Interview with Rita Teo, performer in The Tribe

Ng Yi-Sheng

July 8, 2016

I'm fascinated by all the under-recognised individuals who make the festival work—tech crew, front of house staff, interns, volunteers. So I'm grabbing the chance to interview them here and there.

Club Malam, however, involves so many unnamed performers that I had to grab one of them for a chat.

Here's one of the most immediately recognisable members of Speak Cryptic's The Tribe, Rita Teo!

NYS: What’s it like being a member of The Tribe?

RT: It is really “member”. It’s the bonding thing. It grows on you slowly and you find that everyone is so willing to be a bit extra friendly and they ask are you ok today how can I help you. It’s not something people see every day.

NYS: You auditioned for this in…?

RT: April.

NYS: What were rehearsals like?

RT: I was under Sonia’s tribe, and then halfway through I was taken out to do origami. So what you see on the wall, the lizards, we have a lizard wall, all those are folded by myself.

And what else? So rehearsal wise I can only join for them for the card game—that is the beginning, that is the opening, which is only 15 minutes—and after that I will be upstairs for whoever wants to do origami.

(She further clarifies that the origami was Noorlinah Mohamed’s idea, and that Speak Cryptic chose her to staff the station.)

NYS: Had you done origami before?

RT: In [artist Jason Wee’s] Ways of Wandering, that was in 2014, we also had an installation and I also did origami. And previous to that, the other Arts Fest, 2012, I was teaching origami in this little caravan for the kids.

NYS: What’s your day job?

RT: My day job? I’m retired. Before that I was a case worker. I dealt mainly with inmates. You’re not one, are you?

NYS: Not yet!

RT: It’s not fun. Take it from me.

NYS: I’m amazed that you have the energy to dance for a whole hour during NADA’s performance.

RT: It’s OK, especially for that particular… I didn’t think I would be dancing. It’s the energy, that’s what I mean by the Tribe. Once the momentum gathers and the energy is there… so the energy just carries you.

So, if ‘m not there tomorrow, you know I’ll be in bed! I think the last time I danced was 40 years ago. It’s a good workout, really. It’s a nostalgic place with a nostalgic happening for me because I’m already 65… So it’s like, wow, I’ve been there, a rock group, oh my god.

NYS: So you were a fan of rock music in the past?

RT: Oh yeah, heavy metal, yeah! We screamed our throats out!

NYS: What were your favourite bands?

RT: Back then there weren’t very many heavy metal bands. You had one or two, so we wait for those imported bands to come and you just go screaming. The music carries you. It’s not something you plan. The music just comes into you and you just do what you have to do. You can’t script a dance. You just dance. Happening! Do your own thing!

NYS: Are you the only Tribe member of your generation? Speak mentioned that the age range was 18 to 65, but I don’t see any 40-somethings or 50-somethings.

RT: It’s very extreme. They’re like 18, 20. When I auditioned, I didn’t think there wouldn’t be anyone my age—“Oh, oh, I’m in the wrong crowd!” And being in the Tribe, because of the exremes in age, some of them are being very caring and being very nice, trying not to make me feel like an old woman—“What are you doing there, grandma!”

Having said that I hope that my very presence, will help will give them a different idea that we can rock as well. We rocked as well, you see. It’s just that those in my age group, I wish they would come to see our work. Maybe they feel a bit embarrassed, but those were the days. I wish they would just do it.

NYS: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

RT: Don’t miss this! There’s two more days left! If you miss this, there’s no thereafter, you know. There’s no coming back.

Baby boomers, come on! The baby boomers must come here, because those were our times. Rock bands. How often do you get to relive your past? How often do you get the chance?

Be there, catch it is as it is. And anyway, you don’t have to pay money to see Senyawa! Not everybody has a homemade instrument. Upcycle, recycle, wow.

  • 2016