5 Short+Sweet musicals that will get your feet tapping in 10 minutes (or less)

The annual Short and Sweet Festival (or S+S in short) hosted by KPAC is recognized as one of the most looked-forward to stage competitions due to it’s unique spin of capping entries to a maximum of 10 minutes, along with it’s open door policy that opens participation to anyone regardless of performing experience.

For the audience, this means that good shows will be “just right”, and not-so-good shows will be over faster than a bad Tinder date. Everybody wins!

But you’re not here to read a press release.

You’re here to either re-experience some good memories, see what S+S is all about, or to see if your entry is included in the article.

We selected the following entries based on a stringent criteria which involves:

  • Awards won
  • Asking several performers which pieces they found memorable
  • Availability on YouTube ← probably the most important criteria.

So with that out of the way, let’s head to the first entry on the list…

The Geong Xi is a Vamp (2012)

Quick Synopsis: Chinese family send son oversea to study. Son come back westernized. Asian father is disappoint. Cataclysmic event happen. Basically a TVB drama, except with vampires. Funny. Won 7 out of 13 available awards.

Dreaming Outside the Box (2013)

Quick Synopsis: Jack-in-a-box is in love with Jill-in-a-box. Jill wants Jack to cash her ousside. But they’re both stuck in boxes. How bow dah? Won 8 out of 14 available awards.

300 million (Reconceptualisation of a conception) ( 2014)

Quick Synopsis: A bunch of sperm want to ovulate ovaries. Short and sweet but satisfying…….said no one ever. Except in regards to this piece. Won 3 out of 14 available awards.

Walk with Me (2015)

Quick synopsis: Girl’s relationship with pet doggo from child till adult. Pet doggo’s relationship with girl for his entire life. Listen to music because cannot see performance past tears. Won 3 out of 14 available awards.

Disorder in the Court  (2012)

Quick Synopsis: Trial of the century. Datuk accused of murder faces pun-ishment. Musical actors singing in their law suits giving arresting performances. Too many puns? You be the judge. Courted 5 out of 13 available awards.

These videos are terrible!

Agreed. Videos can never perfectly capture the magic of the stage – even with with dual camera phones (we tried).

If you’d like to witness the magic of Short and Sweet for yourself, you’re in luck! S+S musical is happening NOW at the following times.

S+S Musical (8.30pm)
26 Sep – 29 Sep 2018
[GALA NIGHT] 30 Sep 2018 

Dance and Theatre categories are happening in October. More information on ticketing and showtimes here.

 

I was part of a theatre show in klpac. Plot twist – we opened on GE14.

When it was announced that GE14 was to take place on the now-historic date of May 9th 2018, the cast and crew of Dato Seri were unsure what to feel or expect with the knowledge that our show runs on the same week.

As if the fear of forgetting our Bahasa Istana-laden lines was not enough, we were now cautioned on possible riots in addition to ensuring our safety at all times too.

May 9th 2018 (Dress Rehearsal night)- also voting day!

Blue fingers were not part of the wardrobe design

Most of us in the cast and crew had just returned from our polling areas. I myself had just traveled back from Kajang after waiting in my millenial Saluran for almost four hours. Admittedly, I almost gave up during my third hour, but thankfully I persevered and made a decision to miss our pre-show dinner and requested an extended calltime to ensure I could cast my first ever vote in before making the drive back to KLPAC, Sentul.

One can say that the staging of Dato Seri was apt and very coincidental with GE14, but with it came its own set of challenges. While we were busy creating this chaotic yet beautiful landscape of Pertiwi (the fictional setting of Dato Seri), our minds were still elsewhere. After each scene we would rush back to our dressing rooms and ask those backstage about which state was won by which party.

“Who is leading?”

“Pakatan Harapan? Are you sure?”

“Okay jap, I have to go for my next scene”

May 10th, 2018 (Opening night)

Unsurprisingly, our director had pointed out the lack of focus in our dress rehearsal and urged us to not let the events happening IRL influence the ‘high stakes’ nature of the play – It was our opening night for Dato Seri and we must not let our guard down.

Well, that was the plan.

Meanwhile, Malaysia was still in limbo, patiently waiting to find out whether the Agong will ever meet Tun Mahathir in Istana Negara.

“Are you telling me Malaysian timing applies to the Agong too?”

And then, something magical happened that night.

To those who have attended any KLPAC shows in recent years, you would be aware of the pre-show announcement that requests the audience to stand up to sing “Negaraku’ beforehand. Usually, this request is met with baffled murmurs and, to some extent, cynical amusement as well. But that night, the moment Joe’s voice finished saying “- please stand up for the national anthem”, it was met with audible excitement.

