Friday 14 September 2012

#review: Short + Sweet Theatre Penang

I managed to catch Short + Sweet Theatre Penang on Thursday night and found it very sweet, but hardly short. Well, with 11 short plays of around 10 minutes, total run time was around 110 minutes. Adding in the opening intro to Short + Sweet as well as introduction of cast, directors and playwrights after the show, the whole production took slightly more than two hours.

Rather reluctant at the moment to give it an grading in terms of overall production, but I would say that on a whole, I liked it a whole lot more than Indicinelive IV.

A rundown of the plays (more or less in sequence):

1. Echo (Toby Teh)
The play centres around a blind girl auditioning for an acting role. The thing that irked me from the start was the awkward speaking style of the actress. I initially thought that she had a speech disability or some mental deficiency before I realised she was blind (dark glasses might have worked better than closing her eyes all the time?). I don't know if that was the way she really talks or it was an assumed accent, but I think the play would have been more solid if it was more evident that she was perfect for the role and the only reason she's not being considered was because she was blind.

2. Away from     , away from      . (Ankoku)
This monologue plays on the politics and hardships between three generations of one family. I saw the original play acted by the playwright himself during the Short + Sweet Workshops in April, and all I can say is the actor did not quite flesh out the passions and raw emotions inherent in the script. I think it was difficult for Rio to play all three characters (the shifts in characters were not obvious enough), so maybe having three separate actors for the three generations instead of one playing all three might have worked better.

3. Smart Phones Stupid People (Jackie Ashkin)
The awesome Jackie Ashkin (whom I worked with in Broadway Penang) wrote this one, about an iPhone, a dangerous wild animal, and two crazy friends out in the Sahara. Okay, so I read this script during the Short + Sweet Workshops in April and I must say I was pretty disappointed with the final product. Sorry. I blame it all on the director, though. In my opinion, keeping it simple and subtle would have enhanced the story. As it was, the fancy costumes, blatant attempts to sexualise it, and the over-the-top acting, as well as that strange ending with the Vote sign just made me... confused? (Also, too much panting and shivering involved. There are other ways to show fear than shaking.)

4. My Home (Wong Lay Chin)
I am having difficulty coming up with a blurb on this because I don't read the Chinese characters in the programme. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it, even though I didn't really understand the song they were singing. It was stunningly well acted.

5. Love is a Four Letter Word (How Han Ming)
The blurb says: Nice Guy and Jerk engage in a battle of jokes and pickup lines to win over Nice Girl. Um. This was one of those plays where they break the walls and speak to the audience. Plus point was that they were intentional about it right from the start. Minus point was that the whole play was pretty pointless.

6. We Were Made Fools (Yasmin Bathamanathan)
This was a very real, very gritty play about how migrant workers ended up in Malaysia. The acting was solid, with the actors putting realistic accents that fit with the scene. Loved it, despite not getting the point of the dance in the beginning of the play.

7. The Martyr (John Harris)
The play was about two people discussing life at the funeral of their abuser and I liked it up to the point where the two actors suddenly broke the scene by talking about missing lines and doing it with the script, and arguing. After that, I was just plain confused. Again, what was with the weird chicken costume? However, I did feel that the actors were more fluent when they broke the scene and spoke in Malay.

8. Confessions of Perfection (Yvette Chan)
Great performance by Gowri, and a good script by Yvette. (Blurb confused me by saying "two teenagers confess..." when there was only one.) The part I didn't get were the awkward motions in between staging. Was that supposed to mean/represent something?

9. Small Talk Really Stinks (Terence Toh)
This was good from the beginning until the end, and I think drew the most response from the crowd. Wouldn't be surprised if this got the Audience Choice Awards. We could identify with both characters right from the start and it was very Malaysian, very local and very funny. The only problem I had with this script was HOW COULD YOU TEAR A PAGE OUT OF A BOOK?!?! SACRILEGE!!! My heart stopped. Poor book. *tears*

10. Somnus (Catherine Ooi)
In this one, Danny takes his insomniac wife on a trip to the countryside in the hopes that she will finally get some sleep. It seems like she doesn't. A rather dark little play, but pretty well done.

11. Drive All Night (Mark Sasse)
Two major thoughts emerged from this play. One, the kid is cute, and two, the actors were too young for the script. This very teenage cast wasn't quite believable in a play about a guy who drives all night after a quarrel with his wife and is confronted by various radio programming which forces him to rethink his marriage. Also, I do believe from his motions that his driver's seat is on the left of the car. I'm guessing that he (and the director) either doesn't drive, or at the least, they don't drive in Malaysia.

So that wasn't a rather short and sweet review of the Short + Sweet Theatre.

There are two more runs at Stage 2, Penangpac (Straits Quay) at 8.30pm on Friday (14/9) and Saturday (15/9). Tickets are RM28 for adults and RM23 for students, TAS and senior privilege card holders.

Call 8991722 if you want to book tickets! (Especially for Saturday).

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