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.

 

 

We forced a theatre newbie to watch a Shakespearean Mak Yong play. Here’s his review.

Hello there. My name is Raymond and I know almost nothing about theater and stage productions. I’m turning 22 this year and I’ve only ever watched one play, Lo Mio and Chiu Liet in 2016.

To put it briefly, a bottle of Yakult literally has more culture than me.

As such, based on my non-existent “flair” for the stage, the editor thought it’d be interesting for me to review Mak Yong Titis Sakti. There was only one condition – I wasn’t allowed to do any research about Mak Yong or the show itself. The only information I had about the show before entering Klpac’s Pentas 1 was whatever was stated on the poster.

So I guess I’ll be starting the review with the poster.

The poster and title

Now I’m not gonna lie, when I first saw the title, I thought it was a play featuring a elderly Malay woman named Mak Yong who discovers that her tears have powers… you can stop judging me now. Having watched the play myself (and googled ‘mak yong’) however, I now know what the term Mak Yong refers to: a form of dance-drama that originated from pre-Islamic Kelantan.

You can read more about Mak Yong and its controversial status in Malaysia here, but for the purposes of this review, I’m gonna focus on the play itself.

The show

As far as my average eye can tell, this is how the story goes (spoiler alert):

The King of a forest comes across a bickering couple, and decides to help, so he sends his servants and a bomoh to use magic rituals involving drops of flower essence (hence the titular ‘titis sakti’) to try and make the couple fall in love each other. However, the servants accidentally mess up the rituals, performing the ritual on the wrong couple instead.

What follows is a love triangle rectangle of comedic proportions, as the servants continue to try and fix their errors, while the two couples get entangled with each other. There’s also an over protective dad who adds fuel to the flame as he tries to stop his daughter marrying a man he doesn’t like.

There were also a few scenes of song and dance in a traditional Malay fashion, which almost seemed like a slow-mo Kpop girl group but more impressive and less manufactured. Fight me Kpop fans.

I found out later that the story is based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, which doesn’t really change anything because I don’t know what that is.

Highlight of the show

Personally, my favorite scenes from Mak Yong Titis Sakti were the ones with the servants. The humor going on between them was funny and quite understandable.

The two servants (in silver) mid-scene.

No Shakespearean jokes here. Instead I found a solid mix of slapstick and and modern cultural references, such as Saudi donations, ‘Ossas‘ and LGBT (apparently it means Lelaki Gila Berwawasan Terkini). The running gag of Cempaka Sari’s father running in at the wrong times was also a nice addition to the seriousness of the scenes.

General thoughts and observations

I will not say I understood everything that was said on stage though, as the thick Northern Malay accent took some time to get used to. However, scene descriptions in English along with the solid performance of the actors meant that I generally could make out what was going on without too much of a hassle.

Despite the language barriers, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and its combination of forbidden love, traditional Malay culture and humor that was going on.

While I can’t see everyone enjoying this show, Mak Yong Titis Sakti would definitely impress you if you come with an open mind (and maybe someone who understands the accent).

How to get tickets

Mak Yong performances don’t happen very often mind you, so if you do want to come see Mak Yong Titis Sakti you can get tickets online by clicking here or by calling the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000.

It’s happening at Pentas 1 KLPAC, at the following times:

27 Jan, 1 – 3 Feb 2018 @ 8.30pm
28 Jan, 4 Feb @ 3pm

Overall rating:

It’s a solid 8/10 from me.