An Actress Prepares is a valentine to Singapore actors past and present

Local actress Siti Khalijah performing in the one-woman show An Actress Prepares at the Creative Cube at Lasalle College of the Arts.
Local actress Siti Khalijah performing in the one-woman show An Actress Prepares at the Creative Cube at Lasalle College of the Arts. PHOTO: WILD RICE
Inspired by An Actor Prepares, Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski's first handbook on acting, this production follows local actress Siti Khalijah on her life in the theatre.
Inspired by An Actor Prepares, Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski's first handbook on acting, this production follows local actress Siti Khalijah on her life in the theatre. PHOTO: WILD RICE
Set against the Singapore theatre scene and its growth, there are also numerous nods to other local theatre practitioners and their contributions over the years.
Set against the Singapore theatre scene and its growth, there are also numerous nods to other local theatre practitioners and their contributions over the years.PHOTO: WILD RICE

review/theatre

An Actress Prepares

Creative Cube, Lasalle College of the Arts/Saturday (July 21)


SINGAPORE - It is not often that audiences here are treated to a self-referential look at Singapore theatre, its processes and personalities.

Even rarer is the experience as joyful as An Actress Prepares, a 70-minute-long one-woman show performed on Saturday (July 21) at the Creative Cube at Lasalle College of the Arts.

Presented by local theatre company Wild Rice and directed by Singaporean Aidli Mosbit, it shines the spotlight on the craft of acting, as well as the trials and tribulations of artistic creation. Indeed, this biographical work is a valentine to Singapore actors past and present.

Inspired by An Actor Prepares, Russian theatre practitioner Konstantin Stanislavski's first handbook on acting, this production follows local actress Siti Khalijah on her life in the theatre. And boy, is it a heck of a journey.

An actress playing herself might seem insipidly dull. But playwright Alfian Sa'at's breezy script is well-paced and sharply perceptive, delving into the actress' history and family background, and peppering the show with delightful anecdotes of her growing up, going for auditions and becoming part of the Singapore theatre community.

This script never takes itself too seriously but, between its many self-deprecating jokes and ironic humour, it masterfully makes a point or two about class and race issues in the theatre.

Set against the Singapore theatre scene and its growth, there are also numerous nods to other local theatre practitioners and their contributions over the years.

As for Siti, the affable thespian has always had a disarming charisma that makes an audience smile.

One can sympathise with her feeling like a fish-out-of-water in her early theatre days, or in her words, "like a Minah from the ghetto being thrown into this ballet academy".

Her versatility was put to good use as she shuffled through various registers, at one point playing two versions of herself, and proving equally adapt at making astute social commentary and poking fun at the name of her primary school.

An unforeseen alarm went off in the middle of the show I attended, but this strange coincidence allowed the consummate performer to think on her feet and demonstrate exactly what a theatre actress does - deal with the unexpected. And she aced this effortlessly.

Having interviewed the 33-year-old several times over the years, I thought I knew her and her art form pretty well. I was wrong.

By the show's end, it was clear that an actress' preparation is not memorising lines or putting on make-up, but a lifetime of living and learning the craft.