Old people think and talk about sex too, the rambunctious cast of Pioneer (Girls) Generation declare at an interview for the upcoming production by The Necessary Stage.
The quartet of Catherine Sng, Padma Sagaram, Irene Ong and Thomas Lim will barely let you or one another get a word in, so infectious and rapid-fire is their banter.
It is hard to differentiate cast from character as the personalities they play are sassy, straight-talking silver generation folks who opt to retire in an upscale retirement village where they meet and even romance peers their age.
"Your sex drive just goes down when you're old, it doesn't disappear completely," says Sng, who plays Paula, a retired singer estranged from her daughter.
Sagaram chimes in: "The Government keeps telling us to work, work, work, so why can't we work in the bedroom?"
Both 64 (Ong and Lim are 61), they are on the cusp of becoming pioneers, the select stable of 65-and-above seniors recognised by the Government for their contributions to the country and given perks such as subsidies for outpatient care.
The buzzword is referenced, albeit tongue-in-cheek, in the play's title. It also riffs on the name of a heavyweight K-pop girl group - a nod to the dance routines that will feature in the production.
Playwright Haresh Sharma, who describes his work as "a comedy with some serious moments", explains: "We talked about doing something that would involve our Theatre For Seniors programme and I wanted to create something more light-hearted than our usual works. At the time, there was talk about the Pioneer Package, so that's how the title came about."
Director Alvin Tan, who sums up the play as "how to make active ageing sexy", says: "It's not like, oh, seniors, you think of Alzheimer's and arthritis. Our new brand of seniors are open, raunchy, to the point that they make the younger ones blush when they talk."
Jokes aside, the play homes in on topical issues close to the hearts of many in a greying Singapore, such as foreigners, the cost of ageing and the alienation and loneliness seniors face in a society hurtling along at breakneck speed.
Trouble brews in paradise when the retirement village decides to jack up its rent, which has the seniors up in arms.
The plot was borne out of discussions that Sharma held with his actors from last November, allowing them to shape the characters and story - a technique often used in the company's productions.
Sng is a professional actress who has appeared on both stage and television, while Ong, Lim and Sagaram are part of Theatre For Seniors, which gives drama training and exposure to seniors aged 55 and above.
The Necessary Stage has worked with members of this programme before on productions such as neighbourhood drama October (2012).
This collaboration has paid dividends for Pioneer (Girls) Generation as the senior cast were able to imbue the narrative with their maturity and life experience, says director Tan.
"I hope that when the audiences see this play, they think about what happens when they themselves grow old in Singapore," he adds.
Lim, who stars as divorcee Bob in the show, says: "I was a grassroots leader for more than 30 years and helped set up an eldercare centre. I saw the problems seniors have. Their children go to work and they have nothing to do. If they have maids, they face problems communicating."
One of the two younger cast members, Dwayne Lau, 33, who plays multiple characters such as a Filipino estate manager and a Korean dance instructor in the show, says: "The part that hits me the most is when the older folks start talking about loneliness and how their families leave them.
"I want to make sure I never leave my parents in that situation."
PIONEER (GIRLS) GENERATION
Where: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore
When: All shows sold out except 8pm on March 29
Admission: $27 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
This article was first published on Mar 17, 2015.
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