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Review: Waiting For Your Return by Bristol Malaysian Singaporean Night

By Ellyssa Ashley Rozahan, News Investigations Editor

Rating: ★★★★★

Bristol MS Night’s “Waiting For Your Return” filled the theatre with tears, laughs, and a standing ovation. It covered the themes of sisterly love, the complexities of entering adulthood and staying true to yourself. 

MS Night is an annual play hosted by Malaysian and Singaporean students at the University of Bristol. This year’s title is Waiting For Your Return, revolving around the themes of sisterly love, navigating adulthood and staying true to yourself. 

As the curtains rose, we were introduced to a captivating ensemble of characters: Marissa and Soraya (two sisters), Terrence (Marissa’s insufferable husband), Jason (Soraya’s 10-year long situationship), Jasmine (Soraya’s reliant best friend), along with an array of vibrant characters like Soraya’s father, opinionated bridesmaids, and nosy aunties. 

Marissa, their father, and Soraya. Credit: Marcus Liew

Waiting For Your Return nods towards typical Asian family dynamics, and the bond between Marissa and Soraya is something those with sisters know all too well. Marissa, who embodies everything the eldest daughter is bound to face, was willing to drop all she dreamed about, in favour of holding the family together. Everything Marissa does - from pushing her chance to study abroad to her sister, to marrying an affluent man, stems from the burden and duty she feels to keep her family afloat. This is best captured in Marissa’s own words, said in the context of keeping the family together after her mother’s death - “the least I could do is try, even if it means losing a part of myself in the process”.

Contrastingly, we have Soraya, who fought her entire life to escape the shadows of her family’s influence. Soraya wants to be seen as herself, for her hopes and aspirations to be acknowledged, and for someone to unconditionally support her in chasing her dreams, even if it is the opposite of what her father wanted from her.

The play tackles difficult questions like what it means to “leave your family behind”. It asks whether you would be brave enough to let down the people you would hate to disappoint, all to chase the life you truly want to live. 

Vibrant dance scenes often accompanied the characters' monologues. Credit: Marcus Liew

The second act is about reconciliation between the life you have now and the life you could have led. The act includes “Wondering”, a vulnerable and heartwarming song, where everything Marissa and Soraya have ever wanted to say to each other, the burden the both of them face but are too afraid to share, all lay bare in a beautifully sung dialogue between the two sisters. It seemed like my friends and I were the only ones sniffling in the back row during this scene. 

Of course, it cannot truly be MS Night without a few jokes - the never-ending Malaysian-Singaporean rivalry, the diss on law students (which I wholeheartedly agree with despite studying law myself), and the fairly censored local swear words lightened the mood at times. 

A scene in a "mamak" (street stalls popular in Malaysia and Singapore). Credit: Marcus Liew

The feelings of joy, gratitude and a tinge of homesickness remained in the theatre long after the final curtain call. Beyond the stage, Waiting For Your Return served as a reminder to unapologetically embrace your truth and to carve out your own life free from what you think you should be doing. Free from familial expectations, and the harrowing guilt that comes with stepping outside the norm.

The play deserved no less than a standing ovation. From the guidance of Chien Wen Siow as the producer, Mindy Liew as the scriptwriter, Leong Zhen Wei and Alicia Low as the drama directors, Tan Wen Hans and Kimberley Goh as the music directors, Wishawin Lertnawapan as the dance director, along with the incredibly talented long list of cast members, each continuous bow was a testament to the overjoy one feels being a part of something bigger than oneself. As the applause faded into the night, the sentiment remained in the air: may we keep in touch with our families, even if they are 10,500 km away from home. May we find the courage to be brave in carving out the life we want to live.

Featured Image Credit: Marcus Liew

Will you be watching any plays soon?