In Toy Factory Productions Ltd’s launch of their second season of DIRECT ENTRY, a biannual director-mentorship programme that aims to nurture young artists into capable stage directors, 2022’s director-mentee Adeeb Fazah directs an original script by Shaleihin Pi’ee – For My Highness.
Adeeb Fazah underwent the nine-month-long mentorship under award-winning director, Goh Boon Teck and is thrilled to finally be showcasing his directing chops through For Her Highness, where Shaleihin Pi’ee sheds light on the rising issue of substance abuse within the LGBT community through the lens of a Singaporean male malay/muslim protagonist. Adeeb Fazah and the young cast attempt to find a balance on stage with a script that dives deep into the topic of substance abuse and its detrimental implications to family and society.
I was given the privilege to interview both Adeeb Fazah and Shaleihin Pi’ee to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of For My Highness, which opens its doors on 25th November.
Interview with Theatre-Director Adeeb Fazah
In 3 words, how would you describe your mentorship journey under DIRECT ENTRY? Why did you choose those words?
The words I would choose are challenging, vital and encouraging. Challenging in the way that I was being pushed to consider my approach to the craft of directing, and to challenge myself in how to use the medium in more creative and meaningful ways. Vital because it feels necessary for me to reflect on my craft and have an outside eye that comes from a place of experience and expertise in the field. Encouraging simply because Boon Teck has been constructive while being kind, and very encouraging and validating.
What was the toughest moment in your mentorship journey that you had to overcome?
Interestingly, the toughest moment was probably deciding on the play that I would direct, as we were looking for something practical and a creative challenge for me. Initially, the idea was to look for an existing play, but the idea of creating something original came up and we all agreed that it would be the best way forward, but this decision took us a while and lots of discussion.
As a director, what motivates you the most and why?
I think a lot about theatre as a medium and how it can be used not just to tell stories but to challenge perspectives. How do we share truthful accounts of human experiences and still manage to provoke a kind of criticality and reflexivity? How can theatre be used not just to entertain but to also develop empathy in ourselves? How can I ensure that the resources that go into each production, and the time audiences spend in the theatre is a meaningful and constructive endeavour? These are what motivate me as a director that influences how I choose the plays I direct and also how I direct these plays.
How was the process of directing ‘For My Highness’? What was your proudest moment as the director of the play?
The process of putting together For My Highness started out with a lot of research about the hidden cultures that are presented in the play as well as the drug and rehabilitation situation in today’s world. The research helped me ground the work in some real world context and also enabled me to bring in the richness that could easily be erased if not treated with care. Beyond that, the first time the cast came together to read the play was a really energising experience as their voices really brought a lot of life and dynamism to the characters in the play that had been in black and white font for a long time in its development phase. This gave me a sense of pride and anticipation for what was to come. Rehearsals have been going well and I’m glad to be working with the cast, creatives and crew that we have as they have been generous collaborators who have been fun to work with. This really helps, and I hope that translates into the final product that people will see on stage at Stamford Arts Centre.
Interview with Playwright Shalehin Pi’ee
As the playwright, why did you choose to focus your script on substance abuse, in particular within the LGBT community?
I feel that there isn’t much visibility on the topic of Substance Use Disorder within the LGBT community. Sadly it is quite a prevailing issue that is rising in our community, and I strongly feel that shedding light on this will allow people to perhaps have more empathy toward individuals who might be facing this.
What drove you to make your protagonist a Singaporean male Malay/Muslim?
The story of For My Highness comes from a personal place in my life – having a close friend who ended his own life through substance overdose really shook my world. Like me, he was also a malay/muslim, and I think drawing from his past struggles that he had previously shared with me resonated with me as a playwright as I wrote this play. It almost feels like a tribute to him, and somehow that’s how I know that this play will serve a higher purpose than just being performative, but also holds a message that can help us understand better what may be going through the minds of a person with mental health issues, specifically Substance Use Disorder.
The Malay and Islam aspect definitely adds layers to the protagonist, however, I hope that audiences will be able to see a larger picture that the message in this play goes beyond just religion and ethnicity. At heart, my message is “Healing starts from within, and recovery should begin from home.”
What were some takeaways you learned through the process of writing the script for ‘For My Highness’?
Personally, for me, I am glad that I wrote this play in 2022. If I wrote it back in 2019 (back when my close friend passed), I would be a total mess. After many interviews with trauma survivors, research, and reflections, I feel that my main takeaway is that Substance Use Disorder is not a straightforward issue with just rehab and therapy; it is actually quite a complex one that I feel that we as a community can come together to offer space, empathy, and support for those in need.
In my opinion, For My Highness is a promising play that goes above and beyond to demonstrate to the audience the art of theatre as a medium – not just for entertainment, but a meaningful and deep display of emotions. Adeeb Fazah and Shalehin Pi’ee’s words have truly moved me and reminded me about the art of theatre and the potential it has as a platform to provide civil discourse on topics we are often uncomfortable talking about.
So much effort has been put into the production of For My Highness from its extensive research to its countless rehearsals. I truly believe that the play will be a raw and vulnerable experience that is definitely worth a watch.
Has your interest been piqued? Read on to find out where to buy tickets and where you can watch For My Highness in action.
Dates: 25th November 2022 to 27th November 2022
Timings: 3pm, 8pm
Venue: Stamford Arts Centre, Blackbox Address: 155 Waterloo St, #01-08, Singapore 187962 Ticket Price: $43 (excluding Booking Fee)
Duration: 1 hour 20 minutes
Language: English Tickets
Available Here: https://for-my-highness.eventbrite.sg
Ratings: M18 (TBC) – Homosexual Theme/ Substance-abuse/Coarse language
Get your tickets now!