Being from Singapore, it would be so bizarre for my 14-year-old self to envision being the person I am today in Brisbane, Australia. Life is wild, unpredictable and amazing!
Merlynn Tong has an amazing story, and with such a beautiful grasp of language, story-telling and writing, she tells it in a starkly realistic yet touching way. Merlynn has spent a lot of time at Visible Ink working on her upcoming Anywhere Festival show ‘Ma Ma Ma Mad’. The one-woman show is about the loss of her mother to suicide, and her relationship with karaoke (her family owned a karaoke bar in Singapore). We’re expecting this incredibly honest production, opening next week as part of Anywhere Festival, to break hearts and cement Merlynn as one of Brisbane’s most defining young people.
What do you do, why did you choose to go down that path, and what do you love about it?
I see myself as a Training Centre Manager for Zen Zen Zo by day and a theatre-making artist by night. I love both pathways that I’ve carved!
The first as a manager is incredibly hard work but equally rewarding because I have the opportunity to connect young people and adults with theatre making and performative training that I adore- and can potential change their life journeys.
The second as an artist is what my soul dances for and I try to follow this mad love as closely as I can. I love the opportunity to create, I adore performance; it’s an inexplicable, innate and almost carnal kind of love.
What are you working on project- wise?
I am currently working on a solo performance piece for Anywhere Theatre Festival called Ma Ma Ma Mad. This show is set in a Karaoke bar that resembles the Karaoke bar that my parents used to own. It’s an incredibly personal story that explores my mother’s suicide, her loves, longings, lusts and lost. It also takes a look at and the ripple effect of parental suicides and their children. I feel like this story, my mother’s stories, have been brewing in my for a long time now and is now ready to explode onto my body, my voice, the intimately spectacular space and (fingers crossed) your hearts.
What would you say led you to where you are today? Eg background, achievements, inspiration?
Being from Singapore, it would be so bizarre for my 14-year-old self to envision being the person I am today in Brisbane, Australia. Life is wild, unpredictable and amazing! I value my education in Mass Communications that have assisted in my understanding of such a large component of our lives- the media. I am so thankful for my education in Theatre and Writing that has propelled me to do what I do now. Even more so, I want to acknowledge all my experiences for shaping me to who I am today- even the negative experiences, or perhaps even more so for the negative experiences. Being orphaned and having had an abusive past relationship has cultivated a certain tenacity in my bones that I hope I am using well today to pursue my hopes and dreams!
What do you get up to in your down time? Do you have any hobbies?
When I do get some down time, I love being near water. Sitting in the CityCat, lying by the beach, kayaking in the Brisbane river or going for a holiday by a beach resort- it all makes me feel settled, calm and positive. For a quick fix, I go to bookstores and I feel instantly rejuvenated. Ideas excite me. I also adore massages- an essential remedy for all physical performers. Spending time with people I love and discovering dreams also makes my soul dance. I am also trying to get into more Painting and time in spending time in Museums.
What’s it like being a young person in Brisbane? What suggestions would you make to improve the city?
It is amazing to be a young person in Brisbane. I have never lived in a city that offers this much support for young people as Brisbane has. Visible Ink alone is such a valuable resource for young people who need space, learning, a safe environment and so much more. There are also so many talented and supportive industry leaders in this city. Just a week ago, I had the exclusive opportunity provided by Queensland Theatre Company and Anywhere Theatre Festival to work one-on-one with Todd McDonald to tighten my show’s dramaturgy. The experience has not only radically altered my show; it has also changed me irrevocably. I realise that to connect with these leaders, all I have to do is ask. There are endless opportunities here, one just has to look for the pathways and ask for guidance to go through.
What advice would you share with other young people?
Go for it! Whatever your dreams may be, go for it! With full heart and soul. We are living in extremely positive conditions, if you have found your obsession and passion, listen to it, nurture it and go for it- you can achieve everything you choose to achieve. All you need is to act on it and act now.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? Where can people get in touch with you?
I just want to say again how thankful I am for the safe space at Visible Ink, the oh-so-friendly and helpful team. I am immensely grateful for the support system here and hope to establish an ongoing and lovely relationship.
Get in touch with Merlynn:
Catch Ma Ma Ma Mad as part of Anywhere Festival:
Tickets: All tickets $20 * Limited seats (20/night) so get your tickets now!
Dates: Fri 10 to Sun 12 & Thu 16 to Sat 18 May @ 7:30pm (+ Matinee Show: Sat only @ 1:30pm)
Place: 2002 Cyber City, 206 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley, 4006 | Google Maps
Duration: 60 mins
Transport & Places of Interest: In the Venue: Karaoke, Bar, Chinese Restaurant, Pool Tables, Bright and Shiny Toy Vending Machines, Super Cool Asian DVD shop.