Archive for April, 2012

Observations while driving in Kuala Lumpur

1. Driving with a “P” sticker makes people go easier on me (tried and tested).

2. Most of my road rage stems from people driving like idiots. I’ve recalibrated my view to expect idiots. I only get upset at road bullies now.

3. Road bullies, when confronted, mostly run away.

4. It sucks to be a motorcyclist on our highways. It’s worse to be a pedestrian.

5. Any accident or parked car will cause a traffic jam on the highway. Anything. If you want to do guerrila advertisments, turn on your hazard lights, and park by the Federal highway. And maybe put your competitor’s ad all over the car, so drivers will curse them.

6. This is what I was taught in driving school. Slow drivers on the left, fast drivers on the right:

This is what it’s really usually like:

(I  only have a vague idea what cars are supposed to look like when I draw them.)


Image above is of angry Go Gourmet delivery dude harassing a driver. He parked his motorcycle in front of the car and forced them out for a confrontation. I don’t know what the context is.

Selipar Jepun, Kasut Tumit Tinggi (flipflops + high heels)

I caught the last performance for Selipar Jepun, Kasut Tumit Tinggi (flipflops + high heels) on Sunday. Inspired by the traditional performance dance-drama Mak Yong, this play was mostly done in Bahasa*.

Don’t really have the time to write about it, but here’s some notes:

  1. I liked it, say, 60% — mostly met expectations .
  2. Use of space was decent, particularly in the earlier part of the play. Blocking gets a bit basic towards the end, and the whole stage started looking needlessly messed up.
  3. Wish I understood better how Mak Yong was translated into the play. Transgendered representation, singing and dancing, sure — but I was picking up more physical theatre elements than Mak Yong. Did I miss something? If there were any Q&A session, I would have attended. Felt like there was a lot more knowledge driving the play that I would have liked access to 😛
  4. The actor lost her fake eyelashes on one eye. And carried on for the rest of the play with one eye looking bigger than the other. This really should have been fixed at some point.
  5. Shiny plastic chairs didn’t match the play’s direction. Maybe wooden chairs would have been better. Or at least, spray paint the plastic chairs. I know it seems like such a ridiculous thing to harp about, but there it goes. We had to wait a while before it got used, but the lesung scenes were funny — if expected.
  6. The most obvious thing lacking in the play was time. The actors could have used more time with the script, and each other*. The gap was showing too frequently onstage, be it during cues from each other, the careful accents, synchronising their movements, or simply remembering their lines.
  7. The characters were interesting. The actors are likeable enough — I think they’re capable of doing good work (and I’ve seen it) — but perhaps they needed more time to deal with the versatility required of their roles.
    Ahmad Firdaus as the storyteller is beautifully suited to the movements required of his main character — however, as the British lover or when doing kungfu moves, it stretches the imagination a fair bit la. Zamzuriah Zahari doesn’t seem as aged onstage when required, but is overall a respectable performer and sings well for this play. Rosman Ishak makes his character(s — I had difficulties telling them apart sometimes) look like a lot of fun.
  8. There were some awkward segues in the play, but the individual stories of the Mak Andam and the aged Mak Yong performer were interesting. Both had stories of love and unworthy men to tell.

 

Overall, I did enjoy the play — and I think that’s the most important. I also liked that the transgendered characters had strong voices/presence, and felt so normalised, and their stories were vividly painted.

I also visited a few galleries in Publika after the play.

Ali Baba Perut Kuali, by Aznam Omar

My favourite was the exhibition At First Glance in White Room @ MAP Publika. Its had its exhibition length extended, so you might still be able to catch it. I love some of the paintings there, especially the ones by Haron Mokhtar. You can read more about it here @ Rachel Jena’s article for Time Out KL.

Publika also has an Art Row (where the picture on top of this post was taken). It’s a prototype, part of an exhibition Kontak! is working on. You have to poke around a bit and get someone to explain things you do, but things get interesting once that happens. You may end up wearing a bull head, for instance.

And if you go up a few floors, UiTM has launched a new art space called Segaris Art Centre. They’re currently exhibiting some student works there. I quite fancied Aznan Omar’s aluminium work there.


*The performance is in Bahasa (not my strongest language) and I missed the first few minutes.
**Selipar Jepun was a separate monologue nominated for Cammies Best Original Malay Script in 2007.

