Performance Performing Arts

Review: The Language Archive (PH7 Production Management, 2016)

Malaysian premiere of Julia Cho’s heart-achingly poignant tale of love and languages lost and found an outstanding, rare treat.

Directed by Ghafir Akbar
Starring Sukania Venugopal, Zahim Albakri, Gavin Yap, Anitha Abdul Hamid & Farah Rani

There’s a recurring theme from the feedback posted on social media regarding this latest staging of The Language Archive. Hardcore fans of the stage deem PH7 Production Management‘s production a “return to form” for Malaysian theatre. Taking place towards the end of a bustling year bursting with independent works and young voices, theatre practtitioner Ghafir Akbar‘s interpretation of Julia Cho‘s gorgeous story feels faithful but also genuinely surprisingThe Language Archive follows a linguist named George (Gavin Yap) who attempts to document a dying language called Elloway by recording conversations between its last two speakers, Alta (Sukania Venugopal) and Resten (Zahim Albakri). However, George’s wife Mary (Anitha Hamid) is leaving the marriage, while Alta and Resten refuse to talk to each other after a squabble over window seats. Also in the mix are George’s assistant and secret admirer Emma (Farah Rani), as well as a dozen lessons on Esperanto. Script aside, its production value and powerhouse performances begs a question: have we always had such pedigree in our midst? Pay close attention to Sukania’s command of various, complete characters and languages, and be prepared to get a bit lugubrious once Anitha digs into Mary’s quiet hearbreak with wide-eyed relish. But don’t take the play’s preoccupation with communication as a sign of long, wordy conversations; this whimsical romantic comedy is urgent and utterly riveting. Showcasing such lovely detail as the smell of freshly-baked bread and even some clever projection mapping, The Language Archive is a reflective and enriching production worth every ringgit spent on its steep tickets. Those who only leave home for the sort of quality associated with Instant Cafe Theatre Company, Five Arts Centre or even Singapore’s W!ld Rice, head over to KuAsh Theatre soon for your fix.

The Language Archive runs at 8:30pm from 5 – 8 October, and also at 3:00pm from 8 – 9 October at KuAsh Theatre, Pusat Kreatif Kanak-Kanak Tunku Bainun. Tickets are priced at RM75 and RM95 and can be obtained at the door! Send a text message or Whatsapp producer Pat Gui via +6019 352 1195 for media and other show-related enquiries.

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