Monday, December 29, 2008

The Seven Deadly Scenes

2 weeks ago, I had the pleasure of dropping by to witness the theatrical debut of the Lovely Miss APLE ANG in "The Seven Deadly Scenes". For the uninformed, APLE ANG was a secondary school junior of mine, one of those bright kids you just couldn't take your eyes off.

So there I was, leaving office at 8.20pm (show starts at 8.30pm) and having no dinner plans. Knowing that this would be my only chance to catch APLE ANG in action, I threw caution to the wind and foolishly decided to catch the show. Mercifully, KLPac was only 10 minutes from my office. Couple that with a wrong turn, ticket buying plus some mad dashing, and you had me 5 minutes early at 8.35pm. In true Malaysian fashion.

(Note to APLE ANG: Up to 5 MINUTES before the show, I was still undecided on whether I should rush for it or just go home. 'Cos I've been late for a theatre once, and it sure sucked. Just thought you'ld like to know. =p)

Upon reaching, we were ushered into a room the size of 2 bedrooms and made to sit on the floor. Ever being the pampered theatregoer, I expected a theatre hall with big-time stage and lights. Kind of a letdown. But in the end, the small venue made for much more intimate and in-your-face drama.

Moving on to the story synop - oh what the heck, let's hear it for the SPOILERS! You've been warned.

This drama-ah, very creative-one. As the title suggests, they split it into seven scenes, each depicting one of the seven sins 'in a Malaysian context'. Though almost everyone was conversing in perfect gweiloh-accented England.

Scene 1: LUST

See the girl on the left? That's APLE ANG! Though she doesn't appear in this scene, just the promotional poster.

Truth be told, my mind was wandering throughout this entire scene. Maybe it was from the dash from office. Revolves around this young guy who's insecure-yet-appears-macho and his older girlfriend who regards him a toyboy. They share some not-Umum moments, then argue about his smoking, her disrespect towards him, his father, her exes, and more. And proceed to kiss and make, um, out. Suddenly he says something wrong and she storms off.

Highlights: My first time watching a live actor smoke, French kiss and have pretend sex. Hip hip hurray.

Verdict: Like I said, my mind wasn't into it. Tak paham lah, beb.

Before each scene begins, a short clip plays, ending in a quote. This one's was the delicious "Heaven sends us good meat. The devil sends us good cooks."

It all started normally enough. A young married couple having a meal at the dining table. They engage in some idle chatter before he presents her with a box of Belgian chocolates. As they continue blabbering away, she continues pigging out on the sumptuous spread. They go on about how she once fell in love with his cooking, an old friend who dropped by in the afternoon and vacation plans. But for some reason, something is amiss with the guy. He keeps a fake smile plastered on his face, as though hiding something, continually asking her about the food. She loves the chicken intestine soup. The meatballs. And the special red lady's fingers.

Finally the shoe drops.

He: "Where's your wedding ring, dear?"

She: "Uhh...I left it upstairs."

He: "You lie. You were having an affair with Ravi (the friend who dropped by) and took it off, so he wouldn't know you're married."

She: "What are you talking about? You're scaring me."

He: " did you like Ravi's intestines?"

She: *pukes*

Scene ends with him knocking her to her knees and raising a knife to chop her fingers. Lights off. Aiseh.

Highlights: The guy's acting. At first he was sooo nice to her it became creepy. Then he kept getting this faraway look in his eyes. And at last he shouted at her lah.

Verdict: Looking back, the ending wasn't really hard to expect. However, I was so engrossed with the guy's acting and totally meaningless dialogue that it slipped me. Nice.

Scene 3: GREED
One thing unique about this drama is that they utilise seperate 'stages'. So you had everyone looking in front for Scene 1, then lights off and voila! Scene 2 starts behind, making everyone turn around on their butts.
This was one of only two scenes that used BOTH stages. I think it was the longest too.

