Lights on, audience seated!
UNMC hosted the second annual Tri-campus Arts Festival spanning across all three Nottingham campuses, and proudly brought its audience three different performances. From the dark, dramatic Mr Donkey, to the wild, riotous Kampung Chekhov, students and the general public were in for a treat.
Mr Donkey, performed by students from the Ningbo campus, revolved around the themes of corruption, betrayal, and the worth of a man, with a delicious dosage of sexual innuendos. It is the story of a coarse, uneducated, pure Blacksmith, brought into a world of fraud by a group of teachers. He is disguised as the heavily mentioned ‘Mr Donkey’, a well-respected man who was eventually sought by both the corrupted Commissioner and Mr Ross, a wealthy American man whose sponsorship would not only aid the school, but also bring about monetary benefits to the Commissioner.
For those who have never watched Chinese dramas, Mr Donkey promised the audience just that, with performers equipped with strong acting skills, languid body language, and dramatic expressions. The sexual teasing and light comedy fairs about just right for a dark performance like Mr Donkey, although the play ended in a twisted turn when one of the teachers, a young, promiscuous woman kills herself. The ending was haunting, especially when a gunshot halted the actors’ actions while a soft, swaying Chinese song plays in the background. However, there is something exceptionally pure in the ludicrousness of it all, because what the play essentially offered was a glimpse of what makes a man called ‘Mr Donkey’, human.
Students from the UK campus on the other hand presented a Greek classic: Oedipus. Directed by theatre rock star Martin Berry, the Greek tragedy took a refreshing turn in this dramatic yet comic enactment.
What made Oedipus highly entertaining for both literary and non-literary members of the audience, apart from its adaptation into the modern world – brawls were settled in boxing rings, and Creon is your typical man crush – was its creative and highly interactive nature. Points of dramatic irony were signified by a bell sound, and plot check-ups allowed non-literary audience to fully understand the tragedy. In certain instances, the performance became almost pantomimic, making Oedipus, despite its adult-themed nature, suitable for younger viewers. The play did, however, end in a rather ghastly turn as does the original tragedy, but this refreshing take on Oedipus is certainly both amusing, enchanting, and drop dead gruesome.
Mary J. Ainslie’s Kampung Chekhov, a three-play Malaysian adaptation of Chekhov’s comic works, once again returned with its lively atmosphere, energetic cast, and vibrant body language.
Those who have watched a previous staging of Kampung Chekhov still laughed at the antics of Mr Vasu, Ooi Mak Kaw, and Alvin Tan, although the use of Manglish did present itself as a challenge for international students. However, the localisation of Chekhov’s satiric farces was a comic success to both Malaysians and non-Malaysians.
The staging of Mr Donkey, Oedipus, and Kampung Chekhov celebrated the multicultural community of the University of Nottingham, and were certainly hits to the audiences. Delightful hors d’oeuvres to a bigger tri-campus production, all three plays were well received by both students and staff, and certainly wet the appetite of all theatre enthusiasts on campus.
By Nora Ramli
Photos credits: UNUK, UNNC, Megat Amirul Jazly