Putting the Nation on Stage

Meet the Cast : Merlynn Tong

October 18, 2019

What do you look for in a role and what drew you to White Pearl?

I love roles that are complex, full and nuanced, and Felicia (the playwright) has given us such a gift with these amazing characters. I was drawn to White Pearl because it explores such mammoth themes and concepts but with so much playfulness, drive and intelligence. It truly is a unique piece of theatre that I feel so privileged to be a part of.

Tell me a little bit about your character – How did you prepare to get into the role?

My character is a Singaporean-Chinese woman named Sunny Lee, who speaks with a Singlish dude-bro accent. I nearly fell off my seat when I first read the script and realised that Felicia is not Singaporean. I was born and raised in Singapore and I could not believe how Felicia was able to capture such a specific spectrum of the Singaporean culture. She does that not only my character but with all of these amazing female characters who are from a plethora of Asian countries. When I think of Felicia, I think one of my lines in the show describes her perfectly: “Dude, this girl a f*cking genius.”

To prepare for the role I did quite a bit of research on start-up companies, the beauty industry and also a lot of imaginative work to capture my character of Sunny.

It is so rare to be in a show with so many Asian women and I am relishing it. Everyone brings not only a wealth of experience but also a depth of understanding of their specific cultures—which is crucial in the play to explore the nuances that the play demands we interrogate.

I’ll just say look out of the word, “B*tches” in the show. Shirong who plays the character Xiao is an absolute cracker and her interpretation of the word “b*tches” will forever be embedded in my mind.

 How do you think audiences will react to White Pearl?

I hope that it will shock and delight audiences—and perhaps even leave them with fantastic questions to mull over. The fun thing about the show is, depending on your cultural and linguistic background, everyone will receive a different show!

What is your relationship with Western Sydney?

I’m actually very new to Western Sydney but I am so in love with Parramatta. The food here is AMAZING (I’m talking Temasek and Destination Roll), the bubble tea game is STRONG and my favourite coffee place, Darcy St Project, is also a social enterprise and I’ve learnt so much from them! Also, Parramatta has a cool bar in a car park (Uncle Kurt’s)! How awesome is that!

What are you working on next?

My adaptation of Antigone is currently in rehearsals at Queensland Theatre, so I cannot wait to watch the production! I will also be touring a one-woman-show next year as well as playing the Monkey King (Sun Wu Kong) in Joe Lui’s Enlightenment. Exciting times ahead!

 

WHITE PEARL
24 Oct – 9 Nov