Monday, 28 December 2009

EMP's A Light In KL City

I watched the Electric Minds Project's "A Light In KL City" at Pentas 2 KLPAC last night with the Sister and a bunch of our friends (and one of their mothers too!). I have to say that it was an enjoyable night out and everyone else I went with had a good time.

The play was a collaborative piece by a huge bunch of writers from EMP, and was directed by Rey Buono with lyrics and music by Erna Mahyuni and Mia Palencia. It's set inside the small, run down Cahaya Inn on Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman and centers on the people who live there. Act 1 introduces the varied denizens of the crumbling hotel (soon to be demolished and renovated) and their interactions with each other. The usual suspects are there: prostitutes, an amah and ah pek and a foreign worker, plus a few other oddballs. Act 2, however, turns to the past, when Cahaya Inn just opened, and progresses to link the past surrounding the inn (and the country) with the present state of affairs amongst the characters, as they wait for their beloved home to come under the bulldozers.

I have to admit that there were parts of the play I found difficult to digest. While the first half was full of hilarious situational comedy and lovable characters which had the audience in stitches, the second half took a different and unexpected angle and story-telling method. It had quite a bit of political friction from the tense situation in 1950's Malaya (the subtext of course being a commentary on contemporary Malaysian politics) which I found odd because the first act's focus was squarely on the present state of Kuala Lumpur's less fortunate city folk. It was definitely ambitious and I'm still glad EMP tried it, but I am unsure if the play fully succeeded in linking the past to the present through the stories behind Cahaya Inn.

Nonetheless, I can happily say that anyone, after watching the play, can attest that there is really no truth in the accusations that theatre is irrelevant to the average Malaysian, that is is inaccessible or high-brow and that it is unrealistic or elitist in its portrayal of society. The play was completely accessible in its plot and themes; any audience member can relate to the issues touched upon and reflect upon them and how they apply to his/her life. I found the use of language (and languages) by the characters a joyous reflection of Malaysian voices, from the shameless flattery of the  feng shui master to the unbridled Cantonese of the young prossie, and from the shy English of the Indian immigrant to the nostalgic Malay and English of yesteryear in Act 2, where every vowel and consonant was pronounced and enunciated sharply. Perrrgi ahbang, perrgi!

All in all, another wonderful night at the theatre. Congratulations EMP and all the best for 2010!


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