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

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.