Though we were hidden behind the thick black curtains backstage, the cast and crew could sense the electric energy that permeated Pentas 2. I have never heard an audience sing Negaraku with so much passion and, truthfully, I had to stop myself from tearing up because it was such a powerful moment –  I could not see it, but I could hear it and feel it: the Rakyat were so proud to sing Negaraku. T

There was renewed meaning to the lyrics that included the line “Rakyat hidup, Bersatu dan Maju” and upon completion, the audience clapped and cheered at this new sense of pride in light of the political revolution that was taking place not too far from our little theatre space. The sentiment game was so strong that night.

The pre-show Negaraku became my favourite moment every night, with each audience being more and more excited to sing Negaraku (on our second show night, some audience could even be heard saying “Yes!” when the announcement was made).

And then it happened.

It was 9.30 PM, almost the end of intermission when suddenly, random cheering was heard. First, it was just one person, then another, then the entirety of Pentas 2. It didn’t take us long to realise it had happened: Tun Mahathir had been officially sworn in as the 7th Prime Minister of Malaysia, ending the 60 year rule of the coalition party, or as it is called now, the Opposition Party.

Audience member, Aida Azmi captured the moment at Pentas 2 when Tun M was sworn in.

It was terribly surreal and all we could do was cheer and shout from backstage, that is of course, until our stage manager, Benedict had to intervene to remind us that we are going on stage in 2 minutes. Oh yes, we had forgotten we still had a show to put on. Our characters were supposed to be in the middle of Darurat (the Emergency period) but we were all still reacting to the announcement of Malaysia’s new government.

Playwright and director of Dato Seri, Omar Ali shared his thoughts on that particular moment:

“That was a really crazy night. It was supposed to be a very intense moment in the show, with the great dictator or tyrant now being in power. However, it was the complete opposite with the energy that was caused by Tun M being sworn in just minutes before. There was so much relief and ease and I thought it impossible for the actors to ride over because the audience was in the mood to laugh and celebrate.”

Art imitating life, or…

As each day passed and stories about the previous administration started to unfold, the audience reception to Dato Seri also became more nuanced. Sometimes, the cast would come backstage and wonder why certain lines had received any/more reaction when it had not the days before.

For example, during a tense moment when it was announced that Raja Jayaputera had been murdered, the two Princes, Tengku Mahkota and Tengku Muda would share a moment of grief followed by a discussion of their next steps.

“Are you copying my style bruh? “

On our third show however, this scene caused a bout of laughter in the audience. A comedy fan myself, I could not identify why the audience found this particular moment so amusing (was it the rule of thirds, on the third night?!). It would later dawn on us that the reason why is because Tengku Muda would suggest that the brothers flee to Seberang & Kalimantan (in Indonesia), and it just so happens that news had broke earlier that day that our ex Prime Minister and First Lady were attempting similar travel plans.

Lead actress, Nadia Aqilah who played Datin Seri shared this on the unpredictable nature of the audience reception,

“I have learnt a lot from this play, and it has been interesting to see how I had to handle the random energy each night. But, I am lucky as well because there was a focus on Datin Seri’s character too, perhaps because she reminds them of someone.”

As a member of the cast, it has been such a curious experience for me to be part of a play like Dato Seri with the backdrop of GE14. Each night, I caught myself catching more parallels between what was happening in the play with what was coming into light in the real world *cough Tiga Nasib cough Bomoh cough*

TFW you find out the RAHMAN prophecy came true

“In terms of parallels, there is plenty. It makes the play tick, makes it so true to life and so relevant” said Dato Dr. Faridah Merican, who reprised her role as Bomoh and Doktor yet again alongside Ho Lee Ching and Mark Beau. “Dato Seri was current two years ago when we first staged it, due to the fear of what was happening to the country. And it is still so current now”.

Lead actor Redza Minhat, who played the titular character of Dato Seri, had this to say on what he resonated most with in this experience,

“I resonated most with the ending of the play, whereby it is the repetition of a cycle. Dato Seri would enter the play saying ‘Tak pernah ku lihat hari macam ‘ni; Terang gelap, baik buruk, datang sekali’ and this is repeated by the newly crowned King, Tengku Mahkota at the end of the play.

To me, with the current political climate, it is great that we have this new dawn for our country but we have to be careful to note that everything is a cycle”.

Wow, so emo.

Anyways, that’s that! Personally I am excited for what this means for the future of the performing arts, and I look forward to more exciting and bold productions in the coming months and year (PS. I am free for casting should anyone be inclined).

Hidup Teater Malaysia!

 

We forced a theatre newbie to watch Malay Macbeth. Here’s her review

HI! I’m Ka Vei, currently 23 years old, and just started my postgraduate masters a few months back. Unlike my studies, I know next to nothing about theatre. I have only ever been to two plays, first one was Lo Mio and Chu Liet a few years ago, and ‘The Bee’ a few months back. 