Courtroom drama. What more can I say? A young starry-eyed lawyer teams up with an Ah Lian politician in an effort to win the judge's favour before a big case. In the end, the cunning ol' judge turns the tables on them, pocketing double their generous offers.

Highlights: During the court proceedings, the judge was on the front stage while the prosecutors pleaded their case from the back stage. Halfway through, he asks them to approach and they both walk THROUGH the audience, peppered with excuse mes and sorry-ahs. I had a really strong urge to push them and see what happened.

Verdict: Not my thing, and not their fault either. My mind just isn't cut out for these legal stuff.

Scene 4: SLOTH
Hands-down the best pre-show quote of the night. Clip depicted a guy just sitting there staring at an apple, cutting back and forth between a close-up of his eyes and the fruit for at least a half-minute. Finally: "I'm too lazy to quote anything. - Anonymous", leaving the floor in stitches.

Very innovative and visually impressive, this one. Scene starts with two slouches on beds, male and female respectively, each on an opposite stage end. Both exhibit ABSOLUTE laziness, rolling around and pretty much refusing to budge. When suddenly a frantic series of knocks on the door interrupt their slumber.

First it comes from the guy's side. He tries to reach for the door (while still lying on the bed!), but can't. So he tugs on this rope above his bed, metaphorically signaling the girl to get it instead. Eventually, the knocking shifts to her side, where she also buries her head under the pillows to drown out the noise. She tugs her rope too, passing the buck to the guy. This continues for some time, with the knocking going both sides and each tugging their rope in increasing frustration. Gradually the knocks become punctuated with desperate calls for help which they blatantly ignore.

Then swoosh!

Nobody saw it coming. A sudden green light shines in a far corner of the room, revealing a pale-faced girl, neck trapped around a noose. She is still alive.

"" she whimpers.

Once again, the two slouches tug at the rope, tightening the noose till she drops dead.

Highlights: The deadening chill in the air as the resounding knocks grew louder and louder with not a single word of dialogue uttered. And I still can't, for the life of me, figure out how the girl managed to sneak in there without anyone noticing.

Verdict: Sheer brilliance. Visual communication at its best.

Bonus Fact of The Day: That dead girl was APLE ANG~! Though I first failed to recognise her.

Scene 5: WRATH
After Scene 4, there was a 15-minute intermission. During the break, I managed to run across Jeremy, an old friend of mine and APLE ANG. Apparently, he was helping out in some finance stuff for the play.

Another of those 'did I get it or didn't I?' ones? Focus of the scene is on a blindfolded soldier being interrogated by his Sir Commander (both played by ladies, curiously). In the background, four spirits drift around aimlessly. It appears that the soldier is being charged for killing civilians in the name of war. As he incessantly protests, the spirits speak on behalf as his 'conscience', revealing the murderous rage within him. Curiously, the spirits are themselves the civilians he killed. As the interrogation reaches boiling point, the spirits finally remove his blindfold and shackles and watch as he strangles the commander to death.

Highlights: Some pretty cool acting, with the spirits saying their lines in unison with the soldier.

Verdict: More style than substance. If there were any underlying messages, they sure eluded me.

Scene 6: ENVY
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting... APLE ANG!

Scene opens with two sisters, Summer (APLE ANG) and Autumn, sitting beside each other on a bed. Summer is packing her suitcase furiously, ready to run away from home. Autumn tries consoling her, and they start reminiscing their childhood days. Summer was always the active one who got involved in everything from digging worms to ballet, while Autumn was always sickly.

Summer: (staring at a photo of an ex) "Remember what Mom always said to me? Don't get too close to boys, because they're all after only one thing. But you were the one who was sleeping beside a boy all the time!"

Autumn: "You mean Bert right? Hehe."

Summer: "Yeah! You got Bert while I got Ernie. Actually I always preferred Bert. But every time I sneaked into your room to get Bert, Mom would always ask me to put him back, saying, "That belongs to Autumn."

Sadly, Summer never got the parental love she craved for and always felt that their parents gave more attention to Autumn. Even her ambitions were stifled when the folks only sent her to an 'Ah Beng college in Wangsa Maju' (nice one, har har).

Summer: "They never loved me! All they cared for was you! They never even bothered to attend my graduation ceremony!"

Autumn: "But Jie, it happened to coincide with their 25th wedding anniversary mah."

Summer: "Oh, how convenient. And what did they say when I showed them my graduation photos? (mimicks parents' voices) "Autumn would look sooo nice in this." Autumn this! Autumn that! There's only so much I can take!"

Autumn tries consoling her some more but to no avail. Scene ends as Summer delivers her killer line: "Oh well, I guess it won't matter. Since you left after our first birthday party."

Highlights: Truth be told, I didn't get the ending at all. Not until I caught up with APLE ANG after the show and she told me, "Autumn was dead all along."


Verdict: Shades of The Sixth Sense here. I love the way the dialogue dropped hints of Autumn's death, while playing nicely to the sisters' very real struggle with sibling favouritism.

Scene 7: PRIDE
Last one! Sob sobs.

Story of an old Kopitiam franchise owner preparing for a press interview. He goes through his polished PR lines, recounting the traditional secrets of his signature coffee. Suddenly a young chap pops in and blackmails him with knowledge of the true secret of his irresistible coffee - opium lacing. He strong-arms the old man into a 'business deal' which he grudgingly discusses over drinks. As soon they seal the deal and the young man prepares to make a clean getaway, he suddenly collapses in melodramatic fashion. Yeah, his drink was laced with poison.

As the old man and his lackey cart away the lifeless body, a young lady reporter steps through the door.

"Hi sorry, I'm Siti from - YA ALLAH!"


Highlights: Ending was funny, and good to end the night on a light note. Gotta give props to the young guy for pulling off the old man role believably as well.

Verdict: A little draggy at the end, as the old man kept drawling for at least a minute too long after the guy died. Pretty ordinary.

THREE CHEERS for APLE ANG! Look forward to seeing you more on the big stage. =)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Wrestling Story That Changed My Life

This is an allegedly true story.

There once was a wrestling promoter back in the early 90s who wanted to broadcast his weekly program on live TV. Back in those days, weekly live wrestling broadcasts were unheard of, simply due to the costly disasters a live environment could potentially trigger.

And what did this wise man say to his detractors?

"When you're on live TV, nothing can go wrong."

No one had a clue what he meant. It just didn't make sense.

But what did they know? Eventually this man got his way, and secured a contract to broadcast his program live for the first time.

Everyone was jittery - the broadcast crew, the announcers, the man himself, but above all the wrestlers scheduled to perform in the ring.

And would you believe it - somewhere in the middle of the show a wrestler slipped and fell as he stepped through the ropes.

Right in front of thousands of pairs of eyes in the arena and millions more around the world.

It was live. It couldn't be edited out.

After the show, the wrestler dejectedly caught up with the man backstage.

"I'm so sorry. I don't know what happened."

And there again came the magic words.

"When you're on live TV, nothing can go wrong."

"What? Of course anything can go wrong! It just did."

"No it didn't. When you're on live TV, if you slipped it's because you meant to do so. If you fell down it's because you meant to do so. If you forgot your lines it's because you meant to do so."

The wrestler stood in stunned silence as the man walked off. What was meant as simple encouragement turned out to be a mantra that would change his life forever.

"When you're on live TV, nothing can go wrong."

This show we call life is indeed live, as live as it gets. And like it or not, we're going to screw up once every while, regardless how carefully we plan and foresee.

But what matters is that we believe in our decisions and give our all to them. Should they turn out wrong, pick yourself back up, learn from them and try something else.

If you hurt someone, chose the wrong job, lost something - yes, it was because you meant to do so. Live unregrettably with the consequences and wing through the rest!

Indeed, when you're alive, nothing can go wrong.