Fri 3 Feb, 2023
Inspired by the original Humans of New York, Humans of Shakespeare North Playhouse aims to document as many of the wonderful people who walk through our building each day. Giving a glimpse into who they are and the story they have to share.
“This above all: To thine own self be true.” Hamlet, Act I, Scene III.
“I grew up in Malaysia and I didn’t know any artists. I didn’t know it was a thing you could do. It’s changed now, but everyone back then was more profession focused and the arts weren’t really part of that. Traditional arts in Malaysia went by the wayside and were just something if you weren’t very clever you would do, which is ridiculous! But the school would funnel people into science subjects, so I never really thought a career in the arts was a possible future for me. At the same time my parents were English teachers so I was reading a lot and I was writing little stories and poems and things like that. But they were like no you can’t study any of this seriously.
“Fast forward I got to England and in the back of my head it did feel like a place of opportunity. It’s so ridiculous to little Malaysian me to go ‘Oh you could study something at University and not do that thing as your job’. I never knew what I wanted to do because there was always like a push-pull factor of what do I need to do to have security and to look after my parents. But I’ve always created stuff, either performance or writing stuff and not like acting classes or writing classes, just through little creative activities at school.
“I studied Archaeology and Anthropology at University because I kind of just fell into it! I was initially studying Human Sciences and that was already a mix of arts and science subjects but it had the word science in the title so it ticked a big box! But I freaked out because I thought I didn’t know how to do the “hard science” subjects, like I was studying statistics and genetics and I was doing okay but I just panicked so I switched to Arch and Anth and that’s what I graduated with. Then it was the big question mark you know what job am I going to get? how am i going to survive? Then fast forward some more and I fell into writing as well.
“I went to a poetry gig, and I saw a poet doing this really experimental stuff I went up to him after and I was like ‘I really liked your stuff’ and he said I’m teaching an MA you should apply. So, I applied and I got in. I guess “falling into” things is how I describe the process whereby my desire to belong has led me down unexpected paths. The pattern has always been a series of trying stuff and moving on and just constantly following my curiosity despite the immigrant attitude of having to do something that is secure. So that’s how I ended up doing writing and performance.
“I remember as a child being really worried about being a quitter, you know trying something that wasn’t for me then trying something else. It’s a cliche to go you’re never too old but it is true! It’s sometimes really good to try a lot of stuff and go that’s not for me, as opposed to not trying at all. I think that was something I had to get over. I started acting late and I started writing really late and I’m so glad I tried. I met this amazing woman who started doing stand-up when she was 70 and that was amazing!
“The media is changing a lot because we have the internet and because we have the internet we have a ton more of tv channels and streamers so it means that there’s need for so much more material and at the same time we’ve had all those social justice movements right? Mostly I would say led by America because of their particular history and culture they seem much more aware of their past. We are kind of catching up in England, but because of the internet everyone’s watching more, writing more sharing more. When younger writers ask how do I write, I say just write! You don’t have to do the old school thing of writing to an agent or a publisher, you don’t necessarily have to self-publish but you can share stuff online. You can microblog on Twitter or Instagram, and as you write material you just get better don’t you? So I do think it’s changing. I suppose recently there’s a bunch of East and South East Asian’s who have won loads of acting awards so that’s great for visibility. I think it’s unfortunate sometimes when you have to go through some sort of list of who’s more oppressed or who should get recognised in a particular order. I think it’s useful to be specific – to think about who can we include, who isn’t in the room, how can we look after them once we invite them into the room. lets do our best and accept that we’re going to make mistakes.
“I never do things by the book. I would produce events and through those I met a whole bunch of poets and makers who used language in really interesting ways. So occasionally I would share bits myself. I did my MA then at the same time I wrote for The Good Immigrant where I spoke about identity. I realised that whenever I make stuff it’s about taking up space because by virtue of being on stage and making yourself visible, you’re taking space and expressing yourself. I try to make my work accessible. So even though I write about identity and home and loss and sometimes trauma, I use myself as a starting point to connect to others with shared experiences and hope it inspires other people to tell their stories and take up space as well. When it was pre lockdown and pre pandemic I would run workshops about energising people and inspiring people to make stuff and be creative.”