8: (insert witty tagline here) is a short play performed by 8 young actors, acting out 8 short plays about 10 minutes long each. Derived from the actors' personal experiences, the plays ranges from funny and whimsical, to the tragic and melodramatic. Using minimalistic props, a bare set, and dramatic monologues, 8 attempts to drive home the core of the message that each of the plays contains.
The first play, Missing is a monologue by Doreen Loo, detailing the process of coming to terms with the traditions and practices of a departed relative's funeral. As she voices out her observations of her unruly relatives, the rest of the cast mimic the relatives actions as though they are frozen in time, emphasising their gross actions. This opening play struck a chord with me as I had recently witnessed the actions and rituals of my grandmother's 1st year passing: the tedious folding of the hell money, the ludicrous cost of burning paper-imitations of branded goods, and gossiping/greedy relatives. All these were accurately observed by the actor as she noted that the dead received more lavish attention that those who are living.
Paintings reflects upon the trials of multiracial relationship, as Chan Mei Yuan plays a young painter while the rest of the cast take on various roles from parents, friends, sibling, and even a politician. Their reactions are interspersed with moments of the main character acting out her painting, reflecting the flow of time and gradual exchange of information; the other members go through their daily lives, only stopping briefly to display their reactions when they receive updates regarding the main character's boyfriend's character. The reactions by the painter's 'mother' was good as she dramatically acts out a mother who cannot accept another person of a different skin colour. Likewise, the actor playing the mute friend was equally dramatic, as her slap upon the painter's face drew a few gasps from the audience.
In ANIMAL, Lam Wai Yee characterises an animal which is treated poorly and abused in different stages of its short life. She acts out her dramatic monologue in the centre as her cast members walk around her, only stopping when to act out the various characters that neglect and mistreats the animal. I thought the prop noose around her neck was perhaps overdoing it a little, what with the rest of the cast members circling her voicing out various words that reflected the animal's conditions and mistreatment that it had underwent but it was still good. The animal's portrayal was done well as she mimicked the animal's apprehension and animalistic reactions towards human strangers.
Shut Up with Dominic L. Luk is a more humorous outtake of a dysfunctional family, as they commit suicide through the years. After acting out a police lineup snapshot, the 7 family members are suddenly enveloped in darkness; a gunshot fires and one of the family members is found lying dead. Dominic comes up to the stage with a smug attitude, eager to tell the audience of each and every one of his family's suicide and how they came about. Despite its grimness, there is a sardonic and dry wit to his storytelling. The humorous ending to this play only affirms the belief for this play to not be taken too seriously.
If there was one play that stood out the most this afternoon, I would no doubt say that it was Terima Kasih, Mama. Played against the sound backdrop of a thunderstorm, the narrator Roshaan Farvein delivers a powerful dramatic monologue entirely in Malay, of a woman's lamentation towards her mother of her fixed wedding. The female cast members who fall to their knees one-by-one as the narration goes on is a clear message of the added burden and suffering that women have to endure in fixed marriages. Roshaan is marvelous, as her presentation is tinged with the sorrow and pain that these women undergo. Performing it in Malay gives it the additional emotional punch, as it hits close to home with Malay women and fixed marriages.
La Negara takes a surprising break from the serious acting and instead more or less breaks the fourth wall by having Daniel Dennis presenting a stand up comedy act towards the audience. As the only Caucasian in the cast, Daneil gives a humorous and comical presentation of his experiences since living in Malaysia. While I found this a welcome break, I thought having his cast members sitting and surrounding him on the stage as he did his standup act was a bit strange and inappropriate. To see them visibly laughing together with the audience creates the impression that they were purposely laughing so as to goad the audience into laughing together, which breaks the illusion of an unrehearsed script (even though most standup comedians have already scripted their lines beforehand).
Could V be based on the famous hand sign popularised and encapsulated by Winston Churchill's victory sign? It very well could be as Sharmini Harikrishnan voices out her frustrations and observations of the trials and tribulations that women has to go through in their lives, from the different gender treatments between male and female siblings, the slanderous attention that sexually-active women receives, and even the numerous unofficial tasks and duties that a woman receives in motherhood. While the topic isn't unique, it was done well with good comical performances by the cast members in acting out the discrepancies and discrimination that women face.
The last play Traffic portrayed the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced world of the urban Malaysian society as social actors are caught up in their own selfish actions and duties, unable to communicate and relate to other social beings. Prakash Gopalakrishnan plays a police officer who dryly notes this growing unbecoming attitude of Malaysians. When the stage is lit green, citizens bump and sneer at one another, caught up entirely in the rat race as they do not bother to indulge in courtesies or etiquette. When the stage is lighted in red, they act out their own selfish activities and duties without interacting with one another. My only qualm with this play was the general confusion from the actors' simulations when the stage was either lit in green or red: instead of snippets of dialogue, the actors had opted to emit grunts and groans, which wasn't very helpful for the audience in distinguishing their actions. It didn't help that their hand gestures during the red lit scenes weren't entirely clear as well, as many times I tried to establish their actions and their supposed simulations. It could be reflective of the confusion and chaotic scenario that urban Malaysians go through but I would have preferred it to be more clear cut.
It is a shame that 8 is not planning to hold any more performances. Considering that this is their first time performing on stage, this group of young talented actors show promise, strength, and dedication in their work. They're still rough around the edges but with a number of stellar performances from this group, I'm looking forward to more of their entertaining and whimsical Malaysiana observations.
Anyone else has watched this play and would like to share?