“Bendahara – A Betrayal” Review…

I did say in my promo entry a week ago that I am uncomfortable to review theatre plays and productions for the fact that I do not have a theatre background nor understand most of the technicalities to dispense my thoughts. But as I was typing my thank yous and gratitude to the main people at Sri Warisan Som Said Performing Arts Ltd, notably Madam Som Said and Marina Yusoff, for an extremely enjoyable experience last night, it dawned on me that not only should the main people be reading my thoughts, but the whole production team as well as the performers who numbered more than 117 should also be reading this on a more public platform, since I am not connected to everyone on Facebook due to my personal policy of being connected to only people I have met before in person. Hence this entry.

This rather short entry is also to share my personal experience as a watching audience, rather than as an astute observer or critic. Also for the fact that I want to surprise Marina and the production team, since they surprised me last night with a heartwarming gesture (more on that in a bit). Last night was one of the rare occasions that I did not bring my trusty DSLR nor video camera to catch the moments, but I think it is perfectly alright not to include photographs nor video clips in this entry, as I do not want to act as the proverbial spoiler for those who will be watching the final two shows later today. Anyway for those who are wondering, tickets are still available and can be purchased at the Kallang Theatre entrance. Just note that the two shows today are at 3pm and 8pm.

From a watching audience’s perspective, the missus and I enjoyed the whole production very much, and this is not because of what happened towards the end (again more on that in a bit). For me personally, I was blown away by the digital backdrop and various stage props which made the kampung and beach setting come alive. Each character was responsible in bringing out their respective roles and played with our emotions, in a good way literally so to speak. We felt tickled by the actions of Amza (Hamzah Adon), we felt anger by the dastardly acts of Memanda Menteri (Fauzie Laily), we felt the sadness and anxiety of the kampung folk towards the end. While the tears welled in my eyes towards the end, I noticed many others in the audience as well as my other half sniffing and dabbing their eyes, thanks to the excellent combination of the script, the actions as well as the soundtrack and its meaningful lyrics.

Like what I told Marina via Facebook, everything that was promised during the media conference three weeks ago was delivered and executed, even going beyond my wildest imaginations of what the surprises would be. But during the media conference itself, something in me detected that Bollywood elements would be injected into this production, even though it was not mentioned by Music Director, Zubir Abdullah. I was pleasantly surprised that my gut feelings came true last night. What astounded me in that particular segment was Marina herself. Put her in any costume and she will bring the character to life. She can be a kampung girl, a princess, a palace maid and you can be sure that she will look the part. Likewise during the short Bollywood segment, I saw a Hindi actress on stage.

There were also other twists in store like the injection of rap and hip-hop into the mix. Traditionalists might frown upon that particular segment since it was done with the performers wearing traditional royal costumes. But I thought it was a nice twist, a fresh element breathing life into royal subjects who are normally known as uptight and serious people at the mercy of the King or Sultan‘s commands. Though I have been waxing lyrical towards the production, I did detect a minor shortcoming. At times the characters’ voices were inaudible or drowned by the background music. I think that can be taken aboard and improved upon for the final two shows. Still, the minor problem was not enough to make me detract from saying it was an excellent show. If you ask me, given the injection of support and sponsors, it would be good if this production is staged abroad and adding more colourful elements. I’m hoping Malaysia‘s Istana Budaya would invite the production over for starters.

And finally to that pleasant surprise at the end of the show. As a small-time blogger, not paid for what I do as a hobby and mere passion to report and promote stuff on our local Malay entertainment scene, a mere mention of my moniker on the public address system at the end, made the heart flutter in excitement, to go along with the list of social and mainstream media mentioned for their respective coverage and promotional works. To be thanked in print on the programme book, made it even more worthwhile of the work l’ve done all these years. This is a definite first for me and one that I am very much thankful and feel honoured for. It gives me the impetus and inspiration to continue, as doing what I do on my own does not reward me in monetary terms. There were times too that I felt it wasn’t worth it, no thanks to several bad experiences. It has however given me satisfaction in making others smile and feel encouraged. Above all, it has introduced me to talented and inspirational individuals as well as groups. Thank you Sri Warisan!!! This means so much to me…

P.S. I said this was a short entry but knowing long-winded me, six paragraphs is kinda long, don’t you think??? 😛

“Bendahara – A Betrayal” Promo…

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.

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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!!!