From 9th November until 18th November at BleenkBox, Pusat Dagangan Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJCC), Floor 43 under Kudos Production will premiere on the premise of two men (introduced as strangers to each other) entrapped on the 43rd floor of a condo on the pretense of a demonic being. This review contains major spoilers.
A man cries silently as he unties John (Josh Blake) who seems to know of this man known only to the audience as Roach (Axyr William). They were both in what looks like a long hallway bombarded by a locked door and an opened window at the other end. This is the setting for Floor 43 as it begins where Roach left the stage and John greets another tied man named, Harun (Nabil Musawir). Harun was in shock when he realised he had been kidnapped by a well-dressed stranger and started questioning his motive which was answered by the screech and howls of a disembodied ghoul behind the door to his only escape.
John explained that he needed Harun as an offering to the ancient demon (Jazz Yap) haunting not only the building they were in but his family for years but this was only Plan A in his ploy to get rid of the phantom which was instantly crushed when the demon did not heed Harun as a sacrifice. He must now go through Plan B which becomes the extended situation throughout the play; he must allow the demon to possess him so Harun will kill him instead.
The mere minutes that took Harun to warm up to his kidnapper and went on with the scheme hinted at the familiar relationship of these two men as if they had known each other before. This was confirmed at the end of the play that John knew Harun as an old childhood friend during a short period when he was allowed by his father to go to school since he’d been home schooled all his life. Due to the position of the family and their wealth, John was only allowed to use a faux name, Lawrence when he first met Harun which explained why there was nonrecognition during their reunion.
This was not the only twist revealed in Floor 43, in fact these facts and background were stated through the exchange of dialogue between Harun and John as they fought, chat and teased with each other. This allows the audience to “discover” the history and personality of the two characters including the masked demons terrorising them rather than it be explained in lengthy expositions however, there was just to much to be uncovered. In an hour, it was disclosed that Harun is keen on the arts of summoning demons, John is adopted meaning he isn’t directly impacted by the demon’s curse, the demon is angry and haunts John’s family because she had her child taken a way from her and how John and Harun shared a dark past of self-harm, bullying and mental illness and this was a lot to take in especially in a limited time frame.
The chemistry between Harun and John is inevitable and carries the plot forward with their conversational banter and performances of both John and Nabil are apparently experienced considering their body of work and participation in other theatre productions. First time actor, Jazz Yap make do with acting through her mask by focusing on her body language and the expression of her tone and voice and one moment in particular that is memorable from her character is when she possessed John’s body. It is obvious that the story relies on the small cast.
What would aid with the development of the play is to immediately explain the nature of Harun and John’s relationship as school friends in their introduction because the reason of Harun’s kidnapping varies throughout the plot as it goes from his knowledge of evocation, to his file read by John regarding him being accused of sexual harassment (leading to his previous attempted suicide) to finally be revealed that Harun had inspired John to be happy when they became friends briefly. With this revelation at the beginning, the play can still progress with Harun being skeptical of John and tries to understand why he was chosen to be there then the understanding of how they had both committed self-abuse can come in more naturally since John is now more akin to have Harun back in his life because of that experience.
Jude James‘ (also Artistic Director of Kudos Production) Floor 43 graces on the paranormal and the mental issues however; with these topics in mind, there were too many plot twists needed to be tied firmly by the end of the play. There seems to be too much to talk about and addressed which could be done more than just linear storytelling to give the plot more impact when it stumbles upon important details. This is to avoid having to feed audiences by transitioning from one point to the other and to allow them to sink in and be truly understood for its content rather than the quantity of the information.
Floor 43 will be available on the following dates, 9th until 11th, 14th until 16th and 17th until 18th November at BleenkBox, PJ. For more information and booking, contact Nicole Yong (0165982699).
Featured Image source: Emma Abdullah.