In the historical turnover of Government during the GE14, a wave of patriotism hit the nation, sending us into a state of euphoria. In our delight, the arts scene thrived, having sparked a new-found drive to create content, no longer censored. Thus, culminating in the many theatre productions revolving around the theme of a New Malaysia and hope.
Saya Anak Malaysia (Baru) is no different. However, it sends a slightly different message than the rest.
The play is a message of vigilance. Shedding light on the euphoria felt after the recent elections, the play reveals that the nation-wide warm heartfelt feeling is not unfamiliar. Taking us through history, it illustrates the hope and patriotism that Malaysians of the past have all felt many times before, yet, as history has revealed, it will all fall to dust as result of corruption and greed.
Written by Ridhwan Saidi and directed by Pat Chan Lai Ngo, the play is an original theatre production by the students of the Taylor’s University American Degree Transfer Program. The 45-minute long play takes the audience on a journey through the past, present and the future, highlighting key historical moments and the illustrating the possible future with the help of a time-traveling watch bought from a salesman, played by Saad Ashfaq.
The main cast consisting of the characters Edy (Johan Izmer bin Tunku Syed Razman), Bob (Mohamad Danniel Iskandar bin Abdul Rahim), Chin (Jason Yu) and Danny (Ang Kai Bing) expresses each of their desires of which time period to travel to, with each of them choosing either the past, present or the future.
Listening to their wishes, the watch then transports them to their desired time-period, much to their surprise.
Throughout the play, as it zips through time and space, the cast takes full advantage of the large space given to compensate for the very few props present. This is evident from the very get go as we are met with the full cast, all sitting in a pseudo mamak, consisting of just a few stools and benches, drinking the beloved Milo which most Malaysians share a common love for.
The cast utilized the minimal use of props to help the audience conceptualize each setting in its different era. Whether it be the riots of 13th May or Malaysia’s Declaration of Independence, I was able to successfully visualise each scene with the help of the lights, the sound design and dialogue.
However, despite the clever use of dialogue to build each scene, the first thing which strikes me is how forcefully enthusiastic the actors’ acting is. It reminds me of the exuberant and wide-eyed acting often found in Broadway, though executed mediocrely.
Though loud and well-enunciated, the actors fail to deliver their lines naturally. It becomes particularly evident with the Chinese accent, actors Jason Yu and Ang Kai Bing have chosen to adopt. The script comes across to be exaggeratively Malaysian.
In times of panic and suspense, their acting seems to be well-suited. However, that impression does not linger for long.
The play educates the audience on the various hallmarks and struggles of Malaysian history through the interactions between the actors. However, the question of whether or not the play seems to be well-written is debatable.
The script, as it stands alone, is incredibly informative and insightful. It points out various issues and problems with the attitude Malaysians possess towards the country and politics. Illustrating how millennials still hoard some racism in their insensitive jokes or Malaysian’s unsustainable faux care for politics during elections, the play brings attention to the progress that still needs to be made despite all the progress that has been made so far. However, it falls short to be as entertaining as it hopes as some parts seemed awkward and questionable. Nevertheless, this factor could have been influenced by the actors and their inability to instill candidness into their acting.
Moreover, it was recognized that throughout the show, the play makes its attempts at being comedic. Though some did garner some laughs, some jokes were overused and untimely made in my opinion. The comedic timing of the jokes throughout the play could have been arranged to flow and fit better to the show.
As the play progresses and the plot escalates, Edy and his friends find themselves in the future, where they meet a robot tour guide named Sofi, played by Nouran Nabil, based on the life-like robot by Hanson Robotics. The essence of the play is captured in that scene, as the hope current Malaysians have for a open and honest country has once again resulted in darkness plagued by censorship.
Though the scene is portrayed in a light-hearted manner, I personally feel that the message of the play was encapsulated into that very illustration of our future. It represents the fear of repetition and the vigilance we must adopt to prevent such a future. Praise to Ridhwan Saidi for his ability to capture complex messages in the scenes written.
As the play nears its end, it recognized that the play is undeniably predictable. The climax of the play, which is undeniably predictable, has the cast in the night of the 13th May riots and Chin, who leaves to use the washroom gets shot, for violating the curfew. In their grief and mourning, they each take turns to stand and speak of their hopes and fears, eventually coming together to cleverly replicate Tugu Negara.
All in all, despite being a cleverly written play, Saya Anak Malaysia (Baru) feels too awkward for it to be considered a good play. The potential of each actor is evident in their exuberance and hard-work, but much work has to be done in regards to their inability to engulf the audience into the show.
The capacity for the growth of each individual involved in the play is blindingly obvious. However, until then, Saya Anak Malaysia (Baru) stands to be mediocre, at its best.
Pat Chan Lai Ngo
Music and Sound Effects by
Alicia See Tien Jia
Light Design by
Tan Eng Heng
Stage Design by
Roger A. Childs
Ang Kai Bing
Poster Design by
Featured Image Source: Taylor’s University American Degree Transfer Program