Actress Pearlly Chua approaches a historic milestone in her illustrious career by returning to play Emily, the quintessential nyonya in Emily Of Emerald Hill. Her upcoming performances at The Play Haus in Kuala Lumpur will see her hitting the “Emily 200” mark on Oct 15. Yes, she will appear on stage as Emily, in all her ages and phases, for the 200th time.
“Revisiting the script is always exciting as there is still so much to explore. It is the entire story of a person’s life outlining relationships that give one’s life meaning and purpose,” says Chua.
The best news is that Chua, in her 60s, isn’t even half exhausted yet, and she might want to take that performance figure further. Here, she shares her thoughts on her wonderful alter-ego in a recent interview.
Do you remember your first time playing Emily? When and where was it?
I remember it clearly like it was yesterday. My debut was in Singapore in 1990 at the DBS Auditorium in Shenton Way.
You have played this role so many times. How do you add spirituality and soul to the character each time?
I do it by reckoning of deeds, misdeeds and facing the truth. With this reckoning a decision to change must happen. You can say that the person in me has first to experience this emotional and mental state before the actor in me knows how to employ it.
As a tribute, do you still wear your mother’s kebaya and jewellery in your performances as Emily?
I still wear my mother’s jewellery and kain lepas (sarong). My mother’s kebaya tops are not the right colour for the stage, according to (director Chin) San Sooi. So I’d wear them only for special social events.
Did you feel you needed to reach this 200th milestone performance as Emily?
We are constantly invited to reprise the show. It is a privilege. Nyonyas say, “Intan bukan hanya tengok sekali saja” (why look at a diamond only once?). Why, then, hide a thing of splendour?
Finally, is Emily a gift to your career or a curse?
A gift that keeps on giving? Why not? If it helps. My ability to act is a gift from God. Playing the role of Emily is cathartic. And I have been told by many in the audience that the play has touched them in more ways than one. Over the years, many have said that they have seen it more than twice; some thrice. Could it also be cathartic for them as well?
Emily Of Emerald Hill will be playing at The Play Haus (Lot 2-01, Pearl Shopping Gallery, Jalan Klang Lama) in Kuala Lumpur from Oct 5-8, and Oct 13-15. Tickets are RM60 and RM120 (concessions are available). Call 012-234 5449 or 018-3735 288 for tickets and further details. More on Facebook at facebook.com/ThePlayHausMalaysia.