Saturday Night Cool

Just left Becky’s place a few minutes ago. Becky’s grandmother will be cooking up a feast all the way till Easter, from the looks of it. She gave us a bowl of almonds, so we could blanch them for her.

Halfway through peeling the skin off the last almond…

  • Becky: So, do you have plans for tonight?
  • [ pause, as we both stare at each other holding blanched almonds ]
  • Lainie: Nope.

If I am blanching almonds for your grandmother, past 10PM on a Saturday night…yeah, my social calendar has some gaps in them :P.

Anyway, I love this song cover*:


*Not related to my feelings for Becky

I watched (and hated) Ombak Rindu. The End.

I recently watched Ombak Rindu. The title above is my entire review.

To elaborate: I expected it to be a straight up tragic love triangle story.

Was. Not. Prepared. For. The. Fuckery. It’s like watching an atrociously written rape fantasy*. If the film had a message, it was “Rape is okay if  he’s your husband. Wait for him to fall in love with you”.

I wonder how many feminists were stressed out by this film?

Panel 1: I am a slave-owning rapist. Panel 2: Marry me, slave-owning rapist! I beg of you!

The best thing (or, the only good thing) about Ombak Rindu is that it provided ample material for the recent theatre production Projek Disko Baldi in Love.

When I first watched Projek Disko Baldi in Love (a series of comedy skits)*, I thought “All these budak baik kan, their humour is not wicked enough”. PDB definitely has some very decent laughs installed for the night, but…they could afford to be much, much more jahat 🙂

The one skit where they had me laughing helplessly was the one for Ombak Rindu. I had not watched the film then, but I recognised that its romantic dramas were being mercilessly ridiculed. Tuan Faisal does an excellent job here (even if all he says is “Okay”).

Tuan Faisal is the guy in the center, wearing the hot pink glasses. (Picture from PJLA.com.my)

I think Projek Disko Baldi is worth watching out for. Lots of potential in the current set up, and I would like to see them take on more themes. They’re still finding their feet, and the material needs to be stronger, but they’re already getting a decent bit of it right.

For those who missed the show in February (and those who watched Ombak Rindu) Projek Disko Baldi in Love will be restaged from 27th-29th April 2012 at PJLA. The tickets are affordable, the show is decent, and we could all do with a laugh now and then.

Here are some links:

Projek Disko Baldi @ Facebook
Projek Disko Baldi in Love : RESTAGED @ Facebook Events

Projek Disko Baldi are also nominees in this year’s Cammies Awards, for Best Group Performance and Best Original English Script (may there be a winner this year!).


*I’m not saying rape fantasies are bad. But the one embedded within Ombak Rindu stinks to hell.
*I’m not saying I was entirely sober when I watched this play. I may recommend the same for you. Bars abound in Jaya One.

#yoRais

I can’t be bothered with what Rais Yatim says. He lost credibility so quickly and so long ago, he can’t even inspire my incredulity anymore. Most recently, a Singapore Dance Theatre ballet performance was cancelled due to “indecent costumes”. Twitter explodes.

All I want to say is, I used to take ballet (heh. heh. heh); I pranced about in my tutu, wore carelessly tied ballet slippers, and more shades of pink than I care to acknowledge. What I have from those days are:

  1. super flexible feet
  2. excelling at jump rope as a child — skills later evolved into jumping over a wall taller than my head, to ponteng class in Ipoh Parade (some idiots built a mall next to my school).
  3. memories of practising my jumps with the other students in ballet class, while my classmate’s younger asshole brother shot pellets at us from the door. One of two boy bullies I never beat up in my childhood, only because I’d rather have been shooting pellets at us too.
  4. zero ballet skills.

I don’t want to think about this anymore, so here’s this gem I plucked from Su-Yin instead:

I’m so pleased that the outrageously indecent ballet performance is cancelled. Looking forward to seeing a huge decrease in rape cases, abandoned babies, sexual harassment and carnal urges! Rais Yatim, may no man’s briefs ever be tight and may no woman ever get her panties wet by the sight of dancers in leotards. And may we never have sex again, because sex is only for the West. Go Rais!

Indeed. The faster and farther he goes, the better for our arts scene.


footnote: picture is of my cat Gangster performing ballet the Malaysian way. Depending on how you look at it, he’s either in the nude, or wearing a heavy fur coat. Either way, it ain’t a tutu. And he can lick himself nearly anywhere, I’ve seen him.

