Amateur Theatre

The ordeal is over! Banzai!

I have just finished with a Malaysian cultural theatre performance in Bath in which I was playwright and director. Over the winter holidays, exams in January, and throughout the entire semester my head was a mess of engineering and arts with frustration levels constantly on high. The Easter break has begun but I’ve still a deadline due 9am tomorrow morning, Matlab coursework backlog to clear, and ASPEN coursework due after the break. The gorgeous weather and view of a fun fair right outside my window doesn’t help to increase productivity either.

I have always loved being part of a performing group be it dancing or acting (I’ve never sang onstage before). However, being a director is a whole new experience for me and so is scriptwriting. All in all, the casts and dancers did an amazing job and lines of the script is still stuck in some of our heads, making way into ordinary conversations fitting into almost any given situation.

Getting started on the script was difficult. I had a friend to constantly badger me for drafts, one act or one part a day. The first draft had way too many characters and the story line was a drag but I kept writing anyway. After letting the story in my head simmer and stew for a bit, I cut the story short and finished the script towards the end of February (the performance was on the 31st March). I used mostly ordinary words and short sentences, which probably explains how the lines were memorable. The first complete run through of the play in entirety took two and a half hours, the next few took two hours, and it turned out during the actual performance the total run time was one hour.

What kind of a play lasts only an hour from start to end?

Maybe my work should be classified as a mini-theatre?

I hoped the little gathering after the performance with complimentary bandung and bubur pulut hitam made up for it. Members of the audience hung about quite a while that we actually had to nicely ask them to leave so we could start packing up props and keep the costumes.

The play was meant to be serious but it turned out COMEDY. The audience was in stitches everywhere! The actors deserve an applause for not laughing loudly on stage. During one of the rehearsals, the whole room burst in laughter and we were on a merry-go-round of acting, laughing, and calming ourselves down.

Feedback from non-Malaysians who watched the play – it was very entertaining but they do not quite understand the story line. A cast member mentioned I could have added a bit more scene depicting several aspects of the main plot to build on the details peppered in conversations between the characters. Noted.

If you were part of the audience or even cast/crew on that day, do let me know of any comments, ideas, or general feedback. This is for self-improvement, as well as pointers I could share with the next committee organising similar events in the future.

I was told the transitions between scenes were quite smooth and it was difficult to hear anybody backstage – this is good! Many times over I had to tell the casts and dancers to keep quite off-stage during practice. I also had them to stow away their mobile phones – young adults nowadays (myself included) are attached to these pieces of devices. We can’t live without them. I would panic if I were to lose my phone.

I felt a tinge of disappointment at the lack of pictures or recording of the Chinese dance at the beginning of the performance. Even the applause wasn’t as loud as the other dances 😦 .I’m guessing the way I fitted the dance into the play was a little unexpected, and because the rather unusual combination I used everyone put their cameras down to watch carefully. I don’t know.

The lack of audience appreciated reminded me of one of my works which my art teacher commented “too creative” that he couldn’t understand it. My concern – what’s the point of creativity if you cannot get your message across?

The choreography was original and as far as Youtube is concerned, I don’t think anyone else has used the song for a fan dance. I kept the fan dance movements simple and basic as I was constrained by limited time to train the dancers (I also had to direct the play) while bearing in mind of the members who are doing dancing or dancing a fan dance for the first time. I’m very happy with my dancers, especially the boys who did so much better than during practices.

I would like to thank everyone who was involved in this performance from the cast and crew members to the audience for making it a success!

To the cast and crew, big thanks for putting up with the director! 😉

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