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Gaurav Kripalani: Theatre, SRT and The Little Company

In his 19-year tenure at the Singapore Repertory Theatre, GAURAV KRIPALANI has overseen 135 productions.

In his 19-year tenure at the Singapore Repertory Theatre, GAURAV KRIPALANI has overseen 135 productions. Suhana Ab chats to him about life in the limelight
Gaurav Kripalani has just gotten back from the Edinburgh International Film Festival in the UK, but there’s no time for a breather. At the time of this interview, the artistic director of the Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) is busy overseeing Dr Seuss’s Cat in the Hat (a reproduction of the popular play by the UK’s National Theatre) and has just opened SRT’s production of Hello Goodbye. This is all but in a day’s work for the director. He has been living and breathing theatre since he was eight.
“I acted in every secondary school play and then went off do an acting degree at Santa Clara University in California. When I moved back to Singapore 19 years ago, I was offered a job at SRT as the general manager. I thought I would try it for six months and see what happens…” he says with a laugh.
Kripalani, who became artistic director in 2001, has among numerous achievements secured SRT the role of associate producer on Broadway for David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child (1998). Three Little Pigs, a play commissioned by the group, debuted on the West End in London. It has since been performed around the world and is slated to have 1,500 shows in China alone.
At home, SRT recently produced the highly acclaimed The LKY Musical, which ran from July to August. At the recommendation of the theatre’s Associate Artistic Director Dick Lee, Metropolitan Productions hired SRT to produce the musical.
Kripalani recalls: “Oddly, the more people advised me against taking on the project, the more I wanted to prove it could be done. Music allows you to convey emotions without words, which was exactly what was needed to tell the tumultuous story leading up to Singapore’s independence.” More than 50,000 people caught the highly successful show.
Apart from producing these shows, Kripalani also found the time to to start The Little Company, SRT’s theatre arm for children, 13 years ago.
“We bring in the best designers and directors from around the world to create our children’s shows and put the same resources into them as our mainstream ones,” he shares.
To end this year with a bang, Kripalani is helming The Little Company’s musical Treasure Island. He’s equally excited about staging Battlefield: “One of the most seminal works of the 20th century was legendary director Peter Brook’s production of The Mahabharata. It had a huge impact on me. I’m delighted that SRT has co-commissioned his latest play Battlefield, which is based on the last chapter of the Indian epic.”
The theatre scene in Singapore…has grown and matured by leaps and bounds over the past 20 years. The audience is spoilt for choice now.
Stage fright…makes for a better performance! If an actor isn’t nervous before going on stage, I think something’s wrong.
The saying “break a leg”…originated because actors who stand with their legs locked are too tense and can’t get into character. They were told to “break a leg” so that they would be more natural and less stiff.
My favourite stage performance ever is…[it’s] too hard to pick just one!
The first time I was on stage…was during our Shakespeare in the Park production of Hamlet in 1997. I played Rosencrantz (or was it Guildenstern?). That same year, I was in our musical, Sing to the Dawn, which opened the Singapore Arts Festival. I had the only non-singing role in the show.
Battlefield will run in November 17-21, 2015