[Update]

And just as I click “Post”, Rais Yatim announces: “The Ballet Illuminations by Singapore Dance Theatre wasn’t rejected, no applications were made.” and “The KLPAC baru shj mengemukakan permohonan persembahan Ballet Illuminations pd hari ini 5 April 2012, jam 12.30 tgh hari di kaunter PUSPAL.”

ISH. Wtf is going on*?

Nah, if you’re interested, the dress code section from Puspal booklet:

Click to download PDF of Puspal guidelines in English

You know. From the same charming arts-and-ballet-loving publication that says:

from the same Puspal PDF

Gotta love it.

*actually, I roughly know WTF happened la. But I don’t know if the people involved will step forward to tell the truth. I think that’s important for credibility most times, telling the truth. I’m not optimistic.

[2nd Update]

And KLPac issues a statement contradicting Rais: KLPAC insists Singapore ballet application was rejected

#scaleApril

For April Fools’ Day, I was at Grace‘s new event, scale — a mini music instrument showcase. Damn layan! Am happy to hear that this is going to be a regular event. Quite a healthy-sized crowd too.

Shh…Diam! did a performance making music with kitchen utensils. The Impatient Sisters brought out a whole bunch of tiny music knick-knack instruments. Stinky Poodle a.k.a. Sharon Chin had a ukelele, many bananas, and an assistant by the name of Zedeck Siew. Ezra had a deejay, disco lights, and Azmyl to duet their Youtube hit, That Okay Song. Azmyl abused some music instrument he borrowed from The Impatient Sister and got the crowd to singalong for his Makan Gaji song (Hey!).

Oops. Cut Julie's face off.

The stage was filled with vintage collectibles, prizes were given out for the best tweets. Even at the entrance, there was a welcome sign ala 1 x Suitcase. It’s like the hipster cherry of the event.

Now that I have an iPhone, my talent at taking bad portraits of people have been multiplied by constant access to a camera and a vast array of dodgy filters in “camera” apps. BEHOLD!

Hanging out at The Bee after the show — Nine, Kaz and Liy

I had actually been poking my nose around while Grace and Ying were brainstorming for the event (perils of having your office next to my home), and meeting Shh…Diam! to plan for their BFM interview. The band is of course, ever so genderqueer friendly. I’d been going for quite a few of their performances. In fact, the first time I saw Thilaga joget was at a Shh…Diam! gig. Damn power.

Ying and Nadia hold Disco and Soulja. So hiao, the…cat.

Hanging out with Grace on Earth Hour, at The Bee Publika. Froya was doing soundcheck.

Shh…Diam! and friends putting on their serious face

Official downloads from Scale’s show will be available sometime this week from The Wknd Show people.

Meanwhile, if you want to layan, I took a video of Azmyl and Ezra performing their Youtube hit for The Effing Show, That Okay Song:

I want to catch #scaleMay, but that can only happen if it doesn’t clash with my Japan trip — I’m going to Tokyo to hang out with my womance chitoo for my birthday. Never been to that region before, but definitely looking forward to seeing lots of cool anime stuff and endless bowls of pork. <3

The Sandpit: Womensis

Two wives.
Two strategies.
A missing husband.
Part mystery, part love-story.
A tale of love, betrayal and human survival set in a world where only the fittest will survive.

The above is the blurb for The Sandpit: Womensis, a theatre production presented by Five Arts Centre and Pocketsize Productions (Penang). Written by KS Maniam, it was last staged 18 years ago*. Director Chee Sek Thim decided to bring it back to contemporary audiences, along with actors Anne James and Ho Sheau Fung.

That would sum up everything I knew of this show when I bought my ticket for last night.

The production begins with two women on opposite sides of a sparse, slightly oversized space. Santha is at home, waiting. Sumathi is out in the dodgy love hotel where she first met her husband. Each woman has a chair in their section. Through their monologues, it is revealed that their (shared) husband, Dass, is missing.

Santha is the first wife; ignored, restrained and devoted. A traditional Indian housewife, she sits the proper and “respectable” distance on the ground from her husband’s chair.  In her monologues, she occasionally lets slip a catty judgement about the improprieties of the second wife, Sumathi.

Sumathi is the younger, wilful and cruder second wife, eager to escape the stifling traditions of her family. Of course, Santha is just like her family — all about rules and appearances. Sumathi attempts to carve out her own place in the world, but only seems to do it by being (in her eyes) the better wife, and the trespasser of male spaces (like hanging out in the love hotel where the other women are sex workers).

