Chatting Alfresco With Tony Eusoff

Tony Eusoff (L) & Aaron Khaled (R)

During my backstage tour of Istana Budaya over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to chat with Tony Eusoff a.k.a Agent Farouk of “The Secret Life Of Nora”. Tony entered the local tv scene in 2004 in “Istana Idaman II” and since then has starred in many theatre shows including “Electronic City”, “The Girl from Ipoh”, “Bangsawan Naga Chini”, “Tunku The Musical”, “Terima Kasih Cinta” and “Dreamgirls”. “The Secret Life Of Nora” is Tony’s 3rd musical in Istana Budaya this year after “Terima Kasih Cinta” and “Dreamgirls”.

We chatted on the grounds of Istana Budaya as the dressing room was getting busy with the M.A.C. Artistic Team doing the makeup for the supporting cast. I asked Tony what some of the challenges were in the production of “The Secret Life Of Nora”. Firstly, Tony said that everyone should understand that local musicals is something that just picked up in the last 5 to 10 years and as such, people should not compare local musicals too much to musicals in foreign countries or international acts.

Tony pointed out that in foreign countries, musicals were part of those countries’ foreign initiative. While Tony feels that constructive criticism is good and local productions have to keep doing their level best and not be too complacent, there are a lot of obstacles producing a musical in Malaysia as there is not enough expertise to iron things out.

On the 1st night of “The Secret Life Of Nora”, the performance had to be cancelled after Act I due to some technical issues and it was decided to be in the best interests for the safety of the cast. The set crew are still on a trial-and-error basis. Cast, crew and technical managers are on a continual learning process.

According to Tony, for the past year, the lifts at Istana Budaya have not been functioning so Enfiniti Vision Media has had to build towers to get around this problem. Enfiniti has incorporated a lot of things to come up with the amazing set. Looking at the number of backdrops, I am sure Enfiniti spared no expense in hiring the best people they could.

As an actor who has been on the scene for the past 7 1/2 years, Tony feels that he isn’t as seasoned as he wants to be yet (he feels 10 years is the benchmark). He comes into every new project with an open heart and tries not to be too complacent. He draws a lot from his fellow actors and places an enormous amount of trust in his director. He feels that the director and his fellow actors are the best people to guide him.

I asked Tony whether he prefers dramas to musicals. Tony yearns to do something he hasn’t done much of before like comedy. He would like the opportunity to explore other facets of his talent. Personally, he’d like to see local literature from the region, e.g. regional myths and legends adapted into theatre productions, such productions to be presented in a manner as truthful as possible and depict localised issues.

Having read a few of Tiara Jacquelina’s interviews with some local dailies and magazines, I know that she advocates arts programmes in government schools so I asked Tony what is his view on this issue. Tony said that such programmes are long overdue and arts (which he considers the soul of a nation) has not been emphasised enough in our schools. There is too much tuition and not enough arts programmes to encourage creativity in children.

Tony pointed out that in Sweden where there is an emphasis on arts programmes, they are not lagging in technical, telecommunications and the IT fields. As Tony said, art is instinctive, primal and has been around forever. I couldn’t agree with him more. Instead of rote learning in schools, we should take a cue from the popular “Glee”.

In closing, Tony said that as a nation, we should embrace and celebrate the fact that we are multi-racial. In his words, “we are all kinds of fruits blended to make the perfect smoothie”. Yes, if only we could all blend together as well as a smoothie!

Note : It was a real pleasure speaking to a very talented local actor and I look forward to seeing more of Tony’s performances onstage. Perhaps we could have a production of “Bawang Merah Bawang Putih”? Thanks to Tony and M.A.C. Malaysia’s PR for this interview.

The Secret Life Of Nora will perform for 3 additional nights from 20th-22nd Oct 2011. Since its opening on 29th Sept 2011, the musical has been watched by 22,000 people.