Theatre Review: One Act Play Festival 2018 (Night 1)

It is yet again the time for the annual Literature and Drama Society’s One Act Play Festival! Now in its 3rd installment. the two-day event began on a high note in the ever so intimate drama studio as the excited audience filled up the seats. This year’s first night of the festival presented five plays of contrasting themes and their own strengths and weaknesses.


 

The Moth by Lim Jack Kin

“It’s based on a joke—a very long joke.” said the playwright. And indeed it was!

The Moth tells the story of Benjamin Moth as a very distraught humanoid insect lamenting the issues of his depressing life to a confused podiatrist. The initially weird humorous imagery of the moth-man soon turned dark as he confessed his wish of wanting to give in to murder. Undoubtedly, Malik Hisyam’s performance as a depressed, suicidal-homicidal Mr. Moth was impressive. Although the play largely speaks of an unhappy life, it is, after all, inspired by a joke, and it rightfully received uproars of laughter from the audience from beginning to end.

The play had a few flaws, such as unclear line delivery by the minor characters. Some may feel that the play stretched on a bit, but as it was the first of the night, people were still pretty buzzed. All in all, The Moth delivered a simple plot, but being the first play, it proved a good start for the rest of the night’s plays.

Cast

Malik Hisyam Zaihan as Benjamin Moth

Wan Wing Seng as the Podiatrist

Lee Xuan as the Boss

Chin Wei Yi, Sarah as the Wife

Lim Chian Fung as the Son

 

Momma by Tennielle Callista Chua

The next play was a complete 180 of the previous show— and the audience’s solemn silence was a mirror reflecting the play’s story of mothers, daughters, women, and the complex issue of abortion.

The play began with the actresses sitting separated by a divider across the stage, and Marie’s monologue of her love for ginger tea— how it purges her of sickness proved a clever metaphor for themes presented in the play, one of them being, of course, abortion. Following that, red light doused the stage and a suspenseful “Why can’t I move?” introduction of the mother’s character left the audience in suspense. It was revealed, then, that Marie’s recently dead mother has reincarnated as the unwelcomed child she now holds in her body.

When handling a script-heavy play, the minimal choice of staging and costumes were only right—the focus should be on the actors’ words and actions. The actresses both presented impressive acting, successfully delivering their lines with the right dose of emotions needed presented in their facial expressions and body language—not too over the top, but enough to leave the audience in an on-the-edge silence. At one point, I even find myself nodding to Marie’s monologue on the universal, unfair expectations held for women.

However, a play relying so heavily on monologues like Momma easily tread the thin line between boring and captivating— towards the end, some parts of the script began to seem unnecessary to the plot, only contributing to making the play lengthier than it should have been. Still, if there’s one word to describe Momma, it would be ‘strong.’

Cast

Kirushangiri Jaya Kumar as Marie

Nadia Nadine Mohamad Shaharul as Marie’s baby

 

Table for Four by Karan Mathur

The serious atmosphere that shrouded the drama studio by the previous play was lifted by Karan Mathur’s Table for Four that presented four female friends, Karen, Marcia, Jenny and Sam, and the trials and tribulations of their love lives. The play began, in a bar, with each of the characters briefing each other (and audience) on their relationships—Karen’s failed ones and Marcia’s unfortunately-she-is-straight frustrations balanced out Sam’s budding beginning and Jenny’s happy, secret relationship. The excited chatters of the girls’ soon tumble into a complicated mess that resulted in each of them to depart, leaving Karen to deal with her problems (and the tab) alone.

It’s clear that the reason why this play received the most laughter from the audience was due to the four characters’ quirks and their friendship, along with the personal love life problems, that the audience could easily relate to. Each of the actresses gave a well-thought out performance, with equally distributed time for each of them to build their character in the short 15-minute performance. Although it had quite a simple, straight-forward story and had issues such as stumbling over lines and unclear line delivery a few times, it’s pretty safe to say that, in terms of the comedic rating, Table for Four was the crowd’s favourite.

Cast

Mitchel Ann as Karen

Izzah Affandy as Sam

Nicole Chow Jing as Marcia

Rachel Cheong Yun Xuan as Jenny

Andrew Lim Chian Fung as the Waiter

 

honk! by Samantha Lim

The organizers of the festival had lined up the plays well—the audience were buzzed by the previous play—but as soon as Samantha’s honk! began, they were again captured in curious, awaiting silence. honk! tells the story of two clowns, nameless throughout the play, and an unknown source of tension – resulting in uncomfortable silences and frustrating arguments. Long silences filled the space between awkward attempts at conversation that soon erupted into a shouting match, leaving the audience at the edge of their seats, anticipating the big reveal of the cause of their tension.

honk! presented a script discussing something that happened between the two clowns in the past, resulting in Clown 2’s cold-shoulder-turned-fiery-hatred behaviour towards her co-worker and a messy bunch of misunderstandings. However, the audience were left confused by the end of the play as the source of their argument were never made clear and before they could try to make sense of things, the lights went out.

Credit is due to honk! for being different, and praises should be given for the actress and actor’s impressive acting– the right amount of emotions in their faces and body language captivated the audience as they watched the clowns’ every move and hung on to every word. However, the vague ending could have taken a better turn.

Cast

Eugene Ong as Clown 1

Syamila Bakar as Clown 2

 

Meeting of the Merchants of Misinformation by Geerthana Santhiran

As the faded tolls of the 9pm hour striked, Geerthana went up the stage to introduce to the audience her idea of the conversation that would happen if the four social media giants (or monsters?) – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat –  were to sit down in a meeting. The stage was set up with the social medias sitting facing the audience, discussing the issue of fake news that is very much relevant to us today.

Seemingly negatively realistic and obsessed with power and maniacal, evil laughter, Facebook seemed to be the head of the meeting, while Snapchat possessed a weirdly optimistic character, believing the world is made of sparkles. Twitter and Instagram seemed to be given less attention compared to the two—although when they did, the former’s halted speech due to the ‘lack of characters’ and Instagram’s random KFC ad was a clever writing on the playwright’s part and was well received by the audience.

The play provided an interesting and largely relevant concept, still, it felt like the script was not exactly memorable enough, and maybe, instead of the social medias just conversing between themselves, some sort of relationship dynamic between them could have been added for extra gist. However, it’s possible that that idea may have been too ambitious, especially concerning the time constraint. All in all, although the play has room for improvement, it had a fascinating concept that the audience could largely relate to.

Cast

Andreay Hyllde as Facebook

Omar Khaer El Seed Bashir as Twitter

Amir Hisyam Hasnuddin as Instagram

Rachel Cheong Yun Xuan as Snapchat

 


And folks, that is all for the first night of the One Act Play Festival. Personally speaking, I didn’t have very high expectations coming into it as the festival seemed to lean towards more casual productions. However, the playwrights, actresses and actors and all those involved have made their much appreciated contribution to the ever-growing scene of theatrical arts in UNMC, so kudos to all!

 

 

By Raihah Noorazli, photos by Joanne Chua

Writer, feminist, theatre enthusiast, but most importantly a purveyor of the importance of performing arts, from dance to spoken word and all in between.

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