Firefly cadence lends clarity to stagecraft

Here’s my review of Terbalik… mesti kena mata which appeared in the New Straits Times last month:

BARE bulbs hung from the low ceiling, their filaments clear for all to stare at. On, then off, and on again, in a cadence of their own. Against those flickering moments of clarity, stories unfold in bursts of narratives, with non-verbal movements aiding the performance.

Names were spoken, by the performers — Janet Moo, Chi Too, Syamsul Azhar, and Wong Tay Sy – as they made their way through the lines of bulbs. You realise they are of people deemed missing or dead under mysterious circumstances.

The quartet loosely connected that rollcall of names to circumstances of mystery in their own lives, however insignificant they may seem to others, as in wandering cats.

Despite the sometimes eerie quality of the narratives spoken, the on-off rhythm of those lights did not seem spooky at all.

Syamsul (left) and Janet in a scene from Terbalik... mesti kena mata

Syamsul (left) and Janet in a scene from Terbalik… mesti kena mata

Truth be told, those 30-something  bare bulbs lent a warm, fuzzy ambience to the small room, the Five Arts Centre’s Black Box of performances. Perhaps donning sunglasses helped in creating this effect, intended or otherwise.

In the end, songs carried the general theme, with Dangal (wrestle) being the wake-up call with a catchy beat.

Terbalik … mesti kena mata, a recent Five Arts Centre experimental workshop show, was interesting, to say the least.

Lighting designer Mac Chan was asked to create the lights for a show first, and then dancer-choreographer Datin Marion D’Cruz with thespian-activist Ivy Josiah worked out the performance.

The brief, and the performance itself, gave a “terbalik” sense to the normal hierarchy found in performance making, where the lighting designer sits on a par with the costume designer, et al, way below the actors/dramaturgs and directors.

Yet, a performance wove its way out of the role-reversal play. There were some memorable moments like Chi Too relating a story with dramatic intent in his voice, and Syam re-enacting his Sam-the wanna-be-straight bulb amusing dialogue.

Yet, in that firefly ambience, the stories were held in a captive aesthetic that made the performers strive to deliver their performances. The technique lent silence to movements, and so character buildup lagged behind a blink or two.

However, the 45-minute workshop showed the method employed could stage a performance. Where it could sustain a show of longer duration remains to be seen.

** Pix courtesy of Five Arts Centre. cover pic is of Syamsul and Chi Too.

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