Director Faezah Zulkifli talks about FK Co-Lab’s debut cross cultural show ‘The Cardboard Kitchen Project’ to show at Camden Fringe Festival 2019

The features of households are significant, whether we’re consciously aware of this or not. The home, universally a sanctuary for family, friends and loved ones allows for us all to gather, communicate and recoup for the following day. Food is fuel, and therefore the kitchen plays a pivotal role in ensuring we’re equipped with the tools to stay well fed and energised. Exploring this, as well as the significance of cultural inheritance, recipes and cultural memory, Director Faezah Zulkifli brings FK Co-Lab’s The Cardboard Kitchen Project to the Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe Festival. Ahead of the production, Faezah tells us more about the show.

Hi Faezah, your show The Cardboard Kitchen Project will take part in this year’s Camden Fringe Festival at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre on the 19th and 20th August. How are you feeling ahead of the run?

It’s been overwhelming– but in a good way! There’s often a lot of pressure to get an entire show together by a certain deadline, but I like  to remind myself that a show doesn’t end after the curtains are drawn; it’s always developing, it’s always working towards something else. Whatever we stage at any point is where the show is supposed to be. Of course, logistically, that’s easier said than done. But so far the process has been going well and we’re really excited to bring in our kitchen set – made of cardboard, of course! I’m working on another show at the same time, so it’s been hard going from one rehearsal to another back and back, but even though it’s exhausting, it has been creatively stimulating and really inspiring to be in the same room with very talented people every week.
The show ‘explores cultural inheritance and what gets passed down through recipes and cultural memory.’ What inspired FK Co-Lab to explore this?
When Khai, our producer, first came up to me and told me she’d be really interested to work on a show around a kitchen, I had to rack my brains out a bit because I don’t really spend much time in the kitchen. But her prompt got me thinking about how the kitchen space is such a universal thing; no matter what cultural background you’re from, there is always some form of a cooking space. So we were interested in that idea of what exactly about these spaces makes it cultural, and how it is often the familial and the familiar that makes a space significant compared to others.
This will mark FK Co-Lab’s first cross-cultural production at the Camden Fringe. What are the company’s hopes for further cross-cultural projects?
We’re hoping to bring this show back to Singapore after our run in London. When we first started developing this show we were very interested in how the conversations we’ve created in Singapore will inform the show’s development in London, and vice versa. Outside of The Cardboard Kitchen Project, I definitely hope for more cross-cultural projects. We learn a lot from working in different cities, and that’s how you keep knowledge circulating, I think.
How have you approached directing the show?
I’m a collaborative director, so whenever I’m working on a show I always try to get everyone in the team to share their ideas and contribute feedback, whether you’re a creative, a producer, or backstage crew. We’re dealing with very human themes in The Cardboard Kitchen Project, so I always welcome feedback that comes from a personal place, and not just from an artist’s point of view. One time when we were rehearsing a pretty emotional scene, our production manager Lili commented that it was relatable, and there have been times like that where we would go from a discussion on a scene into related conversations about culture, family, ex-dates, that sort of thing. And usually when that happens, I let it happen, and use these conversations to drive the work creatively in an organic way. It’s nice that we have an all-female team, so every rehearsal feels like all-girl sleepover where we can share secrets, eat biscuits, and dance (we actually do that!)
What is FK Co-Lab’s mission statement?
Our mission statement is that “it’s not about ticking boxes; it’s about putting the work first”. When me and Khai formed FK Co-Lab we were sick of making work that we couldn’t connect with, just because we had to satisfy certain conditions or check boxes we didn’t care about. We wanted to make work that places importance on what the work we were making asks of us. So we often find ourselves, when making decisions, asking, “What does this do for the work?” That also means we prioritise ethical ways of working. We try as far as possible to find ways to pay our team, and when we fundraise for a project we always try to give something back to our donors and to the community. We’re also leading a Pay if You Can campaign to get industry coming in to pay for their tickets where possible in place of comps.
What can audiences expect from the show?
Audiences can expect a really relatable story around a space in our lives that we don’t often think about. You don’t have to know how to cook to come see this show! Oh, and did I mention we have an actual cardboard kitchen set? It’s absurd, but you must see it!
What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?
So many things! But I think most important is to re-look at how we attach memories to the places around us. In a fast-changing city, where we’re moving around a lot and don’t stay put in one place, we don’t realise what we leave behind. So it’s worth thinking about where memories go when these spaces disappear.
What advice would you give to aspiring directors and theatre makers?
Two things: 1) Always have an objective. Especially when you’re making a show from scratch, you are going to get lost and stuck a lot, so having a central objective will help ground your work and stop it from going somewhere you don’t necessarily want it to go. And 2) Always be aware of the different rhythms in the rehearsal space, whether you’re working with a single performer or an ensemble. Different people have different rhythms, and these rhythms change depending on how their day is going and so forth. I like to start rehearsals by checking in with everyone in the room how they’re feeling so I know how to pace the rehearsal. I think it’s important to bring care into a workspace.
Questions by Lucy Basaba.
The Cardboard Kitchen Project will show from Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th August 2019 at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre as part of this year’s Camden Fringe Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…
Written by Theatrefullstop