't. But it's kind of your fault because you don't exactly articulate it, yet you wish they know you so well that you wouldn't have to say it to get things done."

Both actors believe that the audience will be able to identify with the multi-layered characters of Alex and Juliet in Hello Goodbye, who are far from "cardboard stereotypes".

Tan says: "I think anyone who has been in a relationship is going to be able to go 'oh, yes!' when they watch the show. Whether with Alex, Juliet or the both of them, certain situations are definitely going to pop out because they are universal."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2015, with the headline 'Cooking up romance on stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe