Off Stage

Wife is actor's greatest critic

Real-life teacher Rupert Glascow (above) will play a teacher in The Stage Club's production of The History Boys.
Real-life teacher Rupert Glascow (above) will play a teacher in The Stage Club's production of The History Boys.PHOTO: PAK-JUAN KOE

Actor Rupert Glascow, 56, stars in The History Boys, a 2004 Tony Award-winning play by British playwright Alan Bennett. Playing next week, the production by The Stage Club follows a group of history students who prepare for their examinations under the tutelage of their three teachers, who have different teaching styles.

Glascow, who is from South London, plays teacher Hector. A full-time teacher by day, he is married with three children and has lived in Singapore for more than 20 years.

Do you remember your first performance?

 I first performed at around the age of 17 when I was at college in Britain. The role was the romantically shallow Mark Ingestre in the musical version of Sweeney Todd. I was terrified. My experience prior to this was backstage on lighting and sound, but my drama teacher persuaded me to try for the role.

It was a revelation to be part of a big cast and to be regarded as having an important part in the play. It was not a huge role, but proved to me the old adage: "There are no small parts, just small actors."

What motivates you to perform?

It is the sense of capturing - just for the briefest moment - an emotional connection with the audience. I love roles that have real pathos, roles that bring me to the verge of tears. If I can capture any of that, it is worthwhile.

How do you prepare yourself for a show? Do you have any pre-show rituals?

I don't have any superstitious rituals, but I do stick to patterns that work.

For example, I remember working on the play Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard, which requires two actors to toss coins from one side of the stage to the other. I couldn't catch well, so we rehearsed scenarios such as "What if the coin rolls off the stage?"

In the end, for the show itself, I left that part to fortune - rather ironic considering the idea Stoppard toys with in the play.

What do you do when you make a mistake?

I'd love to say I never make a mistake, but that would be absurd. The best strategy is to know the play and the character you are playing. The audience needs to believe what it sees. Remaining in character is essential.


  • WHERE: KC Arts Centre - Home of Singapore Repertory Theatre, 20 Merbau Road

    WHEN: May 4 to 7, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $37 to $42 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to


In my experience, the cast will somehow rescue you by coming in with a cue line from slightly later in the script, thus skipping the potential disaster.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you while you were on stage?

Years ago, I worked with The Stage Club on a performance of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

To this day, I recall Faustus' words as he is drawn into hell, simply because the actor performing the role had the fantastic ability to convey real horror at Faustus' predicament in "O lente, lente, currite noctis equi" (O, run slowly, slowly, horses of the night). There, in the dying moments of the play, is the desperate plea for more time that is so fundamentally human.

What is the harshest criticism you have received? How did you deal with it?

If one spends too much time wondering about critics, one would never choose to act in the first place.

My greatest critic is my wife. She is the one person I cannot fool. She knows me better than anyone else. If she tells me something is not right with a performance, I will do whatever I can to put it right.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Wife is actor's greatest critic'. Subscribe