In this one-woman show, award-winning local actress Siti Khalijah takes us on a frank, funny and sometimes sad journey of being young, Malay and female in Singapore
First published on . Updated on 4 Mar 2013.
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Some invest in bonds, others property. For The Necessary Stage (TNS), they put their chips on local actress Siti Khalijah. Nine years ago, Khalijah was awarded a scholarship to TNS’ now-defunct Youth Ensemble programme – or what the unassuming, smiley actress calls ‘a one-year crash course in theatre studies’. They picked the right candidate. Almost a decade later, the 27 year-old has been in at least eight shows with TNS (not including several school-touring educational shows) and has either won or been nominated for Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress awards every single year for the past six years. Plus, she still absolutely adores TNS.
‘The sense of satisfaction you get from each show is indescribable, knowing how much you contributed,’ she says of TNS’ trademark modus operandi, where cast and creatives work together for nine months or more, discussing and improvising as a team to create a script and develop characters. ‘You feel welcomed, important, and grow each show. TNS feels like a close cousin’s place, a nice little family – though they’re damn far away [in Marine Parade],’ says the actress, who lives out in Jurong West.
Now Khalijah is getting a loyalty reward for her years of family membership. TNS is creating a one woman-show specially for her to star in: Best Of, part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2013. ‘I’m nowhere near deserving,’ says Khalijah. ‘[TNS artistic directors] Alvin [Tan] and Haresh [Sharma] are two of the people I respect most in the theatre industry. [For the role], Haresh had to interview me for hours!’
What’s emerged is a personal, honest play about race, religion and family in Singapore ‘told through the voice of a modern minah [a young wayward Malay girl] who supposes herself up-to-date,’ says Khalijah. ‘For example, I wasn’t thrilled about the 2012 Straits Times article about Malays forming the majority of Singapore’s drug addicts, which was accompanied by a picture of normal Malay boys in Hari Raya outfits.’ But whatever the potentially contentious issues discussed, one thing’s for sure: quite literally this time, the stellar Khalijah will own her role. Jo Tan