Taking centre stage

Liew acting in The Pillowman. — Joylene Ling
Esther Liew at PJ Palms Sports Centre, Kuala Lumpur, on 18 July 2017. — Sunpix by Shahrill Basri

ESTHER Liew pursued her dream of acting by going for theatre auditions. With a law degree in hand from a university in the UK, she never had the intention of practising law. Realising she never had any formal training in acting, she started looking out for acting training programmes and from there, nothing has stopped her since. 

How has acting helped you in becoming a director/stage manager?

The stage manager stint was a one-off thing as the director was my acting teacher and she asked me to come on board as a stage manager. This year, I am focusing on directing and going on a one-year long directing programme. It's a masters level training without certification. I think having training in acting, I am able to see things from the actor's perspective as a director. This helps me in being a director as I then can relate from an actor's point of view.

What's your favourite show/stage show?

I think the one I really enjoyed acting in and had a lot of fun acting in was a show I did last year with Calvin Wong in KLPac called 16-Bit Coriolanus. It's a Shakespeare play done in a video game style. I had to play at least five characters in one and a half hours. The costume changes, the fight sequences – it was very fun and to finally to do a Shakespeare play in a modern way, it was the best.

Who do you look up to?

In terms of directing, I really look up to Christopher Ling of Theatre 360, his directing style intricates me; he has this eye for visuals. Another director I look up to is Calvin – his style and I love the way he directs, communicates and guides actors. Also, one of my earliest mentors back in 2012 to 2013, Alex Chua, has been a mentor and figure I look up to during my early acting days. His expertise is just one of a kind.

In terms of acting, on the top of my head, I really look up to Sharifah Amani. I've only seen her as someone who acts for TV or film but then, two years ago I saw her on stage at DPAC. It was called Another Country, where Malaysian actors were acting out a Singapore story and vice versa; she blew me away. Her presence on stage and her techniques as well, was something I look up to.

When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?

The first thing I do is, I use the washroom, make coffee or a drink and check my phone. During that time, I really take a break from my character.

What do you do when you're not doing theatre?

I actually teach. I have been freelancing as a drama facilitator for children aged four to teenagers for the past four and a half years. That's my stable financial income. I teach all over the place around Klang Valley from schools, home schools to centres.

What's the last thing you do before you step out on stage, or before the curtain goes up?

We always do warm ups, individually or as a cast.