This is Part 2 of our review of Teater Ekamatra’s Projek Suitcase 2016, following our review of half the plays.
For the next four monologues, we started off with E Lee Loong and Rizman Putra’s By The Book.
A political piece featuring Rizman Putra as an overbearing actor attempting to wrest control from his director during a rehearsal, vouching that they should go with his interpretation of the piece instead. It’s a sly, intimate piece that’s not subtle at all about referring to our famed ‘men in white’, and as best as it can, subtly poking fun at them while staying safely within OB markers. It was easy to get lost in Rizman’s committed and theatrical performance, and I personally felt it related well, making the political personal, what with his on the dot facial expressions and high energy movement throughout. It was evident that Rizman was in the zone, and wowed the audience with his comic timing and precision.
The next piece we caught was The Art of Strangers and Shida Mahadi’s #IStillWantMyPR, where Shida played a woman going through the complicated and difficult process of getting a Malaysian PR status. Satirising the process, the monologue took the form of a talent competition a la The Voice, with the audience taking on the role of the assessment panel in deciding her final PR status. Despite a light start, it quickly took a serious turn when Shida removed her tudung and started lamenting on the long, laborious wait it took just to get an answer, a powerful move that left us in emotional turmoil as well. Shida sang a total of three songs during her ‘audition’ – Sedetik Lebih by Anuar Zain, Fight Song by Rachel Platten, and finally, Negaraku, The Malaysian national anthem, all of which were sincerely executed and added depth to her words, convincing us of the difficulty of migration and the sacrifices one has to make when making such a life changing decision.
Next up was Bani Haykal and Ruby Jayaseelan’s Nombor- Nombor Darahku, which was a ‘game’ where the audience makes decisions to come up with a final outcome for the performance. This was the most philosophical piece of the 8 monologues, raising questions about our relationship between each other and the collective decisions one makes, a poignant point in 2016 where democracy has had some surprisingly dark consequences. The piece incorporated Bani Haykal’s typical music and dance into it, which heightened the entire performance with a mystic atmosphere. Despite it being a kind of ‘forced interaction’, this was overall quite genius, where the audience had to fill out a survey to decide what dance moves Ruby would perform. Ultimately though, she admitted that the point wasn’t to cause dispute or rifts, but rather, that we were to be happy and have fun, and I found myself walking out of the room with a smile.
Finally, we ended off the night with Keatar H M and Rafaat Haji Hamzan’s 370. 370’s title comes from the distance measured by time in search of what is behind all the shortcomings of human beings, which is as convoluted to us as it probably is to you. Despite its cryptic title though, this was a play that drew you in very closely, linking the audience immediately to Rafaat’s intimate performance and explore the very core of his existence. This was a very thought-provoking piece with deep intentions that required more time to mull over, particularly with regards to the struggle one faces in being a good person, and how one can stick to their morals, yet always feel like they’re on the right track despite being surrounded by others who place themselves on the greater moral high ground. During the performance, one Malay lady in the audience began singing along when Rafaat did, creating a kind of unspoken bond and ringing true to the song’s lyrics – even if you sing softly, the wind can blow it far. At the end of the monologue, she began to sing again, almost as if synchronized and done on purpose, and ended the subtle yet meaningful performance on that impactful note. I walked away feeling that both my mind and heart were challenged, and very much fulfilled.
What I love about Teater Ekamatra is that they managed to make the Aliwal Arts Centre’s spaces more intimate, as opposed to the previous performance. In the opening, our two hosts once again ‘sold’ the 8 stories at the ‘flea market’, highlighting the key themes of each play: courage, opportunity, identity, losers, horsehair, bad memory, tightness and fear of dying. Changing up the lighting a little since the last time also benefitted them, as it gave our hosts the spotlight, creating a more intimate space that heightened the realism of the immersive experience. Even watching the opening for the 2nd time, I still felt just as tickled as the first, and found myself completely buying into the act. The crowd also reacted well to the great chemistry between our hosts, and the entire space was packed to the brim. Projek Suitcase truly is testament to the quality productions from Ekamatra.
Projek Suitcase: Metamorphosis plays at Aliwal Arts Centre from till 4 Dec. Tickets available from www.projeksuitcase.com