Profile: Nikki Muller

Published on 1 February 2016

Actress/host Nikki Muller takes on only one play a year — stealing the show while at it.

BY jo tan

Just four years ago, Nikki Muller had never worked on a professional play. “I’ve always loved theatre, but it’s so hard to break into it here — it’s a small tight-knit community of really good people who don’t have open auditions. Then one day, Beatrice [Chia] asked me to audition for High Class — I think I must have had this look of desperation. So I auditioned for the role of the tai tai Alexis Li and just went psycho with it because I had nothing to lose. I came in my Herve Leger rip-off and my granny’s jewels and pretended to be 45, Singaporean and rich. I’m like, ‘Let’s try it! How else is anyone going to notice me?’ ”

And notice her they did. While the lovely Swiss-Filipina continues her main profession as an award-nominated presenter with Mediacorp as well as FOX Sports, she also does one precious play a year. “I wish I could do more than one a year, but in Singapore, theatre feeds the spirit, not the pocket.” Each play has been a hit, earning her great reviews with critics praising her performances as “effortless” and “superbly thrilling”.

This month sees Muller in possibly her most challenging piece yet: she plays a ‘guinea pig’ who signs up for a pharmaceutical trial in Pangdemonium’s production of The Effect. “Two subjects in a drug trial are falling intensely in love, but are their emotions just an effect of the drugs? It’s such a current, relevant topic, and the script is beautiful but challenging. There are scenes that go on for 50 pages and you can’t drop the moment.

“Also, I’m portraying a character who is changing throughout the course of the play because of the drug. I thought, should I try taking drugs and then videotaping myself? But my mum said that’s a very bad idea,” she laughs.

It’s the kind of role that could make or break an actress and possibly overwhelming for one who will only be working on her fourth stage production. However, Muller is undaunted. “I’m thankful for the theatre opportunities I’ve had so far, even though I’m someone without theatre training in a pool of people who’ve studied it for years.

“I don’t know about talent, but perhaps people can see that I really want this. I really want to learn, to have fun, express myself, see life through other people’s perspectives, and tell important stories, and there’s no better way than to do that through theatre. And since I can only do one show annually, I want to make sure each play is a new challenge. It’s what scares you that takes you from the comfortable to the thrilling.”

The Effect opens on 25 February at the Victoria Theatre.

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