Veteran TV actress Apple Hong learns about marriage in stage debut

Actress Apple Hong, who tied the knot last month, stars in Mandarin play Sole Mate as a housewife with three kids.
Actress Apple Hong, who tied the knot last month, stars in Mandarin play Sole Mate as a housewife with three kids.PHOTO: THE ETCETERAS

Soon after it was announced that veteran television actress Apple Hong is playing a married woman in Mandarin play Sole Mate, she tied the knot in real life on Oct 10 with her long-time, low-profile Singaporean businessman boyfriend.

Talk about dedication to one's craft.

But her character Margaret's situation could not be more different from her own.

Hong, 39, says: "She worked for a while, got married, had three kids and is a housewife. As for me, I've always been working and got hitched only recently.

"She's totally not me and I had to observe former classmates who got married straight out of school for reference."

Sole Mate is inspired by the intricacies of married life and explores the desires and struggles of three women. It also stars singer Tay Sia Yeun as a woman pining for a child and singer-songwriter Lorraine Tan as a music teacher unlucky in love.

The play is written and directed by local theatre company The ETCeteras' Lim Hai Yen. Her works draw upon her life and she says via e-mail: "2017 marks my 20th wedding anniversary. My three kids are now teenagers and my husband's career is moving fast. I often ponder about husband-and-wife relationships, not only my own, but also those of my peers and soul mates.

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    WHEN: Dec 8, 8pm; Dec 9, 3 (with post-show talk at 5pm) and 8pm

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"As with most of my work, my initial impetus is not to seek answers, but to ask questions."

In Sole Mate, Margaret's husband finds fault with her for penny-pinching and for focusing on the family to the exclusion of the outside world.

While Hong's marriage is still in its "honeymoon period", she took away a valuable lesson from the play. "It's a reminder that marriage is about two people growing together. Marriage is not the end of a mission, it is the start. You have to work at it to learn about each other's worlds and friends."

The former Mediacorp actress has acted in TV series such as The Little Nyonya (2008) and Mrs P.I. (2010) and movies such as One More Chance (2005), a Jack Neo drama about ex-convicts.

But she had studied theatre at the Malaysian Institute of Art and says it was a "small regret" that she never had the chance to tread the boards professionally.

Making her stage debut after years acting for the screen had its challenges. "Your actions, body posture and even voice projection, they're very different.

"For example, on stage, you can be naturalistic in conveying laziness, yet the performance can't be too low-energy as you need power to project a lazy person to the audience. This is very different from TV and movies."

At the same time, her maiden foray has also been rewarding.

She says: "The market for Mandarin plays is not very big in Singapore, so people are doing it not for the money, but because of their passion for theatre and the arts. I really feel their sincerity and warmth in coming together to do something."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 07, 2017, with the headline 'Veteran TV actress learns about marriage in stage debut'. Print Edition | Subscribe