I made sure both shows were in English because I’m a banana and cant pick up Chinese well, but I also stammer a lot trying to speak in Malay. One time I went to the bank to pick up my SISWA card, and I told the clerk ‘saya nak kutip card’, and the guy just stared at me, trying not to laugh. He later told his colleague and they both had a good laugh anyway.

I’m not telling you this to highlight my banana-ness, but because I got asked to review a play called Dato Seri. I was a little worried about not understanding it because :

  1. Dato Seri is a Malay adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performed in Malay – I know absolutely nothing about Macbeth aside from the fact that it was a famous Shakespeare play.
  2. The editor didn’t allow me to research it beforehand (sadist), so I spent the past week wondering if Macbeth was a guy or a girl.
  3. My friend had watched Dato’ Seri a day before me and told me to expect Bahasa Istana*gulp*

But after watching it, I frankly quite enjoyed myself. So here’s my review:

The Poster and the Title

The poster was straightforward – a male and a female character whom I assume are the main characters in the play (Dato’ and Datin Seri?). The red keris in the middle reaffirmed the traditional malay setting of the show.

The Show Itself

The play follows a war hero named Dato’ DiKajang, who encounters three witches with a prophecy that he will one day be King of the land, Pertiwi.

When he returns home, he’s promoted to the title of ‘Dato’ Seri’ by the King, who decrees that the crown prince would be the next Prime Minister. The greed for power soon consumes DiKajang and his wife, and they both plot to kill the King and frame the guards.

Once he becomes king, it all goes downhill…. He becomes a tyrant, suspicious of betrayal by his subordinates, pillaging and burning villages, killing families, and all that tyrant-y stuff.

At the same time, his wife grows demented; suffering agonizing guilt over killing the king. In the end… well, no spoilers from me but let’s just say that many people following the country’s political developments may see some parallels. 

Highlight(s) of the Show

For me, the highlight of the show was definitely watching the three witches (I think they were called the Fates) play their role in the story.

I felt that the actors who played the witches did an amazing job. I was creeped out but still enjoyed the way they spoke and cackled. They really seemed like something out of this world. They actually reminded me a lot of the Fates in Disney’s Hercules; you know those three witches in black cloaks who share one singular eye… yea that one.

Also, this play might give you high school nostalgia. Because nearing the end of the play, DiKajang recites Shakespeare’s Life Brief Candle: ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…’ but in BM. In my head, I was like ‘oooohhhh, so that’s where the poem came from…’

General Thoughts and Observations

The storyline was not difficult to follow, it really grabs your attention with good actors who really know how to set the mood. I was mostly thankful for the English subtitles that were provided on a small screen above the set (but sit on the right side of the audience seats if you plan to rely heavily on the subtitles like me).

For an intense play about murder and power grabbing, Dato’ Seri also sneaks in some humour although there were times where the audiences would be laughing at something someone says, and I would sit there wondering what they were laughing about. What I’m trying to say is that the play is definitely worth watching, but you would definitely enjoy it much more if you could keep up with the Malay instead of relying on the English subtitles.

Overall Rating

I’d give this play a 9 out of 10. I really really liked the play, and I would recommend anyone to go for it when they have a chance.

How to get tickets

Unfortunately, tickets for Dato’ Seri running from 10th May to 13th May 2018 were sold out. And by the time you read this, the play would have ended it’s way-too-short run.

But don’t fret! You can check KLPAC’s website for other shows. Alternatively, call the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000 to ask what else is currently showing.

 

 

5 Theatre plays about Malaysian politics that’ll make you #woke

What a fascinating time to be Malaysian. Mahathir’s back as opposition leader, Anwar’s set to be released from prison, #undirosak and left wing groups have gained support, and Najib’s hinting that the next election is coming faster than you can say ‘Pakatan Harapan’. So much drama in our local politics!

Speaking of drama, there’s actually also a lot of politics in our local theater scene! In fact, Malaysia has a very healthy history of politically themed theater productions, ranging from plays decades ago to more recent productions.

1) 1984: Here and Now (Kee Thuan Chye, 1985)

As you can probably tell from the title, Kee Thuan Chye’s 1984: Here and Now is loosely based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. First shown in Malaysia in 1985, it was never shown again… until 2016.

The poster for the 2016 run of 1984: Here and Now. Image from The Star

It tells the tale of Wiran, a journalist angry at the oppressive government, who joins an underground society trying to change things for the better. There, he meets Yone, and begins a relationship despite the government’s strict rules against ‘interracial’ relationships. In the end however, he gets caught and government officials torture him until he submits to their ideals.

You can watch a segment of it below:

If you recognise that plot because you’ve read Orwell’s 1984, congratulations, that makes one of us. Penned by Kee at the beginning of Mahathir’s mid-80s plans to regulate press freedom in Malaysia, it was a way to channel his frustration at being unable to write politically and racially ‘sensitive’ while working as a journalist for New Straits Times. Orwell’s 1984 has the overarching theme of class, whereas Kee uses race to make the plot more relatable to the common Malaysian.

