Bullied in school, veteran actor Lim Kay Siu now plays the unhappy outsider in a stage version of Lord Of The Flies, William Golding's classic novel about lost boys.
Since his birthday falls on Feb 29, he is also the official teenager in the show, presented by Sight Lines Productions with Blank Space Theatre.
Lord Of The Flies will be staged at the School of the Arts' Studio Theatre on March 25 and 26, as well as April 1 to 3.
Sixty in years and 15 in birthdays, the actor says the play reminds him of his boarding school days at Dean Close in Cheltenham, England.
He stood out as the only Chinese student. In rugby matches, oppo- nents would always target "the Chink" and his team-mates would blame any loss on "the f***ing Chink".
A perennial text on the O-level literature syllabus here, Lord Of The Flies was first published in 1954 and made into a movie in 1963 by Peter Brook, long before Japanese manga Battle Royale or teen novel The Hunger Games made savage fights among isolated youths a pop culture moneyspinner.
BOOK IT / LORD OF THE FLIES
WHERE: 1 Zubir Said Drive, School Of The Arts, Sota Studio Theatre
WHEN: March 25 and 26, 2.30 and 7.30pm; April 1, 7.30pm, April 2 and 3, 2.30 and 7.30pm
ADMISSION: $68 from lordoftheflies.peatix.com
This production uses a 1995 script by Nigel Williams, who worked with Golding to give the text voice.
The novel follows a group of pre-adolescent British schoolboys stranded on a desert island. As days go by without rescue, the tension and fear take their toll.
The boys gang up on one another and focus their hate on the overweight, asthmatic Piggy - or Pik Yee (Lim), in director Samantha Scott-Blackhall's version. Other changes include costumes inspired by the school uniforms worn by 12- to 14-year-olds in Singapore and a few nods to the wired youth of today.
Scott-Blackhall, 37, says: "Kids these days, if you put them on an island, compared to kids in the 1940s, would say 'What do I do without my phone?' Would they have any idea what to do? Would they be able to find water?"
Lord Of The Flies was the first show her Blank Space Theatre Company staged in 2007. It had to close early because a key actor had an accident.
When Sight Lines Production's Derrick Chew suggested this project to her, she leapt at the chance.
Ghafir Akbar plays Ralph, the first leader of the lost boys. Mark Richmond plays Ralph's rival, the tyrannical Jack, while Rizman Putra is Jack's sadistic sidekick Roger. Erwin Shah Ismail plays peacemaker Simon and the rest of the tribe includes Gavin Yap, Lian Sutton, Bright Ong, Yazid Jalil, Ian Loy and Crispian Chan.
The cast played football with 12-year-olds in preparation for their roles as boys on the verge of manhood, but easily reverting into childhood behaviours.
Even big, seemingly tough teens who swagger onto the playing field are surprisingly soft, says Scott- Blackhall. "One of their mothers said this, 'Someone will fall and he will start crying.'"
As Lim knows, bullies are actually not so tough after all. He was 13 when a bunch of older boys ganged up on him in the hall. Fearing for his life, he pushed at the leader.
Caught off-guard, the bully slipped and fell. The gang ran away.
"I was as terrified as all the other boys," he recalls. "But after that, everyone must have thought, 'Don't f*** with the Chink.'"