This year, Teater Kami celebrates their 30th Anniversary, and starts off their season with a restaging of Noor Effendy Ibrahim’s 1992 play Anak Melayu. Now directed by Adib Kosnan, the play about the rollercoaster lives Malay teenagers lead growing up in Singapore is set to hit hard with its truths, played by a diverse new cast of performers. Of these is performer Masturah Oli, who we last saw in Bitten: Return to Our Roots last year. Read our interview with her in full below:
Bakchormeeboy: Tell us about the character you play and how much you relate to the role?
Masturah: I play the character Shalawati. Her character possesses a lot of strength in being who she is with no care of the world. She thoroughly enjoys people looking at her. She is sure of herself but she hides her struggles within her exterior. Many people can relate to this. I specifically relate to that because I’m what people will call a confident person. I am strong-willed, i speak my mind, and of course, I love to perform. But all that comes with its set of insecurities. You scrutinise every part of yourself and find ways to fit in some sort of mould you think is the ‘perfect’ you. I’m guilty of that. Sometimes I get so upset with myself when I get these ideas to strive for the ‘perfect look’, it’s so ridiculous! But Wati doesn’t get upset. She yearns for it by seeking validation from people around her.
Bakchormeeboy: How have you been preparing for your role? What do you feel has been the biggest challenge of this role?
Masturah: The rehearsal process has been really great. Learning and understanding each others character and how they all affect each other helps the most. For Wati, she’s a hard character to swallow. She’s outright and obvious with her intentions to flirt and get what she wants. I think trying to be genuine in these actions are tough. The character knows what she’s doing is obvious and disturbing but it’s her norm. The actor also understands this but it was a struggle getting to the level of comfort Wati has as a person. At the end of the day, we all want to do justice to our characters, and give them a voice!
Bakchormeeboy: The cast of Anak Melayu features a good mix of actors, and is highly reliant on ensemble work. Tell us a bit about the rehearsal process has been, particularly in terms of building chemistry with your castmates.
Masturah: It was important for us to find out each others take on the script and what it talked about. Not all of us were Malay – which added great perspective to our conversations. Having a diverse group of backgrounds and races gave us so much insight to the issues and problems we wanted to address in Anak Melayu. All of us have experienced some sort of prejudice with regards to being put down because of the way we look, the language we speak etc. We got a chance to listen and sometimes question personal stories everyone shared in the group about their own Anak Melayu stories. The space given to share and explore was so generous! Teater Kami created a safe and encouraging space.
Bakchormeeboy: Why is Anak Melayu a must watch, and what do you hope audience members walk away with after watching this performance?
Masturah: Especially if you belong in the “Anak Melayu” community. Note, I’m not saying if you are a Malay person. I am very lucky to be part of this story despite not being Malay. Because I speak the language, I grew up with characters inAnak Melayu all around me. The play was staged in 1992. It is still so relevant now. Talking about it is step one but I feel that we have only talked about it; most of time by the form of idle gossip between family and friends, and we have done nothing else. We have moulded these youths to think they are not worth very much, so who cares if they are right or wrong. The feeling of hopelessness and helplessness becomes so heavy. i want the audience to acknowledge this. To understand what our neglect does to the young.
Anak Melayu plays from 27th February to 2nd March 2019 at the Malay Heritage Centre. Tickets available here