It may be a while more before we see 1984: Here and Now on stage again; the only show in Malaysia after it’s 1985 run was  over two decades later. However, you can also opt to buy the book, if you’re able to find a copy on sale.

2) The Baling Talks (Five Arts Centre, 1997)

Quite literally a bunch of people reading a transcript – dramatically, of course – The Baling Talks also by the Five Arts Centre takes us back in time to 1955, during the height of the Malayan Emergency. It’s pretty much a dramatic reconstruction of the actual 1955 Baling Talks held in Baling, Kedah in 1955.

There isn’t much of a script either; the dialogue is based on transcripts of the actual discussion between Tunku Abdul Rahman, Singapore Chief Minister David Marshall and Chin Peng. It’s a time capsule for audiences to experience being part of a meeting which played a huge role in determining the fate of Malaya, Singapore and the Malayan Communist Party.

The Baling Talks has been shown in various places now, with shows already held in the UK, Germany, Korea and TTDI. One performance of The Baling Talks in Singapore even had Nurul Izzah Anwar playing a role in it.

Those wanting explosions and sex scenes may need to watch something else however, as this is one for the history buffs. It explores how opposite ideologies, dogged politicians and dirty politics come together for probably the most intense war of words in Malaysian history.

3) Atomic Jaya (Huzir Sulaiman, 1998)

What happens when Malaysia decides to manufacture nuclear weapons?

That’s the central question in this political satire by Huzir Sulaiman. Physicist Dr. Mary Yuen gets a ‘dream’ job at Atomic Jaya Sdn Bhd, tasked with building Malaysia’s first atomic bomb. Atomic Jaya isn’t the best of workplaces to say the least and she listens to her gut and sabotages the plan.

Researchers at Atomic Jaya, in full uniform. Image from Checkpoint Theatre

Simple premise, yet a tonne of laughs. There’s literally everything from uranium smugglers to bumbling ministers and even Dr Yuen shooting gamma rays at basmati rice and prawns. Now I don’t know about you but I like my seafood briyani without the nuclear fallout.

As crazy as it sounds tho, Atomic Jaya isn’t entirely one man’s imagination. Huzir was going thru a list of government agencies when he found the Malaysian Institute of Nuclear Technology Research, tasked with preserving rice and prawns of all things. Moreover, in the 1990s, Malaysia had numerous megaprojects such as the Petronas Twin Towers and the Bakun Dam.

If you can’t wait for another run of Atomic Jaya, you can also get a copy of Huzir Sulaiman’s collected plays, which has Atomic Jaya included.

4) Tok Ampoo (Hishamuddin Rais, 1999)

Angrily, the government official asks the citizens, “Why do y’all believe the opposition’s lies and not mine?!” – from Tok Ampoo

A staging of Tok Ampoo. Image from Pohonbintang.wordpress.com 

Tok Ampoo (The Apple Polisher) tells the tale of corrupt government officials who abuse their power for their own benefits. These tok ampoo also protect their own status by pleasing their seniors, with each official shining the shoes of those above the political ladder. Eventually, the working class have enough of it, and overthrow the corrupt government, with the toppling of a literal ladder.

Here’s our editor’s peon with Hishamuddin (left) himself.

It was made by Hishamuddin Rais and Zunar as an allegory of the political situation in 1990s Malaysia, where despite the elections that happen and supposed democracy and liberty citizens have, corruption and cronyism remained rife among the political elite.

With its theme of revolution of the working class over the elite, it’s no surprise to learn then that performances of Tok Ampoo are rare and often banned by the authorities. As such, let’s just say you shouldn’t hold your breath in hope of watching it anytime soon.

5) Kandang (Omar Ali, 2017)

Orwell makes a second appearance here, with Kandang being a Malaysianised version of Animal Farm. 

The cast of Kandang. Image from TimeOut

Our favorite characters from the original such as Napoleon and Snowball are given Malay names instead, Tunggal and Bintaga in this case. There are also references to contemporary Malaysian culture as well to make it more relatable for the audience.

The plot itself is largely the same however, with the animals on a farm leading a revolt against the oppressive farmer in charge. The pigs in charge soon realise the power that they wield tho, and turn corrupt and abusive in the process, becoming what they sought to overthrow in the first place.

If you’re curious, you can watch the trailer for Kandang below:

Kandang Trailer

“Apakah lumrah kehidupan kita?" Tiket Kandang sudah boleh dibeli! #kandang #animalfarm

Posted by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) on Friday, 7 July 2017

Director Omar Ali also co-wrote and directed Dato’ Seri in 2016, a Malay-language adaptation of Macbeth which also has its fair share of political commentary. But if you aren’t familiar with Macbeth, don’t fret because…

Bonus: You can watch Dato’ Seri in May 2018!

Yep, Dato’ Seri will be restaged in Klpac from May 10 -13 on a very limited run of only 4 shows:

Show 1-3: 10th – 12th May 2018 @ 8.30pm
Show 4: 13th May 2018 @ 3pm

Head over to the event page to get your tickets while you’re still #woke !

 

We got the cast of “Men in Heels” to design their dream heels. They were toe-riffic!

Look to the heel, young man. The sex is in the heel!” – Lola, Kinky Boots

There’s something irresistible about a pair of sexy stilettos, isn’t there? Their shape. Their texture. Their allure. Ooh la la. When danger is a-foot, what better to wear?

And who would know better about these fetishistic forms of female footwear than the cast of Men In Heels, the latest show at the Kuala Performing Performing Centre?

Directed by Joe Hasham, the show tells the tale of best friends Peter (Mark Beau de Silva), Ilya (Zhafir Muzani) and Bryan (Ivan Chan) who work hard to make it big in the city of KL, chasing their dreams to perform on the big stage. All the while looking fabulous in heels, too.

The cast (L-R): Zhafir Muzani, Ivan Chan, Mark Beau de Silva

But surely being in heels throughout the rehearsals must have given them some idea of what they would consider a perfect pair of stilettos for any lady (or gentleman) going for a night out on the town, right?

So we asked the three cast members of Men in Heels to design their ideal pair of high heels. No expense was too high…the three were free to create whatever they liked, and write the sales pitch!

And what can we say, the performers certainly bore their hearts and soles to create some amazing designs! These guys are definitely a shoe-in to be the next big things. Eat your heart out, Jimmy Choo!

KILLKEEL, aka THE YELLOW HEEL!™  by ivan chan 

Inspired by James Bond and The Bride from Kill Bill. Fun, dangerous and fabulous, how can you not like it?

So, let me tell you the truth about these heels, yellow will always be Fun. Firstly it’s soooo pop art, secondly you’ll be seen from miles away, so even if you are having a bad hair day or you’re not feeling the dress you’re wearing, you’ll always look fun and fashionable in your yellow heels.

As you all know, Safety is priority for spies like James Bond, you better be prepared when your safety is compromised. Kick your heel back and a pen knife will reveal itself! The perfect weapon for self-defense, use it wisely. 

And girls, we all know B.O is a no no, so when u can smell the funk, turn the petals clockwise to unleash Chanel number 5 . And lastly, the most imported state of the art feature of the yellow heel is, drum roll please, THE ROCKET LAUNCHER! This would catapult you and your wig  to fame, fabulosity and beyond. I mean Manolo who?  I swear if James Bond could wear heels, he would want a pair.

UNICORN GREY VELVET!™ – by mark beau de silva

Custom made Unicorn Grey Velvet is made with (ethically) harvested dead mares’ hooves! They form the perfect heel for magical strolls under the rainbow!
Comes adorned with a horn made of real quartz crystal to give the wearer luck and glamour!

 

 

 

 SUPERWOMEN HEELS!™ – by zhafir muzani


Always late to fetch your kids from school? 
Always late to reach your office ? 
Rushing to send your documents to the next building? 
Cannot run fast enough to catch dinner with your loved one? 
Well, worry no more! Superwomen heels obviously make your life easier!

Made from soft wire imported from Korea, it is suitable for your feet so your heels will follow your feet movement.

Its flexible ! The cutie wings will help you to fly 158 cm higher so you can go to your destination faster. Afraid to fly? You can choose the wheels mode. Just tap your heels 2 times, and the wheels will appear. If you want to keep it, tap 2 times again.

Worried that your makeup will be ruined after flying with cutie wings? Superwomen heels comes with a lipstick. You can choose 2 colours, light and dark. Just take off the back of the heels and you can use your lipstick!

Showtimes:

Men in Heels will be showing at Pentas 2, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre on the following dates

24th Feb, 1st – 3rd Mar, 8th – 10th Mar 2018 @ 8.30pm
25th Feb, 4th Mar & 11 Mar 2018 @3pm

You can buy tickets online or by calling the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000. Tickets are RM100 (Patron of The Arts VIP Seating – Minimum RM100, Limited – Only 30 Seats), RM55 (Regular Seating) and RM45 (Concession).

5 Theatre couples share what it’s like to be in a relationship ON and OFF the stage

Ah, love! Feelings of passion and passions of feeling. Often, a very dramatic thing to experience. And even more when it’s born from drama. Theatre drama, we mean.

At first thought, the theatre may sound like a WONDERFUL place for love. You spend lots of time in rehearsal with your partner, ‘building chemistry’ and hopefully acting a love scene or two.

Then again, the theatre may also be a TERRIBLE place for love. How can you tell real emotion in a place where everything is make believe? And who has energy for getting jiggy after countless hours of physical warm-ups and strenuous rehearsals?

So what’s love in the theatre really like? We decided to ask five theatre couples their experiences of performing arts romance.

Hana and Arief.

HANA NADIRA and ARIEF HAMIZAN

In a relationship for a year and a half

HANA ( actress in Tragedi Hamlet, Riwayat, The Swordfish and the Concubine): It’s surprisingly great! Haha. Surprising because, after my first break up, I vowed to never date anyone involved in the performing arts again. I thought the lesson was not to poop where you eat because the repercussions of it is awkward.

But of course, I ended up with an actor again, and it has turned out to be rewarding in every way. Not only does he understand what I’m talking about when ranting about work, there are also a lot of ideas exchanged between us, and immense support, mentally and emotionally, for each other’s work. Fully understanding the commitment and energy required makes it worth it in the end.

ARIEF (actor in The Pillowman, Tragedi Hamlet, The Swordfish and the Concubine): I can’t imagine anything better. Her thoughts inspire me, her work inspires me, her devotion to her craft inspires me. Working in the arts often means struggling with finances, creative frustration, and those awkward schedules where you’re only free after 11pm on Mondays and before 10am on weekends or something. But she understands it all.

To know that there’s someone with me on this strange, uncertain journey in the arts, and loves it as much as I do, is to remember why I’m even here in the first place.

Safia and Ivan in ‘You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown’.

SAFIA HANIFAH and IVAN CHAN ATIENZA

Married about two months

SAFIA (actress in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Marble Hearts, Mak Yong Titis Sakti):  We understand each other’s work and we don’t question the odd rehearsal timings.  There would also be times when we are needed in the theatre from morning to midnight (in the case of bump in and tech rehearsals). Having a partner in the same industry means he would be understanding towards this. It is also fun to be able to creatively share ideas and being on the same page when discussing work at home. I look forward to collaborate with him one day.

Challenges are when we have to travel for work, which means we have to be apart. This is hard especially in our case, we’ve only been married a month plus now.

IVAN (actor in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Pillowman, Tick Tick Boom): We would understand each other’s schedule. Safia and I are actors, and if I have problems expanding my creativity, I can have a conversation with my wife who is an excellent actor to help me develop ideas and ways to create a character. Furthermore, she’s an actor….she entertains me and I entertain her when we’re at home.

Challenges? I’m married to an actor. She is drama.

(l-r) Too and Chen.

ANRIE TOO AND MICHAEL CHEN

Married about four years

ANRIE (actress in Titus Andronicus, Rashomon, L5-7-44): It’s absolutely wonderful. To have someone who understands why you need to sacrifice personal dating time, spending it on rehearsals after an already long day at work. Also, having a partner who shares the same passion also means, we can work on our craft together to do better, encourage each other in ways to where only someone involved in the industry can understand – plus it’s nice to have a line-read partner at home!

The only challenge that comes to mind is that you have to be okay watching your partner kiss another person on stage – understand that it’s all part of the job and well, also because you expect the very same understanding from them as well.

Click on the image to check out Men in Heels, opening Feb 24th at klpac!

MICHAEL (actor in Tombiruo, Rashomon, Angels in America): It’s amazing to have a partner who is also in the performing arts! I cannot imagine any downside at all. My wife and I met at a dance workshop virtually 10 years ago. By then, both of us already had some experience performing individually, we watch new shows together and we still connect on those levels.

One of the common challenges with a ‘non-performing arts partner’ is the lack of time spent together during rehearsals for a show, which could take up several nights a week for a 3 month period. This would normally put a strain on a relationship. However, in our case, we understand that this happens and sometimes we get lucky to be performing in the same show.

https://newyorktheater.me/2016/11/12/falsettos-review-andrew-rannells-christian-borle-as-a-gay-couple/
Christian Borle and Andrew Rannells from the play ‘Falsettos’. Photo used for illustration purposes. Source: New York Theatre

JC* and KD*   (Names have been changed to protect privacy)

In a relationship for over 10 years

JC: Two heads. Two-pairs of eyes. Sometimes thinking about the same issues. Sometimes seeing a scene the same way: “This character can move the boxes and trap the others in the middle.” Sometimes not. Nothing surprising.

But on the days of ‘differences that matter to me’, I wish he’d disappear deep into the woodwork, choke on the sawdust and be silent. On some of these days, ‘the self’ I don’t want to be rears up, and my uncontrollable tongue takes over. Theatre folks who know us well, laugh at what I say. Then on the drive home from rehearsal, thick silence.

Eventually we debrief and then move on. I respect the amount of time he puts into studying, researching and thinking about a work before we pull in the actors. He even memorizes all the lines. So I concede.

Because outside of theatre we are quite similar. Neither of us is extravagant in our lifestyle. He likes to sit at the dinner table. I have ants in my pants. We are silly with each other. We laugh at each other’s stupid antics. Our shared values and interests, I feel, help cement our goal to make our productions successful–artistically and financially.

