Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi? (Who Took My Malay Away?) @ Network Theatre (Vault Festival 2023) Review

In this post-colonial world that we live in, we’re starting to delve into the topic of world history, and how this connects us all. We’re examining ‘empire’, what this looks like, how structures have been established and played out, and how moving forward, we build a world that reflects, yet calls for change where needed. Having made the move from Singapore to the UK 5 years ago, and both gaining a masters degree in the process, theatre maker Mohamad Faizal Abdullah, alongside his theatre producer wife Nur Khairiyah have carved out a new life for themselves. Within this process however, constantly confronted with the question of identity and belonging – something very familiar with anyone of more than one culture. Presenting Siapa Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi? ( Who Took My Malay Away?), Abdullah breaks down his Singaporean, Malay, Muslim, British roots in an entertaining hour.

Courtesy of Héctor Manchego.

A conversational hour, Abdullah dissects his cultural heritage and journey thus for, both on a physical and metaphorical level. We hear of the traditional poetic Malay form of ‘Pantun’ and how this has served as a crucial vessel to connect many to their cultural roots for centuries, the stage scattered with the ‘Jawi’ alphabet, which takes from the Arabic script, but bares slightly more letters in accordance with Malay culture supplying the show with its visually striking aesthetic. Abdullah tells us of the ‘so called’ heroes and founders of modern day Singapore, the country’s colonial past one that echoes to this day.

We’re told of Singapore’s ethnic make up, informed that Malays form the 2nd biggest majority there – Chinese being the most populous group (74%), followed by Malays (14%), then Indians (9%) and other groups which form roughly 3% of the population. Abdullah thoughtfully presents a complex patchwork of his identity and how he views it, something I’m sure all of us can relate to – he speaks of how his intersectionality has come into question in Singapore, the question of even what it means to be Singaporean something that he’s been confronted with, and how now that he’s here, he feels that Singapore is gradually becoming a distant memory. Video projections necessarily heighten his points made, his emphasising of the fact that you can be of Malay descent, but not Malaysian a misconception he comically breaks down. Footage of previous performances and bold lettering a convention very fitting with today. The production is an intimate, informative, much needed watch – one that helps foster connection post the tough times we’ve found ourselves in. Establishing global connections will be key to the UK’s journey moving forward.

Written by Lucy Basaba.

Yang Bawa Melayu Aku Pergi? ( Who Took My Malay Away?) is currently showing until Sunday 5th February 2023 at the Network Theatre as part of this year’s Vault Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop