Preview+Interview: Best Of (His Story) by The Necessary Stage
The Necessary Stage rounds off their 2016 season with a sequel to their 2013 piece Best Of, which starred Siti K. Titled Best Of (His Story), the performance is once again written by Haresh Sharma and directed by Alvin Tan, and stars TV and theatre’s Sani Hussin, playing the role of Siti K’s husband, now taking to the stage to tell his side of the story.
We managed to get some words in with Sani himself, so here’s our interview in full with the star of The Necessary Stage’s Best Of (His) Story:
BCM: Was it difficult to compress so much script into a performance lasting just under an hour? How did you prepare for the role, and were there many discussions with Alvin and Haresh on this?
Sani: There were many discussions with Alvin and Haresh because they have certain standards of what they want and I also have my own methods. Sometimes these can clash but the three of us will discuss until we come up with a solution that we all agree on. Haresh would talk about the character of this play—Who is he? Where does he come from? Alvin would add on about why the character speak in a certain way and I’ll try out some stuff, doing this and that. We then all negotiate until we agree on what is best. We also experimented together in the early phases of our rehearsal to explore how intense the character could be.
It is difficult to compress everything; after all it is a monologue. If you take it too slow, the audience will fall asleep. If you take it too fast, audience will “catch no ball” and will go, “Huh?” So there needs to be a nice timing to it.
To prepare for the monologue, I read many religious books on the topic of divorce. It helped me understand the laws and process of divorce in the context of Islam. I’ve also interviewed some of my friends who have been through divorce to get a better idea of what their journeys were like as they separated from their partners.
BCM: What is it like doing a monologue? Since it’s your first foray into this type of theatre, how is it different from your previous experiences on stage?
Sani: It’s kind of fun as you are alone on stage and you have all the attention. This is the time you can really show off your acting ability. At the same time, it can be very stressful process because ALL EYES ARE ON YOU and they are expecting you to do some magic to the script.
This is not my first time I’m doing a monologue; I’ve actually done five solo performances prior to Best Of (His Story)! However, this is the first time in a long time since I did a monologue in English. It is easier to keep in touch with your emotions when it is a familiar language—Malay is my first language and the vernacular I’m more comfortable with. Somehow, in Malay, the emotions click faster for me. In comparison, in English, I have to take note of the small details such as grammar and sentence structures. Therefore, I need to get these technicalities right on top of the emotions.
BCM: How do you overcome the loneliness on stage?
Sani: I include the audience as part of the play as I tell the story to them, not just acting out the story but sharing the story of the husband with them. I don’t leave the audience behind; they are essentially part of the play.
BCM: Was it difficult to get into character? How do you relate to the storyline?
Sani: It was initially difficult to get into character because I was very intense and I took many things in the script literally. When I first approached the script, I imagined that the character was simply letting off his steam and thus, he was a very scary man. However, as I understood the character more, I experienced a transition. I played a character who was calmer who was simply sharing his past. So it was quite interesting for me to change from that old intense guy to the new calm guy; that change of perspective was refreshing. I also realised that I had to be very relaxed to perform.
I am always quite sad to hear that my relatives or friends are going through divorce, so I try to step in their shoes to find out why their marriages actually end in divorce. Sometimes, I try really hard to put myself into their shoes to understand why divorce is even an option. Before this play, I thought that couples could work through their problems, but really, we’re not in their positions. So, as a friend or a relative, we need to let go of our judgements and perhaps accept that divorce may be the only way for them.
BCM: Why do you think Singaporeans should watch this? And who should?
Sani: There’s always two sides to everything. You may have heard one side previously—that of the wife. So now, come and listen to the husband’s perspective.
Who should watch this? I welcome all Singaporeans and foreigners to come!
And some words from Haresh & Alvin…
BCM: So now you guys have done the best of both His Story and Her Story. Are you guys planning to somehow combine these 2 plays into one, perhaps with a happier ending?
Haresh & Alvin: We are definitely considering re-staging both plays as a double-bill in the near future. Whatever happens ultimately will depend on some factors which cannot be revealed at this moment in time, so please watch this space!
Best of (His Story) plays at The Necessary Stage Black Box from 2-13 November. Tickets available from SISTIC