The one thing theatre director and playwright Fasyali Fadzly has picked up being in the local theatre scene for more than a decade is, undoubtedly, the importance of documenting your own work.
“I’m not good at documentation. I don’t have any recorded videos of my plays, ” says Fasyali, a theatre studies lecturer at KL’s Akademi Seni Budaya Dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) in a recent interview.
Fasyali, 36, laments over the fact that many local playwrights, whose works were staged in the 2010s, have not seen their works published.
This is unlike what he calls the “golden era of Malay theatre” in the 1970s when many local scripts were published, together with critical writings about local theatre made available.
Fasyali, who got his theatre training from UiTM in 2010, and a masters of fine art from University of Calgary (Canada) in 2015, has taken it upon himself to start documenting and publish a collection of his plays between 2007 and 2017.
Fasyali’s book is called Teater Juta-Juta, after his award-winning play of the same name (2014 Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Best Original Play, Best Director and Best Ensemble Performance). The cover was designed by illustrator Fry Yusof, who recently won Best Album Art at the Tapau Awards 2019.
At 152-pages, Teater Juta-Juta contains two short plays, Tangan Kiri Ayah (2007) and Ingatan (2017), and three full-length plays, which are Berani Mati (2009), Kotak Hitam (2011) and Teater Juta-Juta (2011).
In 2016, Fasyali also received a grant from the Krishen Jit Astro Fund to work on a theatre research and performance project involving migrant worker communities and their folk and cultural backgrounds.
His Migrant Worker Theatre Project is still ongoing.
In short, Fasyali says his Teater Juta-Juta book gathers his theatre-making progress. Each script is very special to him, with each work establishing his name in the theatre scene here.
Interestingly, Ingatan premiered in Japan in 2017 as part of Za-Koenji Theatre’s One Table Two Chairs Meeting programme and was later commissioned by George Town Festival 2018 to be staged as a full-length play. A short version was performed at Pesta Boneka 2018 in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
Fasyali says it was important for him to publish this book as he wants more people to have access to his plays.
In the past few years, local theatre works have been slowly documented and published, including Staging History: Selected Plays from Five Arts Centre Malaysia 1984-2014 in 2016 and Teater Modular Box Set (featuring Ridhwan Saidi’s playlets) from Moka Mocha Ink in 2019.
Fasyali’s Teater Juta-Juta serves both as a retrospective and an introduction when it comes to this director’s stage style.
“When directing a play, I don’t want to stick to one particular style. I like to create and explore new convention, but not too experimental. I also love to explore low tech theatre and less dependent on scenography elements. I always emphasise on script and performance rather than other elements, ” he elaborates.
The KL-based Fasyali, whose recent stage credits include The Carer’s Monologue & Chorus (2019) and Are You Game, Sau (dara)? (2019), is showing no signs of slowing down. He shares that he had just finished writing a new one-act play called Mesyuarat Bihun which discusses the absurdity of bureaucracy and Malaysian politics.
There will be a stage-reading of this new work during Teater Juta-Juta’s book launch on Feb 2 at the Serambi Karya arts space in Kuala Lumpur.
Fasyali, born in Kota Tinggi in Johor, is also slated to direct a new Singaporean play called Punggoh that will be staged in April at the Esplanade.
The director admits that the path to publishing a book is not an easy one. He originally intended to put the book together in 2018 as a bilingual book.
“I applied for any grants that were available but didn’t receive any. Probably because most of my scripts were staged in early 2010s and considered not recent plays.
“Then last year I planned to publish it myself but realised I need a lot of money for that. Also, I need to pay for the English translation. So, I decided to get it published in Bahasa Malaysia by only using my own savings under my company Main Theatre, ” says Fasyali.
Despite the challenges of finishing a self-funded book project, Fasyali has words of encouragement for those in the local theatre scene.
“To improve our situation now, I want to encourage playwrights and theatremakers to find ways to document their work. Of course, more funding would be helpful.
“If I can propose something, I think it is useful to have an anthology (of local theatre) every year to have proper documentation on theatre development and playwriting in Malaysia, ” he concludes.
For more information, head to fasyalifadzly.com.