Short + Sweet Theatre – Gala Night
30 October 2016
Review by ALIA ALI
All plays below were finalists for the Short + Sweet Theatre category in 2016.
Beauty and The Bard
In this play, the bard literally pops up in a bedroom in SS2, as an apparent ah lian tries to wrap her head around memorizing convoluted Shakespearean lines. Shakespeare then proceeds to coach airhead Cordelia on her lines (“Just replace ‘wouldst’ with ‘would’!” “Oh ya hor!”) in exchange for sexual favours, before he disappears into the ether. There’s nothing revolutionary about the story, plus the descent into sexual assault at the end is highly unnecessary – perhaps playwright Audrey Lim couldn’t figure out how to end the story? However, the chemistry between Lee Min Hui and Nabilla Adnan is commendable, and Nabilla wins extra points for playing Bill as a lecherous pervert, as only a woman can.
Best supporting actress – Nabilla Adnan
Last Flight Out
It’s been a while since I’ve seen either Alfred Loh or Hana Nadira on stage. Alfred was a treat to watch as always – by far the most talented actor the whole night! – and Hana Nadira has improved exponentially since she first returned from Berklee. In Last Flight Out, they play colleagues in a travel agency embroiled in an affair. Travel is used as an analogy to almost literal escape from real life woes, as their own plans to go to Iceland fall apart once the missus suspects the affair. Bye-bye Northern Lights, hello harsh reveal of a pregnancy. “Just some fucking lights?” Sometimes, they really are.
Best supporting actor – Alfred Loh
Best actress – Hana Nadira
Fire shows how easy it is to judge someone completely based on a glimpse of their character, when reality is much more complex. Az’farr Baginda plays an old man whose house has burned down, and has been hanging around the local mosque to see if anyone has died… so he can buy their house. The play begins with Raja Shah Irshad’s character balik kampung to find that a stranger is living in his grandfather’s house. Confusion and melancholic hilarity ensue as Shah tries to figure out this old man, and Az’farr tries to make sure the grandson stays so he won’t be so alone. The premise of the story is so ridiculous on multiple levels, that I applaud the actors’ laidback energy and comedic timing, as their easy rapport made Fire one of the more watchable plays of the night.
Best actor – Az’farr Baginda
Not In The Mood
By far he most disappointing play of the final eight, Not In The Mood squeezed every single sexist trope they could fit into a ten-minute play: 1) Attractive yet shallow party girl (AnnNa Neo) rejects the man (Stanley Oh) she picked up because his penis turns out to be of average length. 2) Man turns out to be an intelligent doctor. 3) Girl then decides he’s worth sleeping with. 4) Man says no because vacuous girls turn him off. The worst part of the play? It was written by a woman. I cringed from start to finish. Unsurprisingly, this was the only play that didn’t win a single award from the jury.
By A Thread
One of the two big winners of the night, By A Thread (starring Season Chee, Ho Lee Ching, Timmy Ong, Phraveen Arikiah, Adam Luqman, Emlynne Shauna Tham and Tiara Jane Archant) depicted the life of a lonely old man, constantly trying to get his beloved daughter to come home to visit him. Season Chee played the old man beautifully, his tears visible even to the back row of the theatre. The living scenery was marvellous and extremely effective; my favourites being the live phone dialling tones and Ho Lee Ching posing in a portrait frame. The twist at the end is somewhat expected, but it didn’t stop our heartstrings from getting tugged. Well-deserved wins all round.
Best overall production
Audience choice award
Best glitz & glamour
Best director – Freddy Tan
Samantha Schubert Award – Season Chee
Where’s The Brownie?
It’s really not easy to tread the line between offensive and witty when it comes to racist jokes (even in Malaysia, where everything is a racist joke), so this play was a definite breath of fresh air. Two spirits meet one night during the Hungry Ghost month, and compare notes about how they lived, how they died, and what they really miss eating. Alfred Loh shines again, this time as a samseng type who was literally stabbed in the back. He plays opposite Oliver Johanan (“What, you think Hungry Ghost for Chinese only ah?”) who is waiting patiently for his still-alive wife to visit him at the spot where he died in an accident. My most favourite story of the night – funny, fresh and real.
Best newcomer: Surekha Ragavan, Stanley Oh (playwrights)
If there were an award for Most Epic Makeup, this play should have won, liver-spotted hands down. Tan Li Yang and Suzuki Cheng play an old couple going through their routine of preparing old newspapers for collection. Banter abounds as they sort through old newspapers and old memories. A beautiful portrait of a couple still clearly in love after decades of being together, with an easy chemistry between the two excellent actors.
Festival director’s award – Kent Tan
Best actress – Suzuki Cheng
The other big winner of the night, Chaos (starring Gregory Sze, Ismail Jamaluddin and Adly Kiddy) explores what would happen if society didn’t follow seemingly innocuous rules. The idea being that breaking smaller rules would lead to breaking bigger and bigger ones, and eventually society would descend into anarchy. I’ll be fair: the play was technically well-written and paced. But while the play was intended to be funny, the amount of machismo and posturing in this play made for a lot of eye-rolling in my seat. The jokes and the over-acting pleased the mostly young audience, however.
Mercedes Award for Creative Excellence – John Newman
Best Script – John Newman
Best actor – Gregory Sze
Best supporting actor – Ismail Jamaluddin