Theatre Review: “Kecoh”

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It was like having a three-course meal for the soul

The perfect event to indulge and drown yourself in a two-hour emotional roller coaster. ‘Kecoh’, meaning commotion in Malay, evoked a pandemonium of laughter, passion, loyalty, anger, frustration and tears from the corners of both the heart and soul of the audience.

What’s with all the Kecoh ?

Dr. Mary J. Ainslie celebrated her final work of art before she departs to the Ningbo campus. Once again has outdone herself alongside her theatre cast and crew to produce three nights of non-stop action.

Kecoh, a Malaysian adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is a two-hour adventure that brought the audience back in time to the fight for the Independence of Malaya and the blooming love stories that withstood various obstacles of life – corruption, deceit and broken trusts.

According to Dr. Mary, Kecoh is distinct from Kampung Chekov (her previous production in UNMC) because it is much longer and detailed as compared to the others. She had to go through a lot of procedures in order to adapt Kecoh as best as she could to its Malaysian style rather than Shakespeare’s work itself. Directing it was quite the learning curve for her as she had to dig deep into the history and bone structure of Malaya’s Independence along with the minor details around it.

This is the best one yet. It is the most fun and easy to understand and above all it was a labour of love for me

– Dr. Mary J. Ainslie.

So, given the great honour to review this play, here is my humble take of the play “Kecoh”.


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The drama was well-constructed and perfectly executed. It accurately portrayed the shades of love between:

A father and his infinite love for his only daughter.

The love between a man and a woman masked in a bubble of true love despite the commotion for Independence.

The ignited love of citizens of Malaya fighting against the darkness of Independence. 

The unbreakable love and loyalty between friends. 

Although, these versions of love had been trialled by the flames of betrayal of a brother, a friend and a chain of broken trusts which can be observed in the highlighted scenes throughout the play.

 Highlighted Scenes and Favourite Moments

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These are some memorable moments that made the audience buat kecoh during the show.

The light atmosphere from the very first scene to loosen up and unwind from their stressful, hectic academic life, relaxing into a room of soft giggles, involuntary loud laughter and pants from those who could barely breathe laughing hysterically. Overall, it was a strong, relaxed start to an enjoyable two-hour show.

The Cupids of the Federal State of Malaya

What is a play without a little match-making? When love is in the air, the cast of Kecoh transformed into cupids uniting couples like Clement and Hidayah, dynamic Benedict and Batrisha and scandalous Borat and Minah together they spread their love in the air leaving the audience starry-eyed as they watch the couples flirt and danceto the tune of P. Ramlee’s greatest hits.

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The Chilli Padi, The Real Man and their Wet Oyster

The palpable sensation of push and pull that was happening between Batrisha and Benedict was something the audience couldn’t ignore. The couple brought a whole new level to the cliché of the love-hate relationship by flirting and throwing tantrums at each other. They are epitome of the “You Drive Me Crazy” couple, literally, sending the message that sometimes a couple don’t necessarily need to be exactly alike to be compatible and that sometimes the thing you seek most is right under your nose.

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The Death of the Maiden

This was the most emotional scene during the whole play that had some of the audience tearing up. It had a melancholic feel as the cast draped Hidayah in black cloth preparing for her journey to the madrasah where she would be shield from the lies casted upon her. The highlight of this scene that emphasised the characters’ emotions was the choreography. The cast of this scene worked together to pull off the visual effect of the draping of Hidayah beautifully. However, there was a small glitch that happened during the scene. Nonetheless, the cast worked hand in hand to continue the scene and covered their tracks perfectly, it was almost unnoticeable.

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The Proudly Earned Jalur Gemilang

The Kecoh chapter ends with the scene of all the characters gathering to celebrate the newly found Independence of Malaya by presenting the Jalur Gemilang, the Malaysian flag. For every Malaysian on stage and those amongst the crowd, it was patriotism being ignited in them during that moment. The scene ended with amazing music by P. Ramlee, the cast dancing on their feet and a sing-along session.

