Narelle Kheng speaks stage work and turning into a vampire

As the bassist of The Sam Willows, Narelle Kheng is familiar with the stage. But this Halloween season, she’ll be doing something completely different on stage.

In fact, she’ll become a completely different person.

Narelle will be acting as Lucy Westenra in the stage show Dracula “Blood is Life” from 26 October to 13 November. The character is the best friend of the female lead and also the unfortunate victim of Count Dracula.

Acting is not new for Narelle. She was the female lead in various local telemovies and even in a soon-to-be-released Bollywood romantic comedy.

We caught up with Narelle as she rehearses her role with the cast of Dracula “Blood is Life” in the U.K.

Narelle during rehearsals for Dracula “Blood is Life”.

You did theatre studies and drama for your A-Levels. Have these classes been useful for your role?

Oh extremely. It’s been a long time since I’ve even stepped on a stage but somewhere deep inside, my mind and body still vaguely remembers the rigour and technicality that the theatre demands.

We studied the technical and literary aspects of theatre which really helped make sense of the whole process so I’m not in deep uncharted territory. But it’s still nevertheless a challenge.

(Right) Narelle Kheng as Lucy in Dracula.
(Right) Narelle Kheng as Lucy in Dracula.

Do you have an actor or actress that you aspire to be?

Not necessarily a single actor or actress. I just love noticing how different actors pull off different characters. I look at them and think about it helps me approach different characters.

But I do like Benedict Cumberbatch and Leonardo DiCaprio. I think it’s because they’re good and I’m completely in love with them.

Mina and Lucy.
Mina and Lucy.

Tell us about your preparation for this role on stage.

It’s a very steep learning curve for me but I love being challenged and also getting back the nuances and physical confidence that I’ve lost since leaving school.

So far I’ve been savouring and enjoying each step. It’s lovely and heartening to have a cast and crew of people that are good, true, and also a whole bunch of fun.

Between on screen and on stage, which is your preferred medium? Why?

I still prefer screen because I really love film and actually studied it in school. Both are completely different and have their own merits but film is definitely closer to my heart and more of my kind of medium.

Growing up, what is your history with Dracula? Where or when did you first sink your teeth into the story of Dracula?

Dracula is such a household horror, but prior to this play I’ve never read the story or had the tiniest clue what the story was about. The only encounter I’ve ever had was probably the very “frightful” Count Dracula from Sesame Street.

How did you end up playing Lucy in Dracula “Blood is Life”?

I auditioned for it in Singapore. I guess the producer and director thought I wasn’t absolutely horrible. Ha ha. But I’m really excited and grateful to be able to do something like this.

Lucy being possessed by Dracula.
Lucy being possessed by Dracula.

There are two sides to Lucy: the human Lucy and the vampire Lucy. Which side do you see more of yourself in?

The human side. She’s definitely an interesting and multi-faceted character who has been brought up pampered and has been taught a certain set of rules that she needs to abide by.

But she is curious, smart and defiant enough to delve into things that were considered “heresy” so there’s actually a lot going on in her head.

The character Lucy slowly turns into a vampire.
The character Lucy slowly turns into a vampire.

Tell us your ‘secret techniques’ in preparing to play Lucy convincingly.

Honestly, there’s no secret technique or magic trick that will make you a good actress. You just have to do lots and lots of homework and research. It’s about understanding a character so strongly that you really know the person like yourself.

The rest are shocked when they find that Lucy has risen from the graves.
The rest are shocked when they find that Lucy has risen from the graves.

Since we’re in the Halloween month, did anything spooky happen when the team was preparing for the show?

Thankfully not! I’m genuinely, ridiculously afraid of ghosts and the supernatural. I like fun scares and spooky things that intrigue me but I would rather never encounter anything supernatural.

Lucy being laid to rest.
Lucy being laid to rest.

In less than 20 words, tell us why we should come see Dracula “Blood is Life”.

Strong actors, truthful storytelling, a multi-layered show that will keep you constantly attentive and on the edge of your seat.

Dracula Blood is Life Narelle Kheng at rehearsals

Catch Narelle in the horror stage show Dracula: Blood is Life at Resorts World Theatre from 26 October to 13 November. Tickets start from $36. Get them at SISTIC.

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