I purposely post this entry about a week before the musical play goes live at the Kallang Theatre so as to generate that hype even further, to go along with the ones some of you might have read in Berita Harian last week, or / and seen the short capsule on Mediacorp Suria. For the first time ever, I was invited to cover a media conference-cum-preview, involving one of our local Malay performing arts group’s latest offering “Bendahara – A Betrayal“. And this is not any group I’m talking about. It is the well-respected Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts group, no stranger to most of us and a brand name which is synonymous in upholding traditional Malay culture and heritage, in the form of dance and theatre.
It has to be said that I seldom post something pertaining to our local arts scene. It is not that I am not interested, but I seldom have the time and opportunity to watch and support such shows. At the same time, I feel at ease giving them the promo rather than reviewing their show. This is because, hand to heart, I am not a professional nor have any experience in the scene to understand the technicalities and background that some other known writers might have. Hence, this blog seldom features reviews or talk about the local performing arts scene. I do not want to come across as a know-all when my knowledge of the scene is practically zero to begin with. I wouldn’t mind watching if I have the opportunity, but I won’t feel comfortable having to review them afterwards. Like Fiza O‘s recent event which I reported in the last entry, I felt obliged to attend this media conference-cum-preview session of Sri Warisan‘s latest production, thanks to a personal invite I received from Marina Yusoff, the musical play’s Production Director.
“Bendahara – A Betrayal“, is staged based on events that happened on these shores, most notably when Singapore was “attacked” by swordfish or otherwise known in our Malay folklore as “Singapura Dilanggar Todak“. Till today, debates still rage on whether the incident did really happened or whether it is just a mythical folklore as a form of entertainment and storytelling for children alike. However, where the original story centred upon the character of Hang Nadim, the boy who was smart enough to outwit the swordfish but in the end, fell prey to the jealousy of those working in the royal palace, this play centres upon the character of Aman a.k.a. Bendahara (played by Hatta Said), the Chief Minister who was tasked to take away Hang Nadim, who also happens to be his step-brother. I will not play the spoiler by telling you how the story would end, as we were not told about it during the preview itself, so your guess is as good as mine.
From the preview, I was very much moved by the acting talents of Asnida Daud, who is making her theatre return in this production. She plays the character “Mak Limah“, the mother of both Aman and Hang Nadim. The scene where Tok Penghulu was to be arrested by Memanda Menteri and the royal guards was a particularly moving and compelling one, so much so that I had tears welling in my eyes when I watched it live, and again when I was compiling video highlights of the preview-cum-media conference. She is that good, cos she executed the right combinations in terms of physical movements, emotive facial and voice expressions at the exact moments. I felt her character come alive, moreso since she shed real tears too during that scene. Other characters to look out for are Memanda Menteri, the dual persona being played by Fauzie Laily, as well as Amza (Hamzah Adon), who provides the light-hearted moments in the play. And of course the main character himself.
This production is special for the fact that Sri Warisan reaches out to the younger generation by including students from Yuying Secondary School, Bedok Green Secondary School and Damai Secondary School. Also for the opportunity given to some of their performers, who have been with them for about five years, to come up with a choreography item for various scenes in the play. They have also invited Malaysia‘s Akademi Seni Budaya & Warisan Kebangsaan (ASWARA) Dancers to be a part of the play. Along with the fusion of silat choreography by Pesilat Pusaka Karuhun and Pesilat Tapak Suci Muhammadiyah, the play promises to be a spectacle for viewers, with elements of Disney and Hollywood incorporated into the mix, as was testified by Music Director, Zubir Abdullah, one of my favourite local singers.
Less than a week left to the show, I am very excited about this production as the preview promised a play that we can be proud of, if it is to be staged abroad as an advertisement on our culture and heritage, the marriage between dance and theatre. I strongly recommend that you get your tickets soon as they are selling fast at $28 each. The show will be staged at Kallang Theatre on 30th and 31st March 2012 at 8pm, with an added matinee show at 3pm on Saturday. There was a small birthday celebration afterwards for Marina and Huda Rahim, the head choreographer of the production, who share the same birthday (9th March) and those who attended got to sample “Pulut Kuning” and a variety of other traditional Malay food and kuehs. Thank you once again to Marina Yusoff and the good people at Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd. for the kind invitation, hospitality and good food served that night. I hope your upcoming production will be a resounding success!!!