Set up in 2010,
We spoke exclusively to the cast and the director of Late Company to understand their creative process and what they hope to express through the play.
1. Cyberbullying has been talked about in schools and school-based workshops. How do you think Pangdemonium adds to the current dialogue?
Tracie: Late Company looks at our collective responsibility and does not just lay blame at the bully’s door. It explores the culpability of the bully, the bully’s parents, the school’s involvement, the victim’s parents, and even the victim himself. Nothing is ever as simple as there were a bully and a victim, and our dialogue should include how we maintain our relationships with our children, how we guide them to make better choices in life, (and) how we engage with them personally – especially through tough teenage years when they probably need you the most and want you the least.
2. What constitutes your own understanding of cyberbullying and its effects?
Adrian: In some ways, cyberbullying can be more insidious and ultimately more poisonous than “conventional” bullying. It certainly is a particularly cowardly means of tormenting someone, because very often the perpetrator is able to hide behind a veil of anonymity, and this breeds a herd mentality, with more and more anonymous bullies joining the frenzy. The effects on the victim can be devastating, especially because in our digital age, so many people (especially youths) are relying on their representations of themselves online to derive validation and approbation. And this play – Late Company – shows us how accountable we all are for this scourge.
Janice: To me, cyberbullying would include trolling someone on their social media accounts, or using digital media platforms to propagate untruths about an individual or spread content that is hurtful to their reputation. You can argue that the effects of cyberbullying on a victim are worsened by the widespread nature of digital media, and the fact that you can’t contain the information once it is released online.
Xander: Personally, I think that cyberbullying in the modern age is something that has slowly crept up on our society and is very easily overlooked. With such a wide variety of forms that it takes, I think it is actually quite difficult to pinpoint one example that can perfectly encapsulates what cyberbullying is, because it can come in many forms and vary in terms of severity. But to me, in the simplest terms, cyberbullying is essentially bullying online, mainly focusing on the verbal aspect, which is what is often overlooked. I think people forget that a lot of what we do in our everyday lives revolves around the online world, so being able to “ignore it” is not as simple as it is made out to be. Furthermore, because it is online, it has a much further reach than any other forms of bullying before it.
3. The play deals with heavy and important topics of teenage suicide and bullying. How do you make sure that they are not trivialised through stereotypes and remain as close as possible to reality?
Tracie: In theatre, creating multi-layered characters is the basis of what we always try and do. Anyone has the ability to be a bully, so we are focusing on creating a character that is believable as a young teenager dealing with his culpability a year after the event rather than showing a stereotypical monosyllabic teenage bully. Same with the parents, we are looking at their life choices that made them become the people that we see on stage, their allegiances shift throughout the play as blame and guilt are dished out.
4. Xander, what are the challenges of being the antagonist in the play?
Xander: I think it is quite hard to empathise with a character you wouldn’t want to empathise with. It is hard to enter the mind of a character you know has done a lot of bad things, because you find yourself wondering why he would’ve done them in the first place, which is often a question that can never be answered. You can never really know why a killer kills, because morally, there would be no reason to. So for me, I find it quite challenging to have a motivation for an action that would have no logical reason in the first place (to me).
5. As a tragicomedy, how do you weave in the funny moments without affecting the overall tone of the story?
Tracie: The key is really to let the script do the work for itself, not to play the comedic moments but let them sit as naturally as possible. People use humour when they are uncomfortable to lighten a mood, and Jordan Tannahill has done this in a beautifully subtle way. When the humour does come out, it takes us by surprise and is not the intention of the characters; this helps the audience to have some relief from what could be a very tense evening.
Instead of merely pointing the finger at the bully, Pangdemonium’s Late Company forces its audience to take a good hard look at society and themselves. By exploring cyberbullying with nuance, the message can be a timely one.
Date: 22 February – 10 March
Venue: Victoria Theatre
Tickets start at S$30. To get seats before it is too late, visit https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/clate0219
Visuals courtesy of Pangdemonium