On the Couch with Shan-Ree Tan

Shan-Ree-Tan-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Shan-Ree Tan?
I’m an actor from Sydney, which still sounds odd to me – until a few years ago I could only say I was a lawyer from Sydney and nobody was asking me for interviews. My parents are Hokkien Chinese from Malaysia – I grew up in and have lived mostly in Sydney but have spent a few years here and there in Kuala Lumpur and New York.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
A lot of the same things, just much more diligently. If there’s anything I’m consistently embarrassed by, it’s constantly failing my own progress checks. I almost certainly have too many pursuits.

Who inspires you and why?
At the moment, our director Courtney Stewart, whose apparently boundless reserves of creative energy, stamina and hilarity while directing our beast of a show and running the whole of La Boite Theatre are frankly kind of terrifying. That goes for everyone in the cast and creative team on this show actually – I feel very fortunate to work with so many people at the top of their game. It’s terrifically inspiring to see people who’ve staked their lives at mastering their craft just doing their thing.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Build beautiful and beneficial things. People keep burning them.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I’m notorious for taking off to Japan given half an excuse – it became a habit years and years ago when I started making trips over with friends for the snow. I just find it endlessly interesting and am always trying to find more parts of the country to explore. I’m currently learning Japanese as well so that’s both helped – and also given me another good excuse to “get some immersion practice”.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
I live in Sydney, so recently we’ve had some success with the rooftop at the Hotel Palisade in Miller’s Point for drinks at sunset over the harbour. And after that, I usually challenge them to eat their way through Haymarket.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve got a few books on the nightstand at the moment. I’ve just finished The Diggers from China by Jean Gittins as research for the show, and I’m a chunk of the way through The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the First World War 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman, which is fascinating. And I’ve just started Agency by William Gibson, who’s been one of my favourite authors since high school.

What are you currently listening to?
At home – whatever comes through on my partner Charlotte’s Spotify playlists, which at the moment tend to start with Khruangbin, Stromae or Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. Recent manual counterprogramming includes the Black Pumas, Electric Six, Vangelis, any 70s soul, any number of film soundtracks, and – whenever in doubt – Bowie or Queen. For karaoke: strictly 80s bangers.

Happiness is?
Increasingly expensive, apparently. But I usually find some in focusing on a challenging creative task, games with friends, travelling, or Sunday morning pancakes.

What does the future hold for you?
As a wise puppet once said, difficult to see – always in motion is the future. I’m very “second star to the right, and straight on till morning” at the moment.

Shan-Ree Tan stars in the world premiere of The Poison of Polygamy by Anchuli Felicia King at Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre: 8 – 27 May; before playing Sydney Theatre Company: 8 June – 15 July 2023.

Image: Shan-Ree Tan (supplied)