KD:  It means talking, arguing about and doing theatre 90% of our time together, whenever we are not in theatre. It means dinner conversations are all mostly on scenes we have rehearsed, shows we have watched, or the latest theatre gossip. It means going to sleep discussing what we can do for the next play, or greeting each other in the morning with funding ideas.

Sometimes because I know him so well, I have a much higher expectation of him. I am harsher, more critical and less patient. I have to remind myself not to rush to the results.

Looking at some theatre companies that have been around and active for a long time, I see that many are led by a couple. I think as a couple you strive harder to work out the differences, to push and support, to work as a team. True, there are days we want to kill each other. But there are more days when we realize: what a blessing it is to have someone to share your passion!

Joe and Faridah, probably checking out some cute cat video.

DATO’ FARIDAH MERICAN and JOE HASHAM

Married about 28 years

FARIDAH (actress in Sisa-Sisa, director of Uda & Dara, and Thunderstorm): Time together has flown by so fast we have not had a chance to be too unhappy with each other. Of course there are moments, maybe more of those moments when I was younger, at the beginning of our partnership when emotions were more difficult to control. But lets talk about these later years as they are much happier ones. The best is when our friends say you both are so always together. They are right. I would not want it any other way.

What do I wish for more though? That the handphone does not come out when we are enjoying a meal. Aghhh!

I know I value the few moments we can have together away from work, but it’s thrilling to be by Joe’s side when he is directing. I am a number one fan. I think he knows it too. Love you Joe.

JOE (actor in Sisa-Sisa, director of ‘The Betrayal‘ and  ‘Men in Heels‘):  Sometimes I want to scream. Having Faridah involved in the performing arts with me is glorious, most of the time, but can also be the most frustrating experience I am forced to endure.

On the upside: Faridah is my muse. She protects and guides me in so many ways. BUT, on the downside … she also infuriates me … to the point of distraction! Possibly because most of the time she is ‘right’.

Because we work together, at the same place, we are seldom apart. Some people might find that disturbing; I find it comforting.  There are many times where we would disagree … but that only helps to add spice and sparkle to our creative relationship.

 

[All submissions have been edited for clarity and length.]

The Bee is the worst Malaysian theatre show right now. Here’s why.

The Bee by Hideki Noda and Colin Teevan is the latest offering from Theatresauce, a local theatre company that thinks long titles make better shows. For the sake of my time and keyboard, I’ll be referring to the show as The Bee for the rest of this review.

I caught their opening night on Feb 1, where the cast performed to a full house of audience members who were unfortunate enough to have bought tickets without first reading a review.

To make it easier for you to see how bad this show is, I’ll be rating it on the following criteria:

  • Initial expectations from information available on the poster
  • The experience from actually watching the show
  • Any additional self-indulgent thoughts and observations

While I would rather spend the 70-minute or so runtime watching paint dry, my co-writer enjoyed the show a lot more than I did. You can read his review here

The poster

Despite the text covering every available space on the poster, I managed to spot a line at the top which says The Bee is based off a short story written in the 1970’s. This usually indicates one thing – outdated references and/or cringeworthy attempts at making it more modern.

An actual bee is also included, just so no one questions why it’s called The Bee.

Despite the huge amounts of text, the poster doesn’t actually contain the only piece of information I would have found useful – What language the show is in.

The show

I should warn you that this section contains spoilers, not that there’s too much to spoil.

As you walk in, you’ll be met with the main character (Ido) in a slow-motion walk against a backdrop made out of connected hexagons which (I’m guessing) is meant to represent a honeycomb. Just in case you forgot the show is called The Bee.

Storywise, a stereotypical Japanese office worker discovers that his wife and son have been held hostage by an escaped convict, so he takes the convicts wife and son hostage in retaliation; leading to a Mexican standoff.

The cast includes a bumbling detective, intrusive paparazzi, and dysfunctional family members – all the elements you need for a plot that’s dark, comedic, and quirky in the same way a 15-year old  would consider Linkin Park to be edgy and hardcore.

Throw in a couple of plot twists and you’ll spend the second half of the show wondering:

How far the Salaryman go to get his family back?

Will his actions affect what the convict does to his own family?

At what point will the audience figure out how the story ends and start counting the hexagons on the stage?

I counted 53.

General thoughts and observations

Usually, a sign that a show is trying too hard to be artistic is when you start seeing unnecessary dance sequences, or actors repeating certain lines or movements. But The Bee is better than that.

It incorporates BOTH dance and repetition, both equally unnecessary.

This ties in with the other issue about the play, which is that it’s really, really, REALLY outdated. While I can understand how it’s a satirical view on social issues, these issues were probably more meaningful to Japanese society back in the 70’s. With today’s Facebooking audience, watching The Bee for social commentary is like listening to someone make Miley Cyrus references in 2018.

