BAEY YAM KENG: I’M AN INTROVERT

SINGAPORE: He has earned the nickname “Selfie King” because of his penchant for taking photos of himself at various events, from community runs to official visits overseas, and he has also been active on social media, posting frequently on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

But Tampines GRC Member of Parliament (MP) Baey Yam Keng says he is actually an introvert, and doesn’t exactly lead an exciting life, unlike what his social media posts suggest.

“I think I give people the impression that I’m a very active, sociable person… doing a lot of things. But I’m actually quite an introvert. Really! It’s just that I’m active online so there are certain posts people remember and they form certain impressions about me,” said Mr Baey with a chuckle, ahead of a recent rehearsal for his upcoming play Like Me. I Like, which marks the first time he’s starring in a stage production.

Mr Baey revealed that there are quite a few similarities between him and the character he plays in Like Me. I Like, a Mandarin production staged by The ETCeteras, a theatre company he formed with his wife and a few friends back in 1996.

In the theatre production, Mr Baey plays the shy artistic director Wen Yao, who is in love with his feisty colleague Zi Fen (played by radio veteran Foong Wai See).

“Like Me. I Like is about two colleagues who have feelings for each other but do not dare to express it. The play centres on how our relationship develops,” said Mr Baey.

“My character has a very active social media life, takes a lot of pictures, selfies and things like that. But in real life, he is a very shy person, an introvert who is unable to express himself clearly. It shows how people have different personae online.”

However, unlike Wen Yao, whom he describes as a “quietly romantic” man, the father of three said he is not romantic at all. But his wife Lim Hai Yen, who is also the play’s writer and director, says otherwise.

MR ROMANTIC

Ms Lim revealed that her husband actually surprises her from time to time with flowers, though the flowers she receives are often ‘secondhand’ bouquets.

“He does give me flowers, but it’s flowers that people give him, like when he attends some ceremony! I’m used to that. Some bouquets are very nice, even nicer than those he bought!” said Ms Lim, smiling sweetly, adding that she feels her husband is actually quite the romantic.

“Every week, we try to spend a day together and every day we also find some time to talk. Sometimes he would ask me out for breakfast, or dinner. Even if it is at a hawker centre, it’s time spent together.

“I think the most romantic thing he has done so far is to keep me company in theatre. Theatre is my passion. To be able to do it together with him is a different feeling,” said Ms Lim, pointing out that it hasn’t been easy for Mr Baey to find time to attend rehearsals while juggling his other responsibilities as an MP.

“I think the good thing about him being in our play is that I also get to see a different side of him. As a father, an MP or a husband, he is a bit more serious. In theatre, I get to see a different side of him – one where he is more relaxed, more at play.”

PLEASE ‘CLOSE ONE EYE’

Apart from commemorating the 40th anniversary of Hwa Chong Junior College, Like Me. I Like, also aims to raise funds for the Tampines North CCC Community Development and Welfare Fund and Hwa Chong Junior College Alumni Students Bursary Fund.

Mr Baey, who met his wife while they were studying at Hwa Chong Junior College, said he found it “challenging” to star in a play for the first time, and that it is not exactly what he signed up for in the beginning.

He explained that when he accepted the role, Like Me. I Like was to be a slightly expanded version of a simple 20-minute production about office romance with two characters, but it had since grown to become a two-hour show with a cast of six. In spite of all this, Mr Baey decided to take the role anyway, as he wanted to do his part for charity and help out his former school.

“I’m usually behind the scenes as the producer. My wife is always the playwright and director. Hopefully people are more forgiving (of his acting) because it’s for charity and ‘close one eye’ (be more accepting of his flaws),” said Baey, flashing a boyish grin.

Would he consider starring in more productions in the future?

“This is just a one-off. I don’t think I have the talent to be an actor!”

Like Me. I Like also stars Y.E.S. 93.3FM radio deejay Kenneth Chung Kun Hua, educator Kyris Ang, as well as teacher Jenny Chua, and opens Dec 4 at the SOTA Studio Theatre.

– CNA/ha

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