IS Kandang the metaphor of socialism of our time?
“Bangun! Bangun! (Wake up!)” yelled Jalak, the lone rooster initiating the morning routine for the animals which range from buffaloes, pigs, goats and dogs as he strutted giddily on Jones Farm. The heavy buffaloes heaved and shook their horns, the pigs blinked in the sunlight and the goats stretched and prepared for the work ahead of toiling the farm belonging to the drunken Jones who is unforgiving and relentless especially since he is guarded by his violent dogs. This is the setting for Kandang which oversees the many stages of communism from the laboured slaves, to the aristocrats and rulers and the feared revolution that will break the chains of the proletariats from the very pages of Animal Farm by George Orwell to the translations by director, Omar Ali. Kandang is one of the few plays which are envisioned in a Malaysian background with characters that are inspired from the classics such as Dato Seri from Macbeth and Tragedi Hamlet from Hamlet thus, the flow of the story is familiar to the Malaysian audience who may not fully grasp the ideology behind communist theories but, they could relate to influences of colonialism and imperialism.
The play may be adapted from the controversial allegory and a 20th century classic however; it is not a direct interpretation as there are characters which are written specifically for Kandang like Jalak played by Faez Malek, and different names are given for the characters thus, making the drawing of similarity between the drama and the novel rather unnecessary. The plot is straightforward as far as a metaphor for socialism can be; the animals are oppressed by their master and were living in inhumane conditions as they were made to work for scraps of food in the blistering heat, then, there is the drumming and the call for an uprising made by the pigs, Tunggal (Ashraf Zain), Bintaga (Farah Rani), Markus (Zul Zamir) and Gading (Joe Chin) which will set up the next act for the subjugated creatures. Accompanying the pace of the drama are Coeber Abel and Endee Ahmad on the gamelan, rebana, sape and other percussion instruments who were careful not to drown the dialogue with music and to interfere when the plot needed their drive. Meanwhile, the actors are garbed in pelikat/sarong which colours reserved for their animal species for audience to properly differentiate them and the characters are further distinctive by the aid of movement director, Ho Lee Ching whose direction is evident in the ways the actors pawed, mooed and leaped across the stage according to their animalistic traits.
A character which I’d personally rooted for would have to be Bintaga presented by the engaging Farah Rani as her performance was crystal, her presence palpable and the personality she unveiled in an animal that many men would be disgusted by was amiable. The double-up roles taken by the actors who played both the dogs and men are not off-putting but rather justified the fear that the characters had for mankind. Balau played by Clarence Kuna is terrifyingly relatable as he represented a person who is naïve, trusting of those in power and an unfortunate being from an uneducated background; someone who follows the leader with no questions asked even though there are doubts in one’s administration. The pig, Tunggal was charismatic yet intimidating; he is a character that one would see as a politician during the period of campaigning for the people’s votes while always having the support of his acquaintance, Gading. The choreography and music complemented each other and functioned as a development to the story and showing how the characters cooperate to build for a better future and to maintain their desired independence. Whether you have read Animal Farm or not, Kandang is not a play that should be missed as it is a reflection of today’s society; with the increase in the access and involvement of the common people in understanding of politics, Kandang will make one wonder whether it is satire or real life.
Images courtesy of KLPAC. Kandang was performed at KLPAC last weekend.