Last month, we went to watch a student production at Universiti Malaya. We don’t do this often, but this one had several great things going for it.
In the director’s chair sat the brilliant Marina Tan while on the stage were Iranian performing arts student Samira Alizadeh, independent artist Azzad Mahdzir, and the first Best Newcomer award recipient of Short + Sweet Malaysia, Kenyan national Ram Ayall.
The team put on an adaptation of #UnicornMoment, an original play by Singaporean playwright Oon Shu An as part of Samira’s final year project, and they managed to pull it off in the middle of the afternoon during the month of Ramadhan. They received incredible support however; backing them: Shanthini Venugopal and Anomalist Production.
We managed to spend a few minutes catching up with Ram at the end of the day to find out how life has been since taking Short + Sweet by storm in 2008. Here are some questions answered by Ram Ayall!
How has life been since winning Best Newcomer at the first Short + Sweet Malaysia?
Since that time, I’ve been able to get involved in a few gigs! I got to meet Marina and also did some shows with her. It’s really helped me blend in with the culture here; people think I’m local when actually I’m from Africa.
Why did you choose to participate in Short + Sweet in the first place?
I joined S+S because I had experience acting in my country before I got here, so when I saw the opportunity I took it as a chance to blend in and see how the local theatre scene works. At that time I had a lot of free time as I was in my first year in college. Personally I got to meet a lot Malaysian thespians and it’s also help me learn about the Malaysian theatre scene.
Would you participate in Short + Sweet again if you could, and would you try to win once more?
I really appreciated the opportunity I got at Short + Sweet – it was a nice opportunity and I hope I get the chance to be involved again. I think the competition has really grown too. If I go there I am sure I will meet people who are more talented but it’s a game: you go in there to have fun. Whether you win or lose, it doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy the whole thing.
What have you been doing since then?
Since then, I go to watch plays and festivals, but I haven’t been doing much on the stage. I did Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa and after that I just took a long break. The last time I was in theatre was in 2009, and this is my first time back to the stage since. Now I’m just busy working!
Tell us a bit about the performing arts scene in Kenya.
The performing arts scene in there is thriving; we get to do a lot of international festivals. The only problem is that the Kenyan scene is not getting as much attention as Broadway, but it’s growing. The last time I was there I saw a lot of people preferring to go watch theatre as opposed to being at the cinema. Movies are overrated – with theatre people see things they relate to.
How does it differ from the Malaysian performing arts scene?
The Malaysian arts scene is very rich in culture. You have the Malays, the Indians and the Chinese and sometimes all these cultures collide on the stage, and you get to experience all these at the same time. Back in Kenya however, we don’t have this racial diversity, so stories are usually based on family and societal issues.
For more details on this year’s Short + Sweet, check out their blog!