UNMC Theatre Review: Day 1 of the One-Act Play Festival

Lights! Scene!

Everyone was definitely excited for this year’s One Act Play Festival (OAPF) as previous performances hosted by UNMC’s Literature and Drama Society have always been nothing but successful. News of tickets being sold out proves that UNMC was looking forward to this festival. Previous productions like last year’s OAPF, Kampung Chekov and Kecoh have always entertained the audience so the bars and expectations for this night were set high.

Four one-act plays were performed with each of them having their own strengths and weaknesses.

Car Breakdown by Jonathan Sim

Car Breakdown 1

This play was quite simple and straightforward. It depicts the story of a lesbian couple whose car breaks down when they travel back from a Halloween party. As Jenna fixes the car, arguments start boiling between the couple in which they start questioning the basis of their relationship. In the latter part of the play, Chang reveals that Jenna has been engaged to a man, which is the cause of their imminent separation. An interesting take in this play was how the playwright brilliantly compared the car with the couple’s relationship. The role of the couple who Chang refers to as “star-crossed lovers” were played by Jane-Menn and Nadine.

Car Breakdown 2

Though this play had some significant and powerful dialogue, more emotions could have been portrayed by the actresses. In addition to that, towards the end of the play, there was a lot of upstaging on stage, which was quite distracting for the audience. One of the actresses who boldly recited a sonnet of Shakespeare in her performance could have done a better job in showcasing her vocal variety and emotions. All in all, it was a good start for the night but it definitely did not stand up to the expectations that some of us in the audience had prior to the performance.

Cast:

Jane-Menn as Jenna
Nadia Nadine as Chang

Naked by Ariff Halim

Naked 1

“Sex! Everyone does it. Why are we not talking about it?” That is what the playwright said when he introduced his play. This play is a conversation between two Muslim brothers. The elder one, Ngah, tells his story of having sexual intercourse with his girlfriend, interestingly enough, without taking her virginity. Being curious, the younger brother then blackmails him to tell the whole story or he will report this to his parents. It is then revealed that Ngah actually had anal sex with his girlfriend which upsets the younger brother who could not believe that his brother actually committed such ‘sin’.

Naked 2

This was definitely the best play during the night. Mainly because it was very well-organised and performed. Both the characters were very expressive and vocal in performing their lines. The argument scene between the brothers is also well-written with both the characters given equal opportunities to express their feelings and emotions that captured the audience’s attention. Jack, who played Ngah, is not a new face to the theatre scene in UNMC. He previously acted in Kecoh as one of the main characters and his performance that night was definitely up to the bar that he had set in Kecoh.

Cast:

Jack-Kin as Ngah
Nefissa as Dan

Biawak by Ooi Yining

Biawak 1

The playwright of Biawak wanted to portray how it feels to live in a family with people who do not share the same personality. However, many of the audience members were only confused at the end of this play.

As the play commences, we see a big Chinese family seated around a dining table, ready for a meal. At the start, it is established that a biawak (monitor lizard) is living behind their house and it may be dangerous to the family’s chickens. Minutes later, one of the daughters walks in with a baby. As questions were being raised on why she is here and whether her in-laws know about her being there, we hear a loud bang coming from outside the house. Then, a man whose face was painted to be a biawak walks in. After a confrontation that leads to an outburst of violence, everyone around the dining table starts panicking and screaming. The play ends abruptly after the father hits the man (or biawak?) with a broom.

Biawak 2

This play was quite a confusing one as some did not know if the man who walked in was the biawak or the son-in-law? Why was the son-in-law depicted as a biawak? Is this some sort of symbolism? These questions were left unanswered and the members of the audience had to then form their own interpretations. This play could have been much better if the transition between the character’s entries were more organised. The part where more than a character was talking at the same time seemed messy on stage as there were just too many things happening on stage.

Cast:

Lee Xuan as See Hong (Mother)
Nicole Chow as Mandy
Chloe Lim as Lea Yan
Joyce Fong as Polly
Amry Ependi as Ming Ming
Danial Ahmad as Ah Weng (Father)
Muhammad Nasrullah as The Lizard Man

Ouroboros by Shahriar Islam, co-directed with and written by Nafisa Tabassum

Ouroboros 1

The final play of the night was delayed by five minutes due to technical difficulties. After the small hiccup, the festival resumed.

Ouroboros is set in a futuristic world where technology has advanced to greater heights and as the story moves along, the play shifts to a more dystopian-like feel. Celia Corporation formulates a cure for world hunger but it turns out the cure induces rabid cannibalisation — the doings of a mad scientist. An agent and a government hacker uncover the plan and puts a stop to the release of the cure. Elements in the play that noticeably caught attention were the depiction of high-technology, the role of secret agents, a mad scientist who possibly has split personality disorder.

Ouroboros 2

The highlight of this play had to be Elissa’s performance, impressing audience members with her acting as a character with complex duality. Her maniacal laugh as the evil scientist left the room in stone cold silence as everyone watched in awe and maybe a bit of fear as well, which was no surprise seeing how well she pulled it off. Overall, the play had a good plot but it may have been too ambitious due to constraints such as time and resources. It was too rushed, making it harder to follow and understand.

Cast:

Elissa Denney as Dr Celia/Alice
Chris Jacob as Agent Elliot Thorne
Jonathan Lim as Julian Vane
Nafisa Tabassum as Agent Dahlia

All in all, Day One of OAPF was entertaining and satisfactory but it did not meet the expectations that I had in mind. Here’s what some of the audience said after the performance:

“It was my first time attending OAPF, so I must say that I was impressed by the quality of the plays staged. The first play was pretty good, in my opinion, in terms of the concept of it. I particularly liked the second play, it was very well thought out, and the actors did a good job in portraying their characters. I was able to appreciate the message that the playwright was trying to present. As for the third and fourth plays, I believe the playwrights may have had very good concepts in mind. However, they may have been glossed over in the process of executing the plays. Overall, I had a good time, and I definitely will be attending OAPF again.” – Saran Anandan

“I considered it to be light and casual entertainment for the most part but the obvious lack of certain elements made many of the plays feel poorly-produced and overall just sub-par.” – Jade Yee

Write-up by Dinesh Jayabalan, photographs by Hailey Ng. 

[Last updated 5/3/17 at 1:22pm]

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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