IN ANOTHER life, Scott McQuaid might have been a martial arts movie star.

For a while, he was even getting parts – usually as the bad guy.

You may have seen him aiming a kick or throwing a punch somewhere in the background of 1990s Hong Kong hits Bullet In The Head and Ebola Syndrome.

So the question is, how does an English-born martial arts-obsessed fighter like McQuaid end up handling the performing arts curriculum at Cempaka International School, Cheras?

It’s a long story, but we’ve got time to kill.

We’re sitting at Coffea Coffee in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur waiting for Jez Izman and Ilyana Fizal – the two talented students about to bring his debut one-act comedy About Last Night to life, at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre this weekend.

He fills me in on the answer to my question in an accent that is unmistakably from Essex.

“When I was a kid I used to follow my brother boxing, and then I saw Bruce Lee’s Enter The Dragon, and that’s how I got into martial arts.

“Then when I left school at 16 I found silat. There was this Indonesian guy teaching. It was very exotic.”

His interest in silat and martial arts in general took him to Indonesia, and then to Hong Kong.

That’s how McQuaid got into acting.

He’d found his second passion, aside from martial arts.

So, the impulsive teenager decided to go back to England and attend acting school, for two years, before setting off to try his luck launching an acting career in America.

He spent two years honing his craft in tiny basement theatres throughout the Big Apple and amongst all kinds of weird and wonderful artists, and then moved to Los Angeles.

But failed audition after failed audition, McQuaid came to an important life conclusion.

He went back to Britain to get a degree in Performing Arts.

During his studies, he realised that despite his love for serious drama, what he really excelled at was comedy.

Soon, he was writing, directing and acting in comedy skits. And when he graduated, the itch to do something different struck again.

“The day I handed in my last assignment, I went to the airport with my backpack, and got the cheapest flight to Asia.”

After travelling around Thailand and Japan, teaching here and there, he came to Malaysia.

And that’s where he eventually came across an advertisement for the position of drama teacher at Cempaka, where he’s been conducting classes and directing the school’s annual stage productions for four years now.

As he finishes his story, Jez and Ilyana arrive.

Both are talented 17-year-old students at the school. McQuaid has worked with them on a number of school plays and musicals.

He’s always wanted to make his foray into the local theatre scene, but a busy schedule kept him from it – up till now that is.

He’d written About Last Night a while ago. And when he recently decided to stage it with BluBricks, the language and performing arts academy that he also teachers at, he knew he wanted to cast Jez and Iliyana as the leading roles.

“I wrote the play two years ago. It was inspired by my experiences as a teenager.” That’s how About Last Night starts off.

“The story opens with two strangers waking up next to each other with no recollection of the previous night.

“They then have to trace back events through a series of clues to figure out what happened.”

In the play, Jez plays Adam, the guy, and Ilyana plays Eve, the girl.

This may be their first foray into doing a production out of school, but they are definitely mature enough to be able to discuss the play’s themes without any giggles.

McQuaid gives us his best shot at describing the show: “Unexpected. Witty. Awkward. Playful.”

> Catch About Last Night at Black Box, Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on Jan 18 and 19. Shows at 8pm. Tickets are priced at RM50. You can book by calling 03-4065 0001, 03-4065 0002 or visit www.dpac.com.my.