The women never directly address each other. Though missing, their husband’s presence pervades the entire show — mostly because his wives can’t stop talking about him. We learn, through some pretty good work from actor Anne James, that Dass was born disabled (“crippled, crawling like an insect / worm / cicak” etc), but mostly overcame it through sheer determination.

The sandpit in the play’s title refers to a hole in the ground Dass dug with a spatula. He built up his strength by training his legs to stand in it over months at a time. Outsider/masculinity issues abound. Hence, I suppose, the good wife of stature (for the outcaste without), and the…second wife (for the he-man within).

We learn that Dass is now heavy-set and strong. A downtown gangster, he commands enough fear that people in his area give him money. Dass’ shady friends from his dodgy workplace make appearances here and there. (I spent most of my time wondering who the hell they were in the play.)

So what happens when you bring a 20-year-old play to a contemporary audience? Well, the historical significance to Malaysian theatre is interesting. But I didn’t connect with the play at all. Simply put, I found it horribly tedious.

The play is text-heavy. It doesn’t matter what you understand, or how quickly, the women will take turns to painfully explain the neurotic mechanisms of their relationship with Dass and each other. Bless the small mercy that Dass wasn’t there to have his own expository monologues too.

Minus the fact that they don’t actually speak to anyone, I’m really not too sure The Sandpit would pass a Bechdel test any better than a Michael Bay film could.

Ho Sheau Fung was not a convincing Indian, but I don’t think she was trying to be. The direction was quite clearly “second wife stereotype”.  The language of the text didn’t really match Sheau Fung’s  portrayal — so we’re left with a Sumathi who unconvincingly insists on speaking in relatively formal English most of the time. She has a Chinese accent to rival the best of squabbling hawkers in Imbi market (porridge stall aunty and uncle, I’m gossiping about you). And, she also has a sense of sentence structure like she could read The Star while drawing red circles around all the grammar mistakes she finds (ma, are you reading this?).

Casting Sheau Fung as Sumathi is an intellectual exercise for everyone, and I was feeling a bit lazy this Saturday. Couldn’t hold my arms high enough to suspend my disbelief. Also made me wonder if anyone would cast Anne James as Ang Tau Mui.

Somewhere during the long explanations, and the repeated symbols the audience is exposed to (tradition = sari, not traditional = body language kangkang all the time etc), I got really bored.

I got so bored, I mentally started chopping my hand along the center of the stage, separating the actors from each other. I think the text would be much stronger as two separate monologues. Santha’s monologue felt like the main story, and Sumathi mostly came across as a reactionary afterthought, a shadow to Santha’s emotional depth. Combined, they pulled each other’s energy down and turned potentially strong monologues into caricatures within a Madonna/Whore writing exercise.

Maybe the age of the text is showing itself as well. Sure, there were some real wicked zingers from Santha about Sumathi’s (lacking) dignity. And we have some intelligent acting from both actors. There are moments where the women delve into the past, and we are transported with them — that’s the stuff of good monologues. I liked the body language and movements, even the occasional singing. But jebus, was the 80s really so long ago?

Some parts of it felt as old as the text, like when a distraught Sumathi collapses in a prayer-like pose (cue: LIGHTS DIM). Or Santha’s climatic screech of pain, something I’ve seen in other productions but never been a fan of (cue: PSYCHO VIOLINS — fine, that didn’t exactly happen, but it may as well have). At least no one laughed when she screamed, which could really have gone either way with a Malaysian audience.

Anyway, I don’t think mine is the majority view. I’ve been reading praises for the performances and text from others who’ve watched the show. The audience seemed to like it well enough, while I didn’t even stay behind for the Q&A with KS Maniam after. There’s probably some stuff I didn’t pick up or understand. Like why it’s called The Sandpit: Womensis. Women-sisters? Oasis of Women? Saya pun tatau. I would really like to know what so many people enjoyed about it though.

Overall, for me, the reason to watch The Sandpit is merely this: People watched it a long time ago. It’s an interesting point in our theatre history. But…the play itself may be less interesting than its historical significance la.


*my math is terrible, and I would rather type this out than pull out a calculator.
*Also, I’m late for scale and rushing this post, so pandai-pandai la, don’t assume I remember/wrote everything accurately.