Director and Performer Faizal Abdullah talks about performing in production ‘Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi (Who Took My Malay Away?)’ at the Network Theatre which forms part of this year’s VAULT Festival

A really important time for presenting first hand accounts of what it means to be of more than one culture, theatre, now so more than ever offers that much needed springboard to foster connection and explore cultural identities further. Faizal Abdullah’s Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi (Who Took My Malay Away?) is a prime example of this, an exploration of what it means to be Malay and what it means to be Malay in Singapore. Set to play at this year’s Vault Festival from Saturday 28th January until Saturday 4th February, director and performer Faizal Abdullah tells us more about exploring the show’s themes further, the show’s journey so far and what audiences can expect!

Hi Faizal, your show Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi (Who Took My Malay Away?) will play as part of this year’s Vault Festival at the Network Theatre from the 28th January until 5th February. How are you feeling ahead of the run?

Excited. I first did a version of this performance in 2019 and have been working on it on and off since. And this feels like the culmination of the research, R&Ds, works in progress and rehearsals since. For the moment at least; I personally feel that this work stays relevant by constantly evolving and reacting to what’s around it. And I’m curious to see how will the audience engage with the piece.

Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi (Who Took My Malay Away?) explores what it means to be Malay and what it means to be Malay in Singapore. How have you found exploring this further?

It’s been a challenge. Some days I get stuck and I just want the day to end. But when everything seems inspired and exciting, I want the day to just go on and on. I’ve definitely had more of the former. There’s a lot I want to say and explore in the performance. But there’s only so much time and space that I have. I’ve got to be strict with what I keep and what I put away (hopefully to be used in another run of this show). Thankfully I have a great team, which includes my wonderful dramaturg Faezah, who’s making it less tough on me.

The production’s journey started in 2019, having been performed at Barrel Organ’s LIVE 10 at Camden People’s Theatre and a work in progress showing at the Homegrown Festival: Occupy at Battersea Arts Centre before going on to be supported by Park Theatre’s Prism Project. It was then revisited in 2022 at the Migration Matters Festival. How has the show evolved within the past 4 years?

The show actually began when I was still at Goldsmiths, that was the first draft. I think with each passing day, there are things that I’m learning, unlearning and relearning, I’d like to think all of that has manifested itself in the different versions of the work. For example, when we did the show again last year for the Migration Matters Festival in Sheffield, after a hiatus of almost 2 years, I experimented with new ideas, content and even form. I feel the work is a good insight into myself at that moment; my thoughts about and being Malay, being Muslim, being Singaporean and being in London and my relationship with those ideas. And I have a bigger team helping me realise this show, instead of the usual double-act that is my brilliant producer-wife and theatre maker-me.

The show forms part of Vault Festival’s 9th annual showcase of over 500 new works. Renowned for supporting the independent scene, how does it feel to form part of this year’s line up?

We’re thrilled to be performing at the VAULT Festival. It’s such a brilliant opportunity and to be part of an exciting line-up of that many new works, is a privilege. We hope that as many people as possible will come and watch our show and the other shows in the festival. There is something for everyone and you will discover many shows that will steal your hearts and minds. This also feels like the first chance for the festival to really be back from the pandemic-enforced break, so I’m sure everyone is raring to go.

What have you learned so far from creating the production?

That I’ve missed creating with other collaborators. It’s quite lonely making this show. I’m also doing so much research on Malays, Malay culture, Singapore history, Singapore culture – it’s quite exhausting. But I have a better understanding of why things are the way they are, why others and myself behave and think a particular way, so that’s exciting too. 

What can audiences expect from the show?

A story and an experience that comes from a different part of the world. An accent that is not that familiar. And a voice that can be just as loud.

What would you like for audiences to take away from the show?

Discovery of what Malay is, the different facets of it. A true and honest reflection and sharing from me. Sometimes you might be able to relate to it, other times maybe not but it is something that we experience together and come out the other side with new perspectives.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi (Who Took My Malay Away?) will show from Saturday 28th January until Saturday 4th February at the Network Theatre as part of this year’s Vault Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop