What I’ve Learned

Stephen Rah­man-hughes talks per­form­ing and be­ing in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of Ola Bola The Mu­si­cal.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - in­ter­view by Anis tau­fik pho­to­graph by Delvin Xian

I’m a bit of a chameleon. Time has taught me to really try and learn ev­ery­thing I can. Once you reach a cer­tain age and look back at your ca­reer, you’ll re­alise that you have a three—even, four —di­men­sional pic­ture of your ca­reer. Un­der­stand­ing lots of dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines has helped me on my way. It just means that I’m able to work all the time in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments, and it keeps me in­ter­ested in what I do too.

We wit­ness these mo­ments of hu­man­ity, these mo­ments of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in the per­for­mance arts. It doesn’t mat­ter whether you’re do­ing some­thing as a per­former, a chore­og­ra­pher or a di­rec­tor— you be­come privy to change hap­pen­ing be­fore your eyes. The [per­for­mance] arts is the per­fect mech­a­nism that in­sti­gates hu­man­ity to evolve; it al­lows peo­ple to have a greater un­der­stand­ing of who they are. I love in­ject­ing ideas and philoso­phies into the room, and just watch­ing peo­ple change. There’s just some­thing really re­ward­ing about see­ing how peo­ple take in in­for­ma­tion, de­velop it and make it their own.

It’s nice for the ego when you’re [per­form­ing] in front of an au­di­ence. You have the power to make them laugh—or cry. It takes im­mense skill and ded­i­ca­tion to your craft to be able to do that. The au­di­ence really has to be­lieve in you, as an ac­tor and a singer, and it’s lovely.

Leave no stone un­turned. Just lis­ten and try to pick up as much in­for­ma­tion as you can. Really, lis­ten. You might have an idea or an im­age in your mind about how some­thing should be done, but ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of that. You need to be able to lis­ten to ev­ery­body’s ver­sion of that. When I was younger, I thought there was just the right way and the wrong way of do­ing things. But when you get older and work with so many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, you re­alise that ev­ery­one has his or her own ap­proach. It’s really just lis­ten­ing and learn­ing from other peo­ple’s ap­proaches. Just be pa­tient.

Move­ment was a way for me to ex­press my­self and re­lease a lot of my en­ergy. I had a com­plex up­bring­ing, and I al­ways wanted to find a way of ex­press­ing my­self—it came through a phys­i­cal sort of mo­tion in the be­gin­ning. As I was go­ing through my teens, I wanted to do mar­tial arts and I was do­ing a lot of break­danc­ing. Once I found the per- form­ing arts and dance, it be­came an es­cape for me.

Not ev­ery­thing is about money or earn­ing a wage. I used to have a cor­po­rate job in ad­ver­tis­ing. I was just crunch­ing num­bers and it was so bor­ing. I took six months off, and when I went back, I said, “I can’t be do­ing this with my life any­more.” The ex­pe­ri­ence taught me that I needed—and wanted—more out of life. I needed to find a way to ex­press my­self. Once I made that de­ci­sion, ev­ery­thing just took care of it­self.

Con­flict is a part of life. Even as a per­former or an artist, there are things that you have to bat­tle against, like deal­ing with a cor­po­rate men­tal­ity in a cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment. I’m look­ing at the holes in my own per­sonal knowl­edge and see­ing what I need to work on, just in terms of creat­ing a much hap­pier en­vi­ron­ment in my own mind. I’m try­ing to arm my­self with more pa­tience, and un­der­stand­ing of how our dif­fer­ent worlds can col­lide and cre­ate fric­tion. It’s really about how you deal with that fric­tion to make sure that you stay in a happy mind­set. Things are not al­ways go­ing to go your way.

Tiara [Jac­quelina] and I still laugh about Pu­teri Gu­nung Ledang. Tiara can’t re­mem­ber any of the lines, and yet I re­mem­ber all of them. It was so hard for me [to mem­o­rise the script]— the process was so ar­du­ous. It (Malay)’s not my first lan­guage and I really had to drill the lan­guage into me. When I got the male lead as Hang Tuah in Pu­teri Gu­nung Ledang, a lot of the press were really scep­ti­cal be­cause I couldn’t speak Malay at the time. But once I over­came that, peo­ple saw that I am an ac­tor—and that I’d trained my whole life for it. That was really the be­gin­ning of my ca­reer here and it was amaz­ing.

Malaysia seems to have gone through a bit of a lull in terms of cre­ativ­ity and the arts. I wanted to come back and just try to plug in again. It would be nice to get some­thing go­ing. I’m in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of Ola Bola The Mu­si­cal, and I’d love to do a movie here af­ter that. I’m much more se­lec­tive about the jobs that come in and what I choose to do now. I know what’s go­ing to make me happy and un­happy now. I try to stay away from jobs if it’s just for the money, or if I know that there’s not go­ing to be any real ful­fil­ment.

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