Don’t get me wrong – every show has some central theme that’ll leave some form of impact on you, and The Bee’s plot twist will come in like a wrecking ball, shocking you into asking philosophical questions like “What makes Man evil” or “Are we a product of our society”. Unfortunately, the need to be “artistic” and “quirky” results in repeating the shock value to the point that the only question you’ll be asking is “I wonder how many hexagons are there on the stage?”

The hexagon joke, coupled with the use of words like “artistic” and “quirky” leads to the biggest problem with this review – Repetition.

If there’s one positive thing I can say about The Bee, it’ll be the performance, especially the casts’ ability to mime certain props like boom mics and news cameras with clear, sharp movements. Picturing them holding random objects provided me with the only entertainment for the night.

Best moment of the show

The scene where all the actors appeared on stage in formation and bent forward.

Oh wait, that was the end of the show.

How to get tickets

You can buy tickets online or by calling the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000. Tickets are RM58 (Regular) or RM48 (Concession) with a Buy 3-Free-1 offer. You can catch the show at the following times:

WEEK 1: Thu, Feb 1 – Sat, Feb 3 @ 8.30 pm; Sun, Feb 4 @ 3.00 pm
WEEK 2: Wed, Feb 7 – Sat, Feb 10 @ 8.30 pm; Sun, Feb 11 @ 3.00 pm

….but why would you?

Overall rating:

This rating was brought to you by the letter B, for Boycott.

Here’s why The Bee is a must-watch piece of Malaysian theatre

The Bee by Hideki Noda and Colin Teevan is a show by Theatresauce that opened on Feb 1 at klpac and runs till Sunday, Feb 11.

Bee-fore we head any further into the show itself, I should mention that I manage social media campaigns for Theatresauce. However, I was not involved in the creative process and watched it for the first time on their Feb 1 opening night.

As I’m experiencing the show with (arguably) fresh eyes, I’ll be rating it on the following criteria:

  • Initial expectations from information available on the poster
  • The experience from actually watching the show
  • Any additional thoughts and observations

While I thought this show had more highs than lows, my co-writer wasn’t a fan. You can read his review here

The poster

The Bee sort of takes a different route from most theatre posters by not depicting the actual cast members. Instead, it uses a manga-esque drawing to hint at a dark turn in the story.

It would also be safe to assume that the show is inspired by manga and anime, or at least contain some references to them.

The show

This section contains possible spoilers

The Bee sets the mood for audiences arriving early by having the main character (Ido) doing a slow motion walk-on-the-spot against a backdrop that resembles a honeycomb – slightly offbeat, but oddly relaxing to look at.

This atmosphere is broken the moment the play starts, with Ido being informed that his family has been held hostage by an escaped convict. Through a series of events involving a bumbling detective, Ido ends up holding the escaped convict’s family hostage.

What ensues is a standoff between Ido and the escaped convict, as they each resort to increasingly extreme methods to convince the other to give in and release their respective family members. No holds are barred here – whatever horror that you’re imagining will be inflicted on the family members as you read this, you’ll probably see it in the show.

A powerless police force and an over-eager pair of news reporters looking for the next big scoop in the crisis makes things worse, though not for the audience as they provide most of the comedic moments that lighten what would otherwise be a dark play.

General thoughts and observations

If I can sum The Bee up in one word, it would be Imagination.

While it isn’t completely abstract or artsy-fartsy as some people might call it, The Bee stretches the imagination by using repetition and various artistic methods to depict some of the more morbid or harrowing scenes. There are also some random “break-reality” moments where the characters start dancing, but I think none of this would be too hard to digest if you’ve been exposed to manga, anime, or just very weird Japanese movies.

The audience also mainly sees what happens from Ido’s perspective, so what actually happens to Ido’s family members are left up to the imagination. Considering that Ido and the escaped convict are essentially opposite mirror images of one another – to the point that their sons share the same age and birthday – perhaps it’s what you don’t see that’s more disturbing.

Unfortunately, the journey ends with a bumpy landing. Despite the cast being more than able to carry the show with their performance, The Bee’s story pacing isn’t the best, and I expect the last 10 minutes to be a like-it-or-hate-it moment for many audience members.

Best moment of the show

When Ido and his hostages are “watching” a variety show on TV, and a cast member sings a Japanese rendition of My Way.

The performance, lighting, and the cabaret-style atmosphere is something that I wouldn’t mind watching as a full performance.

How to get tickets

You can buy tickets online or by calling the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000. Tickets are RM58 (Regular) or RM48 (Concession) with a Buy 3-Free-1 offer. You can catch the show at the following times:

WEEK 1: Thu, Feb 1 – Sat, Feb 3 @ 8.30 pm; Sun, Feb 4 @ 3.00 pm
WEEK 2: Wed, Feb 7 – Sat, Feb 10 @ 8.30 pm; Sun, Feb 11 @ 3.00 pm

Overall rating:

7.5/10