10 Questions with Siti Khalijah Zainal

Ever the bubbly thespian, Singapore’s very own theatre minah took a break from her schedule to have a quick chat with the folks here at Popspoken.

For this year’s M1 Singapore Fringe Festival, she recently wrapped up her reprise of Best Of, a one-woman monologue that left an impression, as well as a stomachache, on us. Now, here she is again to talk about the play, her much-awaited upcoming debut in The Noose, and the quintessential Singaporean minah in her head.

Popspoken: To kick things off, tell us about a day in the life of Siti Khalijah Zainal.

Siti: A typical day in the life of Siti would start off with me having breakfast at home with my parents. Then I’ll head out for rehearsals (depending on the time), and if there are no shows and I’ve got the evening off, I’ll use the time to catch up with friends over coffee or dinner.

What are the hardest and easiest parts of performing a one-woman monologue?

The hardest thing is not having any other co-actor to “play with” or “bounce off to” when saying the lines, and the whole weight of the show depends on you alone. However, the easiest thing is not having to worry about throwing your co-actors off in case you dropped a line or decided to say your lines with a different motivation.

Any backstage rituals?

I cannot be still. I’ll walk about and do some last minute warm ups or stretching. And I also have a habit of cracking my knuckles while I’m standing by backstage! It calms me down. And then I’ll say a quick prayer and just be quiet so I can use the time to focus and really get into character.

What do you secretly love about being a Malay woman in Singapore?

That we can have more fun and get away with it because of the fact that we’re minorities here, and not like in Malaysia where it will probably be more difficult to do anything you want without getting caught!

How would you describe a typical Singaporean minah?

She loves taking selfies; enjoys planning, talking about and going to weddings; hangs out at Arab Street; likes going for Karaoke sessions with her other minah friends. Oh and she must own a Pandora bracelet, complete with all the charms.

Congratulations on scoring a gig on The Noose! Could you tell us about the characters you’ll be playing?

Thank you! As of now, nothing is concrete yet, but some of the possible characters I’ll be playing are a loud mouth makcik who thinks she knows everything, and a minah (surprise, surprise) who dislikes being labelled a minah.

Who’s your favourite Noose character, and why?

Definitely Barbarella. Michelle Chong may not be in The Noose anymore, but her characters will never be forgotten. She’s just so hilarious and the characters she created, so identifiable and very Singaporean.

What did it take for you to reach this stage of your career?

A lot of endurance, perseverance, patience, and support from family. I had to go through so many auditions, rejections and waiting for the first few years when I started out. After a while, things got more stabilised and people started recognising me for what I’m able to do, and from there, opportunities started coming in.

What are your plans for the future?

Apart from theatre productions and The Noose, I’ll be venturing and doing a few other TV related projects in 2014, one of them being a telemovie for okto, and also a local film, which will be screened next year. I also hope to be able to work more with children who are less fortunate, to introduce theatre to them through speech and drama.

Any parting words for our Popspoken readers, especially the minahs out there?

Don’t be afraid to embrace your minah-ism. You’re born with it, so wuuuurk it girls!


Makcik: Elderly Malay woman
Minah: Malay female

Photo credit: The Necessary Stage 


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