Goose Intentions

Siti Khalijah can make you cry: she proved as much with her riveting performance earlier this year in Best Of, a one-woman play about a young Malay woman struggling with identity and family issues in Singapore. But she’s also incredibly adept at making us laugh. After bringing the house down as Nicki Minah in last year’s Hansel & Gretel, she’s back to tickle our funny bone in Jack & The Bean-Sprout!.

Tell us a little bit about your character.

The main character I play is someone who’s been put under a spell and turned into Goose Mangat – which, as you know, sounds like a Malay remark that people always say when they’re shocked. So it’s wordplay. Goose Mangat is basically this character who’s kept in the giant’s house [like in the fairy tale], and every time she gets shocked, will lay a golden egg.

I can’t say that my character is finalised, though, because we’ve only been through one script readthrough so far and there could still be major changes.

What do you enjoy most about performing in a pantomime?

Actually, it’s very fun, because – despite the fact that it’s such a big show – it’s still quite intimate. Panto allows you to interact with the audience, as opposed to other stage shows that we do, where there’s the audience, then there’s us [the performers], and there’s no interaction. But panto allows the audience to get involved in the show as well. We ask them for help, and we get their opinions and stuff like that. It makes them feel they’re part of the play as well. I think that’s cool.

Nothing stresses you out about being in a pantomime?

It’s really exciting, it falls during the Christmas period, it’s a fun, enjoyable play for everyone – the whole family can come, it’s for all ages. There’s singing and dancing… I don’t think it’s pressurising. In fact, it’s very fun because it allows everyone to get involved!

What’s it like to work with the FIRST STAGE kids in the ensemble?

I think it’s actually really nice that, for performances with such a big cast, you get to see kids acting. Because usually, if you want to see kids perform, it’s in children’s theatre.

Some of the kids who are performing in the show with us – during rehearsals, when they’re required to say one line, they’ll be very shy or very quiet. And we’ll ask them to say the line louder and tell them, ‘You have to be bigger!’ But once you see their excitement at being able to perform onstage and say their lines out loud in front of an audience, they suddenly switch and become SUPER ON! I think that’s very cute – it’s not only the adult actors who feel the excitement of a live audience, even the younger kids can sense it. And they react to how the audience is reacting. They really surprise me. They’re wonderful.

What’s it like when you watch rather than perform in a pantomime?

I think it’s magic onstage, basically. It makes you feel like a little kid again. Even though you think you know the story, because these are all familiar fairy tales, you’ll be surprised anyway. These stories are given a local touch and there are also elements of magic. Every time I watch a panto, I always get excited, wondering about what’s going to happen and what twist and touch of magic W!LD RICE is going to give it.

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