Siti Farrah of FIFTEEN Says “It’s OK Not To Have Goals In Life”, Talks Malaysian Theatre Scene With Tika Mu’tamir
SIFU Production is gutsy enough to let their biggest production to date open while a Jo Kukathas show starring Sharifah Amani, Iedil Putra, Ann James and about nine other exceptionally-talented people plays within ten kilometres away.
These guys must either have massive balls or they’ve gone insane from being in the Malaysian theatre industry for far too long. We’re betting on the latter.
“Why are people like karipaps?” quizzed Siti Farrah with a smile.
“Because they have fillings.”
The very relaxed and composed Siti Farrah is one of SIFU’s executive producers and founders. She arrived at our offices decked in a blazer, tank top and jeans, exuding a sort of timeless elegance. She fits the bill on what you’d visually expect from someone in the creative industry.
“How I actually started was… It’s not that I was after anything, it’s just that I really had no vision in life. Siti doesn’t know what to do, so whatever, I’ll just do whatever rocks my boat.”
“And what I want to tell you is, it’s OK not to have goals in life.”
Siti Farrah pauses for a split second and laughs at her own statement.
“Anyway, this one is our debut on the big stage lah,” she states with a nonchalant smile.
In fact, the SIFU team last took to the stage with the second installment of Never Eat Too Much Before Rapture (known endearingly to most as net-tem-ber) at the end of last year. The first edition of the show even travelled to Singapore as part of the 2014 Causeway Exchange.
Also here with us was Tika Mu’tamir, one of FIFTEEN‘s cast members. This marks Tika’s first venture with SIFU Production. So far, she likes the working style employed by the team.
“Older directors are more hierarchy-based,” Tika began.
“If you’re at a younger age, you’re brought up with a sense of wanting to fight the power and fight the people in charge.”
“I think what people started to realize with the 21st century is that it all comes down to being a team and working together towards one vision, which is created together. As a result, the product comes off much more exciting and understandable as everyone’s on the same page.”
FIFTEEN is an original script supported by a JKKN grant that funds new, original works by Malaysian playwrights.
“I am one who vouches for original stage works, especially new Malaysian theatre works. I believe we need to support each other,” states Siti Farrah.
“Whether we have the pool of talent to do great American or English works, I don’t know, perhaps. But there’s still so few of us. I’d rather do new Malaysian works because we can relate, the audience can relate and the actors can relate as well and it makes it easier for everyone.”
Siti Farrah was responding to the notion that younger stage folk reject works by the greats and the established. She however does not dismiss the possibility of revisiting Malaysia’s archive of stage plays sometime in the future.
“There was this great Malay director I used to work with, and what she does is she takes in Shakespeare works and adapts it into a traditional form.”
“Once upon a time we did Mak Yong Titis Sakti which was a mak yong version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. We also did Madea, and that was done in dikir barat. I really appreciate these sort of collaborations and would love to try something like this when the time is right.”
Mak Yong Titis Sakti was staged in 2009 and saw Siti Farrah on stage with Safia Hanifah, who is also starring in FIFTEEN, as well as Ameera Ramli, this year’s BOH Cameronian Arts Award winner of the Best Actress award for theatre.
Much like Siti Farrah, Tika too aims to know the trade inside out by delving into the less glamorous side of things.
“Obviously, I’ve had that big dream of wanting to be famous. But that’s something that which I don’t want to think about too much,” Tika admits unabashed.
Tika is known for her acting (she’s worked with notable Malaysian directors Joe Hasham and Christopher Ling to state a few) but she’s no stranger to being off the stage. One of her projects include a dinner theatre performance which she also directed.
“The reason why I do backstage work is that I believe it’s imperative that actors know what exactly is going on behind the scenes; you need to know what the costume designer is doing and you need to know what the set designer is doing,” Tika explained.
“You need to know all this so you respect them and understand the tough work that everyone’s going through so you can be more sensitive towards others.”
“Stop being so needy and understand how to fit into the role without being a dickhead. You need to understand every aspect of the production before you get ahead of yourself and think you are a big deal.”
Siti Farrah nods along to Tika’s words, and it’s clear both of them knew what they were getting into when they decided to dive into Malaysia’s performing arts industry.
“Have you heard people saying theatre is for rich people?” Siti Farrah asks us out of the blue.
To us, this is a particularly stinging statement often said to those in the performing arts. It cannot be stressed enough how unprofitable the business is locally despite the amount of effort put in by industry players and government bodies. As a result, only the privileged are able to participate full-time in theatre.
“Looking at it from the point of view of a freelancer and producer, theatre alone cannot feed you. I don’t believe when people say theatre is my bread and butter because it doesn’t make sense realistically,” Siti Farrah adds.
“However, bear in mind that theatre is just one part of the performing arts. Theatre is a form of expression, but to make a living there are a lot of other avenues. Theatre performers are multi-talented individuals who can do many other things, so there are plenty of ways they can make survive and keep doing what they love to do.”
FIFTEEN opens tonight! Showtimes are at 8:30pm from the 11th to the 14th June with an additional 3:00pm show on Sunday, the 14th of June. FIFTEEN will play at Theatre KuAsh, 48 Jalan Tun Muhd Fuad, TTDI. Tickets are priced at RM 53 (adults) and RM 38 (students), there are no extra hidden charges. For tickets, head over to www.ticketpro.com.my or call +603 7880 7999.