WHAT makes the young Malaysian of today? Well, Masak-Masak Ensemble Theatre endeavours to wring out that answer in its original plays, two of which are set to be staged next month.
Heading this new collective is The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat’s in-house director and actor, Mark Beau de Silva and actor Ho Lee Ching.
De Silva and Ho created the ensemble “as an additional level for those interested in polishing their acting skills” after graduating from the Theatre For Young People (T4YP) programme, a six-month season of productions under the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre for those aged between 16 to 25.
“After the successful staging of Still Taming, I felt that we have found some sort of coherence in devising original work particularly with this group of young performers.
“I wanted to see if we could continue working more, as in continuous exploration of ideas which is not confined to one production; to see if we can continue training despite not having a show in the future,” says de Silva who is currently the resident director/ writer with KLpac.
Still Taming was the T4YP end-of-season showcase held in July. According to the KLpac notes, the play charts the journey of The Girl, as devised from a collection of stories written by the 17 ensemble members, on love, life, and rebellion in Kuala Lumpur.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, the main plot sees Petruchio pursuing Katherina, the unwilling participant in a courtship orchestrated by her family. Katherina, the ‘Shrew’ resists, but slowly gives way to Petruchio’s psychological manipulation until she becomes the ‘perfect’ bride.
The other play is S’kolah, which is about a young girl’s gruelling journey of trying to find herself.
Set in the early 90s, Lina is a brilliant student of SMK Sri Larut who has her hopes on furthering her studies at a local university. However, with her exceptional results, Lina is the only one among her friends who did not get an offer. The story unveils a coming-of-age drama dealing with the pressures of society, family and friends.
Given the singular hodge-podge language called Manglish that Malaysians revert to in daily speech, De Silva says Still Taming is in English and Bahasa Malaysia, while S’kolah is in English, Bahasa Malaysia, and Mandarin.
“I would like to think that the languages used in the play form the landscape that is Malaysia. You might not necessarily know what every word of the Mandarin used mean, but the familiarity of its sound adds to the entire understanding of the story.”
For de Silva, restaging Still Taming left an indelible impression on the audience. It also played to soul-out crowds during its three-day run.
“Many of the audiences said it touched them, in more ways than one. We never meant to create a ‘feminist’ piece, but because so many of the stories came from the real experiences of the ensemble (which is made up mostly of women), the piece really resonated with female audiences particularly.
“There is one story that recounts how an Indian daughter dreams of being born a son, and another about discovering menses, in front of the entire Standard 5 class! So I think because the stories come from an honest place.”
Ho says she started “dabbling in the performing arts when I joined Joe Hasham’s Acting for Beginners in 2008”.
“I realised how much I wanted to pursue it after being part of the T4YP programme in 2012. T4YP was pretty much how I really started my theatre journey,” says the actor-in-residence at The Actors Studio, and is now a programme coordinator and facilitator for T4YP.
The upcoming shows are Ho’s co-directorial debut. “I assisted Mark in directing the previous Still Taming under T4YP 2016 and really enjoyed the process with both the young actors and him.
“We then wanted to continue working with this bunch, hence the birth of Masak-Masak Ensemble. And instead of just restaging Still Taming, we wanted to challenge ourselves to create something new. Co-directing with Mark has been a privilege. He is a very intuitive director and I’ve been learning a lot from him and his style.”
The young theatre programme, now in its ninth year, is making 22-year-old Roshinee Mookaiah contemplate acting as more than a hobby.
“What I enjoy most about theatre is the liberty that it gives me to explore various other personalities/lives that I would otherwise not have in real life.
“Personally, I have a very rigid and shy personality, so it is refreshing to live out a completely different persona once in a while. For example the character I play in S’kolah, Ms Jasmine, who is very optimistic and enthusiastic,” says the Psychology graduate from HELP University.
Roshinee started her foray in theatre with stand-up comedy at KLpac’s Short+Sweet 2014 edition. She decided to take a break from stand-up this year to focus solely on polishing her acting skills by enrolling into the T4YP 2016 class.
“Acting started out as a hobby. It gave me an excuse to get out of the house more often, but thanks to the guidance and encouragement of my T4YP teachers and other members in the performing arts community, I see it as a possible career option too — though more part-time/freelance for me.
“Being involved in theatre gave me an opportunity to explore other mediums like short films and advertisements. What started out as a hobby has since evolved into a viable financial supplement, which is a bonus,” says the versatile Roshinee who recently won Best Lead Actor (Female) in the S+S Musical 2016.
Ho and Roshinee may well hold the answers to what makes the young Malaysian of today, as too S’kolah and Still Taming.
S’Kolah & Still Taming
Where: Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, Jalan Sentul
When: Dec 8-10, 8.30pm & Dec 11, 3pm
Tickets at RM43.
Call KLpac at 03-40479000