FOUNDER & ARTISTIC DIRECTOR: SABERA SHAIK
“It’s my DARAH DAGING (flesh and blood)”
“I like to echo the words of the late Mak Yong prima donna, Mak Su: “It’s my Darah Daging, my flesh and blood” she said.
And indeed theatre is under my skin too. I cannot do without it. Every minute of the day I see something that can be turned into theatre. Whether it is a leaf flickering in the sun or anything else. I look at everyday things and work to make them meaningful through theatre.”
By the time she set up her company in 2003, armed with a Masters Degree in Theatre Arts, she had already clocked in 35 years of theatre experience in various capacities with various theatre companies in Kuala Lumpur.
In 2011 Shaik directed the first shadow theatre in the country, WAYANG to critical acclaim. It was so popular that she went to Bamberg to attend a workshop on "Shadow and Light" to learn more with shadow master Norbert Gotz.
In November 2011 Shaik performed 7 shows of her critically acclaimed solo performance LADY SWETTENHAM directed by Tage Larsen in New Delhi and at the NCPA Theatre Festival in Mumbai to a standing ovation.
In 2012 she directed and produced another piece of shadow theatre called THE STORY OF KUALA LUMPUR.
Frequent visits to Europe, America, India and Australia have enabled Shaik to have a rare overview of international theatre activities for creative work, acting, design, lighting, costumes and general mis-en-scene.
Enriched with a myriad experiences, it became time for her to do the things she always wanted to do.
“I wanted to see more localized content, take something from the west and put in local context. This is what I have been doing, thus far,” explained Shaik.
In 2019 she directed the sellout Wayang: Mak Yong Stories which introduced the public to an exciting way of enjoying shadow theatre through the use of actors performing as the “puppets” side by side shadow puppets; choreography, live traditional and contemporary music.
When covid19 hit in 2020, Shaik and 4 other Malaysian artists (Kamrul Hussin, Wazi, Neil Felix, Jennifer Rodrigo) participated in the making of an international art film featuring more than 50 artists, representing 25 countries. “Excelsior” which premiered on March 15 2022 is described as a “multi-disciplined, collaborative tapestry defining a new art genre of “Quarantine Art.” It represents the cumulative work of THE FREE HAND.org CORONAVIRUS ARTISTIC RESPONSE INTERNATIONAL ONLINE COLLABORATIVE RESIDENCY which began on March 2020.
Since 2020, Shaik has also been working with an ensemble of 5 actors with themes that have no precedent and which explores the issues that society tends to hide from - refugees, gender issues, mental and emotional turmoil.
“I have been nurturing a group of actors for some time. Some fell off the “grid” finding my “methods” too difficult for them. If you are not a trained, and you don’t know about greek tragedy, about shakespeare, even your own literature, how can you possibly do well in an audition? During the pandemic, I saw some of our actors having some mental issues. So I told them, write your stories out and let’s peel the onion and see what will be revealed. Out of this, a performance started to materialise. Then the lockdowns started. The way I look at things is a little bit different. I don’t like to act out cliches, I prefer to see other things that are not. I look at my actors and I can see what they can and cannot do. Then I guide them to do the best they can. Devise performances. See what is available to work on. Allow my imagination to run free. Until it is not realistic. Then I pull myself back. Lets take it back. I have writers like Jennifer Rodrigo, who does the same with her writing, exploring issues that society hides from. I have music directors like Susan Sarah John who is constantly innovating and creating new ways with performance and music."
Theatre is not just theatre in the traditional sense.
There is theatre therapy. Art therapy. Theatre for the soul. 3 times a week they come in. I work on “body.” I teach them how to breathe well, how to use that oxygen. Vibrational work, drumming exercises, silat. All this before we go into rehearsal mode. We share ideas all the time because this is what we must do as human beings, as Malaysians, as members of Mother Earth.”