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The Cast

“Gang Kecoh”

The Old School Beauties

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The Fair Lady, Hidayah (Puteri Elissa Denney)

The Chilli Padi, Batrisha (Syamila Abu Bakar)

The Jovial Minah (Lee Xuan)

Men of Malaya

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The respected Tunku Putera (Celine Ng Kim Lynn)

The loving father, Datuk Leman (Muhammad Ariff)

The hilarious Melaka messenger (Tausif Sanzum Karim)

The lovestruck soldier and right man of the prince, Clement (Jonathan Sim)

The sensible Benedict (Lim Jack Kin)

The musical P. Ramlee (Christopher Matthews Jacob)

The corrupted Tunku Jaafar (Varuna Gunasekera)

The oil to the flames of corruption, Borat (Chua Kah Hean)

The Patrol Team

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The Loaded Gun and Head of the Patrol, Wak Dolah (Khairul Anuar Jamaludin)

The Joker, Fandi ( Malik Hisyam Zaihan)

The Malaysian Harley Quinn, Mauni (Safira Iskandar Binti Anuar)

The  All Smiles Soldier, Badi (Ashvin Singh Tiwana)

The Wise and Fair

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The Wise Holy Man (Neda Nejim Al- Asedi)

The Fair Judge (Danial bin A. Ghafar)

Overall, the cast of Kecoh did a magnificent job at visualising and portraying their characters to their truest capacity. The actors did not lack in delivering the facial expression, body language, tone and spirit of their characters. For most of the actors, this is their debut in theatre. Despite it being their first time performing, they have done an outstanding job acting in front of the audiences under the spotlight. Reoccurring actors such as Neda, Danial who had roles in Kampung Checkov and Jonathan have taken smaller roles this time around to allow the new performers to enjoy the limelight this time.

There was a surge of excitement, laughter and drama that enabled the audience to connect with the performers. No audience member could keep a straight face around these actors because of the jokes they conveyed that were coherent with their body language and facial expressions, which made the comedy believable to the audience. Another point I would like to highlight is how the cast mingled amongst the audience. Benedict (Lim Jack Kin) even sat with the audience to increase this connection; flirting with some of the ladies and men, awakening the spirits of the audience. It was this connection between the audience and the cast that made Kecoh such an interactive show.

The Crew

“The Mechanics Behind Kecoh”

 

Director

Dr. Mary J. Ainslie

Production Manager & Music Director

Nellie Chan

Stage Managers

Puteri Yasmin Suraya

Edmund Khoo

Choreographers

Michelle Beth Chong

Dr Carina Hart

Technical Director

Karan Mathur

Visual and Set Design

Yap Jia Ming

Hair and Makeup Team

Tan Li Ying

Nadia Nadine

Vicki Lai

Cheang Shi Hui

Zulaikha Binti Zainal Rashid

Sets and Props Team

Ayaka Terauchi

Chooi Chan Keong

Farah Teng

Chen Yu Huan

Wardrobe

Cheong Jane-Menn

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Without the crew, ‘Kecoh’ would not have been able to take place. The show in its entirety had its vision directed perfectly by Dr. Mary. The detailed choreography by Dr. Carina Hart and Michelle Beth was excellently choreographed. It was visually eye-catching and enchanting as it had a fifties vibe through jive-inspired choreography in the closing scene.

With that said, without the vintage fashion that matched the era of Malaya’s Independence the delivery of the vision would’ve failed. Having the pearl necklaces, the baju melayu and baju kurung (the traditional Malay outfit) and the gel-look of the men in suit and ties, the audience would not have been able to connect to the audience as it was the costumes that made the show visually transportable to the 1950s. Along with the hits of P.Ramlee, Kecoh was brought to life with utter perfection.

The Final Take

Overall, a Saturday night in the midst of stressful exams and assignment deadlines couldn’t have been made better than watching a magnificent play starred by the talented casts and crew of Nottingham students. It is of great pride and satisfaction to realize that there are such talented students amongst us in Nottingham. Lecturers who were involved certainly did a marvellous job! Kecoh was a really good “kecoh” to have in UNMC after all.

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Written by Anussya S. Jayasimhan

Photographs by Hariz Danial & Malik Hisyam

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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