Actress Siti Khalijah Zainal takes on monodrama Rosnah in Malay

Aidli "Alin" Mosbit, the original Rosnah, has translated the monodrama into Malay for Siti Khalijah Zainal (above) to perform at Pesta Raya.
Aidli "Alin" Mosbit, the original Rosnah, has translated the monodrama into Malay for Siti Khalijah Zainal (above) to perform at Pesta Raya.PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ESPLANADE

Actress Siti Khalijah Zainal was considered an emerging theatre actress when she played the titular role in the monodrama Rosnah by The Necessary Stage a decade ago.

The play, which will be staged from Aug 4 to 7 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, centres on a young Malay Muslim woman who leaves her family to study in London. In navigating her new environment, she has to deal with the people who are different from her in every way.

Siti, now 30, will reprise the role as a well-respected name on the scene. She recently won the Best Actress trophy at this year's M1- The Straits Times Life Theatre Awards.

Siti says of the 2006 staging of the play: "It was very tough because it was a monodrama with multiple characters. It was very challenging for a young actress."

During the hour-long performance, she portrays about eight other characters in Rosnah's life, such as her parents, boyfriend and fictional Malay heroine Siti Zubaidah, who went to China disguised as a man to rescue her captured husband, all of whom help shape the protagonist's experience overseas and her development as a woman.


Aidli “Alin” Mosbit, the original Rosnah (above), has translated the monodrama into Malay for Siti Khalijah Zainal to perform at Pesta Raya. PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE ESPLANADE

The actress, who is single, says: "I have grown and I have got more experience. I understand it from a different perspective now."

  • BOOK IT / ROSNAH

  • WHERE: Esplanade Theatre Studio, 1 Esplanade Drive

    WHEN: Aug 4 to 7, 8pm (Thursday and Friday), 3 and 8pm (Saturday and Sunday)

    ADMISSION: $30 from www.esplanade.com/pestaraya

Siti will also break character and and comment on Rosnah's life as someone living in the present day, a contrast to the 1990s setting of the play.

The script was penned in the 1990s. Actress Aidli "Alin" Mosbit and Alvin Tan, 53, artistic director of The Necessary Stage, explored the character through a series of improvisational exercises in Singapore, while resident playwright Haresh Sharma - then in the United Kingdom pursuing further studies - whipped the content they generated from the exercises into a full-length play.

Rosnah has been staged several times in English.

Aidli, 43, played the original Rosnah when the play premiered in 1995 at Tampines Regional Library and a couple more times after that, including in Melbourne in 1997.

The 2006 revival, with Siti playing Rosnah, was part of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. Aidli directed that production.

Tan will be directing the upcoming show, but Aidli will still be involved, translating the script into Malay, which Sharma says will help reach out to a Malay-speaking audience. It will be performed in Malay with English surtitles.

Sharma, 51 and a bachelor, says of Aidli's continued involvement: "It wouldn't be the same without her. She has brought so much to the play. It was something we collectively created."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2016, with the headline 'Siti takes on Rosnah in Malay'. Print Edition | Subscribe