Off Stage

On her own and relishing the challenge

One-woman show Balik, performed by actress Farah Ong (above), explores the concept of home after her character's mother dies.
One-woman show Balik, performed by actress Farah Ong (above), explores the concept of home after her character's mother dies.ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

Actress Farah Ong, 36, will be performing an intimate monologue as part of Teater Ekamatra's Projek Suitcase, a festival of short monologues on the grounds of the Malay Heritage Centre.

Titled Balik, the 20-minute one- woman show is written by playwright Zulfadli Rashid and directed by Effendy Ibrahim. Ong plays a woman wrestling with the death of her mother and the idea of home.

There are seven other short plays in the festival, each featuring a single actor armed with a suitcase full of various objects.

These monologues will be performed in Malay and audience members will be given booklets with English surtitles.

Tell us a little bit more about the monologue.


  • WHERE: Malay Heritage Centre

    WHEN: Sept 30 to Oct 4, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $32 (for a one-day pass) and $58 (for a two-day pass) from Teater Ekamatra (e-mail or call 6635-6709)

Balik means "return". It is about a girl called Ain, who is in her 30s. Her mum has just died and she has been left with the house as an inheritance. So she is questioning the meaning of return and the meaning of home.

She grew up without a father. This play talks about homelessness, looks at domestic spaces... and whether a home is someone or something.

How would you prepare for an ensemble piece, such as the recent historical play Yusof (about the late Singapore president Yusof Ishak), versus a one-woman show?

Yusof was very factual. In terms of freedom of characterisation, there were a lot more limitations. Balik is quite open-ended. But the danger for a character in a monologue like this, where there is more free- range, is making it a stereotype.

What is the most challenging thing about performing a monologue?

The lines and memorising because they are in chunks. I prefer memorising a monologue to having six people in one scene and then you have one line, one line, one line each. Those are much harder to memorise. You basically have to memorise everyone's lines and if you miss one line, you mess up the pacing and timing of the scene.

A theatrical piece is always a team effort. When you are doing an ensemble piece, you are navigating it together.

But for a monologue, it is more like you are building the ship together and then when you are riding the ship, you are on your own. You are the captain, the navigator.

There is a lot of pressure, but we all like the challenge. Every actor must do a monologue - it is an unspoken rule among all actors.

Do you have any habits or routines to get into "the zone" before you perform?

A lot of it is about the head space that the actors go to. It could be just a walk around the theatre or sitting in your dressing room and putting on make-up. A lot of the time, it is the make-up that does the trick.

Do you get nervous before you go onstage?

Of course. But I like it, I call it a "buzz". I think it is dangerous when you do not get nervous. I think some of us secretly like that buzz, that feeling... The nervousness, the preparation, the rituals we go through, it is all sacred to us, to a lot of theatre actors. The theatre is always a sacred space.

What happens if you, or someone else on stage, messes up or forgets his lines - how do you react?

You cover it up. That is when the rehearsal process plays a big part. You familiarise yourself with everyone's way of responding. You are in the role and in the scene, but at the same time, you need to be backing one another up.

It happens in every production - someone says the wrong line or the wrong name - the challenge is to say it back in character.

Sometimes on the last day of the show, we play tricks on one another to test the actor's concentration.

In Teater Ekamatra's Kakak Kau Punya Laki (2013), the crew took funny photos of everyone and pasted them in various places on the set. But this happens only on the last day of the show, so usually actors come in prepared to see funny things.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2015, with the headline 'On her own and relishing the challenge'. Print Edition | Subscribe