A play serves 2 purposes: it entertains and it educates. As far as entertainment is concerned, last night's performance of "Ruman Kedai Jalan Seladang" by the Akar Gita Estetika (AGE) theatre troupe was a delight to watch.
Based on work written by Dr Haji A. Samad Ismail and adapted by Johan Jaafar, the drama touched a variety of issues linked to the Japanese occupation of Malaya (in those days, this included Singapore). The AGE troupe is an amateur group of mostly young actors, but their performance was anything but amateurish as they pulled off the difficult themes of the work with style, confidence and aplomb.
Images from the play (click on thumbnails to enlarge)
The play's fulcrum was an examination of how war and occupation effects a society - the Japanese occupation of Malaya being the platform from which the discussion was launched.
What are the effects of occupation on society? How does it change people, to force them into things they normally would not do? The juxtaposition of those who would embrace the occupiers and those who would resist; the virgin and the perempuan cabaret (call girl), the businessman and the thief, the strong and the weak, the moral and the immoral, the religious and the irreligious. No one wants war, no one wants to be occupied by a foreign power - the story of "Rumah Kedai Jalan Seladang" is about the choices we make when the unwanted happens.
Of particular praise should be reserved for Fairah Nor Zainol who plays "Leha" - the slut, the Marchiavellian call girl who believes that to prosper in diversity requires a sacrifice of moral values. Her performance was so convincing that, at times, i couldn't decide whether to slap her for her complete lack of morality or to applaud her ability to survive.
Fairah Nor Zainol, "Leha"
The play is one in a series of plays for the Festival Teater Wilayah Persekutuan 2003 (26 - 30 April). Those interested to watch any of the remaining plays may do so at the Malaysian Tourism Center (MATIC) auditorium, Jalan Ampang. All shows start at 8.30pm.