My first actual theatre play was in the multipurpose hall where I became Magic Man. The name of the play was “Children of the Future”, I came in to put everyone to sleep by putting magical dust on them and then asked each student what they wanted to be when I grow up.
I became the whole laughing stock of the school for a whole month or two. Everyone knew me from that, I must’ve been 14-15 at the time. That is when I started to like it. I also tried a lot of things like choir and dancing but I liked acting the most because it is about emotion and exaggeration.
I studied Quantity Surveying at Swansea Metropolitan, and having drama as an extracurricular wasn’t in the big picture, so I wasn’t as involved with it as I was before. I didn’t have time to watch theatre shows, since during my time at university I had practicals. I filled the only time I had with games and doing regular student things. It is not like I couldn’t put the two things together, but it was just, to pair those two in the situation was hard.
I never had foreign friends before, most of the people I hung before were just Bruneians. When I went to the UK where I had Jamaican, Nigerian, Irish, Welsh, Chinese friends.
Just different kinds of people, it was awkward at first since I didn’t know how to speak to them. What is the right word to say, what is the correct gesture and how to interact with them. You might do a gesture and find out it is the wrong thing to do, you just don’t know. Once I gotten used to it, coming back it was a breeze, I could talk to anyone really.
I have been with Seeds (formerly known as Students Extracurricular and Education Dramatic Society) from the first batch. I was Bill Sykes in the production of Oliver! The Musical which was my first role as a villain. Being involved with Seeds gives you a lot of experience and some perspective for students, it is a good foundation.
I started out helping with Seeds rather than being in it, but by the end we said why not act? We were helping out at first, organising and preparing things, but we were doing what coaches do, but then it turned out we became Seedlings (member of Seeds).
It started from fun activities to something far more serious, since we wanted to really try our best and show that we can really do it as amateur actors. We have to be serious since people think acting is playful. It is only playful during rehearsals, but when you are close to the last week or before the actual performance, nobody wants to hear another person forget their lines or make joke in between lines. Nobody wants that, everyone wants you to be on spot because that is what we should actually do on the real day.
When I came back to Brunei during a semester break from university, I went to Sekolah Sukan during a workshop to see short plays. I sat there looking at new faces all around and I was really impressed since what they were doing was so different from how we did it when we started off.
It was very fast paced, everyone was talking gibberish but you could hear everything, it would be something you would see in a TV series I guess, so I was really impressed by the talent they had.
Now I have become a coach, working with specific group during the workshop event at Menglait Secondary School and have been asked to help with publicity. But I thought when I was out of the country I could come back as a Seedling, but seeing as I have a career already it would be very uncomfortable for me I guess, and I thought I would benefit more as a coach rather than as a Seedling.
With Relentless Entertainment, Mardi Hedus (founder of Relentless Entertainment) got into contact with Mohammad Syafiq Haji Abu Bakar (founder of Seeds Brunei) since they needed actors, so I was suggested for it. We were needed for a private event and they wanted us to act in scenes from movies, so that is how I started, I was an actor at first.
Even though I joined four years ago, I am not good at dancing but that doesn’t mean I should stop. Other than the first performance I was part of was acting, I have also done some public performances for weddings and carnivals. I have actually done that, we did a Michael Jackson song and different kinds of popping and locking songs. It was very groovy and very tight.
Rehearsal wise, it depends on the event but for the most part we rehearse different kinds of dances. Every three nights out of a week it is always different kind of dance. The ones which work the best we rehearse, or maybe repeat them for next week. Then repeat them again the next next week, so that when there is an event we already have a base for the dance. We can just brush up the dance to show them.
You don’t really get taught to do it, it is just you go in there and you do what he (Mardi) does with the steps. “Ok guys this is one-to-two-three-four” and we follow it and it gets faster according to the beat of the song.
Relentless Entertainment is pretty friendly to start off with. When we are not rehearsing, we are just sitting there and just looking at these talented kids who are younger than us by several years and we were just amazed. During rehearsals one of the them came to me and asked, “How are you guys?” and socially they were friendly so it was easy to talk to them.
Because everyone is young with Relentless Entertainment, below the age of the age of 30. So we have our fun, everyone is used to each other and there is no big man. There is no adult, they tell you what to do, you do this or this. It is where everyone knows what they roles are and everyone is comfortable is with each other.
Performances for 1STOPBRUNEI
The first performance for 1STOPBRUNEI was Ralph but expectations were too high. When you start something out of the blue, maybe you expected hundred or two hundred people to come, but won’t really get it just like that unless you have really good marketing and publicity. When we started the performance there was around 70 out of 200 seats filled but then after the intermission it became as low as 40 people.
It went pretty badly, but we did our best nevertheless. We didn’t have a proper MC (master of ceremonies) or this and that, we were unorganised because we were only thinking about us, we were only thinking about doing the performance, we didn’t think it through with everything else. It became like that, we were hoping for something big, so we were crushed and disappointed but it didn’t stop us.
After that we did everything ourselves, we didn’t rely on anyone else. We did our own marketing, we did our own publicity and for the “Comedy Night Part I” at the Ministry of Education building in Gadong. We got approximately 150 and it was really impressive. It looked like a full house. We were aiming for 200 so that was a pretty good number.
“Comedy Night Part II” I think was pretty good because we changed our prices. For “Comedy Night Part I” it was five dollars for students and 10 dollars for adults but most of them were students who came in, but this time it was three dollars per entry. We priced it this way to attract students.
Acting in Brunei
If they change Bruneian TV, with proper Bruneian dialect that would definitely interest a lot of people. What Bruneains are doing today with Youtube, making their own episodes that is really good. They are not great actors but you know that this is how Bruneains should sound like, that is what I think anyway.
I don’t think the ones you see on RTB have a diploma or degree in acting, they act because people think they are good at it, that is their qualification. Especially with the performing arts thing more implemented in Brunei maybe one of these days there will be an official drama school, private or public that can improve the Bruneians here and then maybe we can get good series but I don’t know.
With Bruneian humour it is things that happen daily. When you see these videos you get it because you have been through it. Whether it is old people coming together, you get it because you have seen it first hand, they touch on this things in the videos.
When you sit with a bunch of friends by the side of the road and then out of the sudden your friends would say, “Hey lets make a video” And if you do it that is what makes viral and people copy it.
I think it also depends on the kind of impressions you give out to people. Some of them on Youtube do it for fun and some of them take it from the fun and then they see that it is really good and want to do more to take it to a higher level. So they get suggestions and ask the audience what kinds of video they want.