Off Stage

Forgetting his lines twice in same play

The pre-show rituals of actor Ghafir Akbar (left) include him kissing the theatre floor after his warm-up.
The pre-show rituals of actor Ghafir Akbar (above) include him kissing the theatre floor after his warm-up.PHOTO: COURTESY OF GHAFIR AKBAR

Malaysian stage actor Ghafir Akbar, who most recently appeared in Wild Rice productions such as Public Enemy and Another Country, will be part of the theatre company's Hotel, a four-hour production split into two shows, written by two playwrights and directed by two directors.

The play, which is part of this year's Singapore International Festival of Arts, chronicles Singapore's story through a series of scenes that take place in one hotel room over a century. Life speaks to the 33-year- old ahead of his performance at the end of this month.

Do you remember your first performance as an actor? What was it like?

In my late teens, I got together with some friends to stage four short plays we had written, acted in and directed. It was my first public performance in a proper theatre venue (underneath Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur) and it marked the start of my career.


    WHERE: Victoria Theatre

    WHEN: Part 1, Aug 27 and Aug 29, 8pm, and Aug 30, 3pm; Part 2, Aug 28 to 30, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $40 to $80 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to

I recall performing a monologue in that show, being harshly lit by a spotlight. I felt a great sense of humility standing on that stage in front of the listening audience.

I was very interested in theatre and the magic created in that little black box.

What are your pre-show rituals?

It varies according to the show. A physical show such as Another Country would require me to spend more time warming up physically and vocally, while something such as Public Enemy requires me to activate my senses and mind.

The only "ritualistic" thing I do is kiss the floor of the stage right after my warm-up. The stage is a powerful but dangerous place. The floor keeps me grounded and safe.

What happens when you forget a line?

First, you hope to God that within the next three seconds, you will remember it. Failing which, you hope your fellow actor will feed you a word or give an indication of what you are supposed to say.

Sometimes it helps to repeat your last line and your next line might come. Breathe and don't panic.

What is the funniest or most memorable thing that has happened to you on stage?

It is funny now, but it was not funny when I was working on Flies And Foreigners (2004 play) in KL directed by Jo Kukathas.

I realised I had jumped two pages and missed an important cue for the telephone to ring. So I had to make up some lines to my co-actor, exit to check the script with the stage manager and come back on to pick up where I left off.

Unfortunately, in a state of panic, I missed the cue again and had to make another excuse to go off stage to check the script again. This time, I gave the cue line, the telephone rang and the play moved on.

After the show, the playwright came up to me and said: "I don't think we should keep the changes from tonight."

Do you get any post-show food cravings? Where are your favourite post-show supper joints in Singapore?

Ah, one of the eternal pleasures of working in the theatre: the post-show meal.

Timbre at The Arts House is a good spot for duck pizza after a performance at Victoria Theatre. Across the river, Boat Quay has some great variety.

The Bras Basah Food Court, near Drama Centre, opens late and serves nasi padang and noodles. The Loof on North Bridge Road has amazing chilli crab cheese fries.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 18, 2015, with the headline 'Forgetting his lines twice in same play'. Print Edition | Subscribe