Off Stage

Immersed in a different world onstage

Actress Izyan Mellyna (with Norman Ishak) returns to the stage with LakiBini #3, performed in Malay and English, with English surtitles.
Actress Izyan Mellyna (with Norman Ishak) returns to the stage with LakiBini #3, performed in Malay and English, with English surtitles.PHOTO: KREATIV OUTBOX

Actress Izyan Mellyna found her voice when she was eight years old, through singing, dancing and acting on a Malay children's television programme, Ya Alif.

"Before the programme, my mother enrolled me in a workshop because she thought I was too quiet as a child. Well, look at me now. I can't keep still at all," says the 29-year-old with a laugh.

She is starring in an upcoming Malay theatre production called LakiBini #3, which explores the daily struggles of a married couple and their adopted son.

The part-time actress, a mother of one, is the co-founder of online clothing store Elda and founder of boutique design and planning company Elly Floral Artistry.

But she says acting will always be a part of her life.

"Acting is something that will always grow with me for as long as I live. I enjoy every moment when I'm on stage. It's like I'm in a different world once I'm up there," she says.

How was it to go from television to stage?

I started in television, but I took a long break and did a lot of stage work before returning to television.

When I went back to television in 2013, I was always playing my emotions and expressions big on screen, as I would on stage. It became over-acting on television. So I had to learn all over and grasp the concept of natural acting for television.

Now that I'm back on stage, my challenge is to not play it too small as I would on television.

Knowing who the audience is and understanding the medium we're involved in helped me to switch from stage to television and vice versa.

How do you prepare for a show?

I have the habit of going to the toilet frequently right before I go on stage.

What post-show food cravings do you have?

It depends. Sometimes I crave the simplest things, but are so hard to get, such as goreng pisang (banana fritters).

What is the biggest mistake you have made on stage and how did you react?

I'm not sure if this counts as a mistake, but I had a hole right down the centre of my pants during one of the shows I did.

There was no way I could hide it because all my movements were big. I was wearing leggings underneath, so I just pretended that it wasn't a big deal, but I could tell that some members of the audience were horrified.

What is the harshest criticism you have received and how did you respond to it?

One of the harshest criticisms is probably that my work has become monotonous and the roles that I play have become more predictable.

Criticism is good. It helps me to reflect and improve. But other than that, I don't really pay attention to what people say.

It's also important to know where the criticism is coming from - whether it comes from someone who means well or someone who is just trying to bring you down.

Criticism is just part and parcel of being in the industry.

There will always be people who disagree with you, criticise your work and judge you from the characters you play onscreen or from social media.

There are fans who would send me encouraging messages on my Instagram and that is enough for me to remain focused on my work.

After a really intense rehearsal, how do you relax?

This is going to sound weird, but I unwind by doing housework. I enjoy cleaning and decorating my home, so that's how I relax.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My mother. I am in awe of her superwoman abilities. She has a full-time job as a kindergarten principal; she cooks and takes care of the family; she's doing a part-time degree programme; and she does volunteer work. Yet she never complains.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

It'd be working on Banting, the first Malay feature film made in Singapore since the 1970s. It is about a hijab-wearing woman who becomes a wrestler.

I had the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry, who are now my good friends, such as Mastura Ahmad, Fauzie Laily, Raihan and Adlina.

I also learnt wrestling moves and stunts that I used to watch on television with my brother. I think the film has a strong message and has inspired a lot of people.

Despite the work I've done on Suria, people still remember me as the girl from Banting.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Hopefully, to still be able to do what I do today, while trying new things and embracing new experiences. I also hope to be able to engage in more campaigns to promote animal conservation and highlight environmental issues.

What advice do you have for aspiring actors?

Don't be afraid to fall. There will be times when people put you down or say horrible things about you and your acting, but if you remain humble and sincere in learning and doing your best, then who knows, some doors may open for you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'Immersed in a different world onstage'. Print Edition | Subscribe