Shafeeq Shajahan is the co-founder of Liver and Lung Productions, a theatrical project that combines world ideas and concepts to develop fringe musicals, plays and events internationally.
Liver and Lung Productions have received several international awards and are being recognised despite being a small theatre company.
Malaya Relived: The Fall of Singapore is directed by Shafeeq with the help of Ian Abel Nathaniel as the music director and they are in proud partnership with GMBB.
GMBB is an international destination for artisanal and independent retails that promotes art and creativity.
xtra got to meet up close and personal with Shafeeq and Ian to talk about Malaya Relived: The Fall of Singapore!
1. Where did the inspiration for Malaya Relived: The Fall of Singapore come from?
Shafeeq: I am very interested in creating theatre that highlights Malaysian issues and I feel like that there’s not enough theatre that talks about the Malaysian culture.
I was in the National Museum of Singapore and came across the stories about the Japanese occupation and it was really terrifying.
I remember my grandmother telling me how she would have to hide from the Japanese to save herself, and the stories shared by her are personal to me.
And so, I wanted to create an experience for people to feel how it was like living in the historical times of the 1940s. I want people to really celebrate and understand what actually makes us really Malaysians.
2. What is the show all about?
Ian: The story is about a pair of siblings who are coping with the death of their father. It’s a journey of how the brother and sister survived during the Japanese occupation and there is an element of black magic involved.
All the songs are originally composed by Shafeeq, and I arranged the music with the modern and traditional to find the balance where it sounds both Malay and western.
Shafeeq: When the father died the two siblings reacted in different ways. The sister latches on to the British believing that she would be protected, but the brother sought protection through black magic.
The script is designed to fit with today’s modern audience. It’s a play that will make us understand about our past times.
3. How much time was put in to produce the play?
Shafeeq: It actually took us about a month to come up with the production, we like to work with a very short time. We also work on fast pace so that we do not lose the whole concept without compromising the qualities.
We have an efficient rehearsal process; you come in, you learn the songs and you do it. We’ve been working with each other for quite some time now and we don’t really like to waste time so we keep on putting up fresh ideas.
Our rehearsals are done twice a week where we have dedicated actors which helps to make the flow of the production smooth.
4. The characters of the story have unique profiles, what are the criteria that you look for in the actors of the play?
Ian: Well for this play we found that both the actor and actress looked alike and they passed as siblings. I think I also look for acts that are willing to share and those who are committed in what they do.
Shafeeq: I look for people with positive attitudes and people who I know I can make magic with. I need them to be able to give me something and to be able to deliver the things that I want.
That’s the first criteria I look for and the ability to act and sings comes afterwards.
5. The play will be showcased in a gallery, is there a reason to why you go for intimate settings?
Shafeeq: I’ve always wanted to create theatre that is organ shifting, which goes well with the name of the Liver and Lung Productions.
I want my audience to be up and close with me and make them go into another world.
The audience are going to enjoy the show while being served with food so they will go through a different theatre experience.
6. What are the drawbacks and difficulties you faced while preparing for the show?
Ian: The rehearsals have been a little tough whereby each act is very tiring for us all.
Nearing the show, it takes a lot of energy and effort but most importantly, we chill at the end.
Since we’re all self-funded, our actual careers have helped us a lot in the making of the shows.
7. GMBB is really helping to bring out local artistic talents, how have you enjoyed the partnership with them?
Shafeeq: They have been so good! There are very invested with arts and they do combine both art and business together. They really care about the artists and are very invested in developing us.
I am very honoured to have them give the space for the play and I am very very happy. GMBB is going to be really successful.
8. How are you going to invite other youngsters to enjoy theatre and to get them involved?
Shafeeq: I’m trying to make Malaya Relived an ongoing series. And as time goes by, I won’t be directing all the shows so I want to see new directors, new musical directors, new singers and I’m using that as an incubator for new talents to just keep churning the content every month.
9. As a young and experienced director, what do you wish to say to rising and growing young directors out there?
Shafeeq: I believe that these coming talents need to understand what they stand for, and you need to firstly understand who you are and what you want to say.
Telling your stories the right way after getting it wrong requires maturity. So you have to be really brave and confident and do not be afraid to fail.
Be strong in what you want to tell the audience because you have a responsibility and you should do it for good reasons.
Ian: You should always keep doing because that’s the only way that you are going to grow. Just do. Don’t stop and say ‘I think I want to do this, I think I should do that’ but don’t do anything at all.
Just keep doing, and that’s how you’re going to learn.
10. Why should people come and watch Malaya Relived: The Fall of Singapore?
Shafeeq: Malaysians have the responsibility to firstly just enjoy being Malaysians. I don’t think that we do that enough.
So, with the play I want people to have the opportunity to celebrate being Malaysians and for Malaysians to find out about the past and take a look back at the histories.
This show has it all. It’s a really fun and amazing experience.
You’re going to come and laugh, get scared, there is going to be a little bit of romance, sadness and chills, and there’s going to be food!
You also have a chance to come and leave with questions.
11. Share with us five untold facts about yourselves
- I am a ‘unifer’. I constantly try to unify and find consensus among people.
- I am a musician and play the piano.
- I am a family man; I love my mum, dad and sister. They are so supportive of me.
- I am proudly Malaysian and Asian.
- I look fabulous all the time!
- I’ve been performing since I was 10, my father’s an international musician.
- I have a cat named Meow Xi Tong.
- I’m also an actor and started with an RTM reality show for 2 seasons.
- I have a degree in animation.
- I really really love the colour orange and cows.
Shafeeq and Ian are a ball of positive young energy with committed passion in theatre and arts. The future of theatre is definitely going to be bright with their talents on board.
Tickets for Malaya Relived: The Fall of Singapore are available here.
Dates: 22nd March – 24th March 2019
Price: RM70 (General), RM60 (Concessions)
You surely don’t want to miss out on all of the fun!
Written by Fatin Zafirah