Tag Archives: Arts

Review: Shakespeare Demystified’s Hamlet A Performance Lecture

Yasmin Bathamanathan reviews Hamlet A Performance Lecture by Shakespeare Demystified that was on at penangpac from 10-13 April 2014.

“To be or not to be …”

How many a times have we used this famous line from Hamlet without fully understanding its meaning? I remember using this very line in a debate I participated more than a decade ago in school. Sure, it is dramatic, pregnant with existential conundrum in whatever context we deem it be:

Successful – to be or not to be

Happy – to be or not to be

Wedded – to be or not to be

You get the gist.

Yet, only today, at the ripe old age of *ahem* did I find out what Shakespeare meant by that famous line in Hamlet’s soliloquy at Shakespeare Demystified‘s Hamlet A Performance Lecture. You see, in his many philosophical ramblings post-Hamlet the Older’s death, Hamlet the Prince either devices plans to bring his Uncle/Stepfather/Daddy-Murderer to justice or to seek vengeance upon murder of his Daddy (Hamlet, the Dead King @ Hamlet the Older).

However, in this particular soliloquy in the Nunnery Scene, sad puppy Hamlet contemplates suicide. “To be or not to be”, with the emphasis on the verb “be”, which indicates a state of being. In other words to EXIST or NOT TO EXIST @ ALIVE or DEAD. Nothing to do with success, happiness, matrimony or whatever else. “To be or not to be” was a question of “Should I live or should I kill myself”.

Wow! I know, right? If only the 16-year old me knew this. She probably would have known had she had the chance to attend something like Shakespeare Demystified‘s Hamlet A Performance Lecture.

Hamlet, while being one of the greatest plays of Shakespeare, the greatest writer of the entire history of mankind, is also mind-numbingly long. Four-hours long, give or take. Being the guardians of the demystification of Shakespearean sagas, this vagabond (not really; they are based in KL) troupe of Shakespearean fanboys and fangirls from Malaysia have come up with a surprisingly approachable introduction to Hamlet.

Selecting key scenes and events from the play, the cast of Hamlet A Performance Lecture first introduce the scene, give the audience a little background on the context, discuss the motivations behind some of the actions, provide literary criticism on the characters and events, and explain certain terms (who would have thought an innocuous phrase such as “country matters” can have double entendre?).

Five actors – Kien Lee, Anne James, Lim Soon Heng, Marina Tan and David H. Lim – each get to play Hamlet in different scenes besides playing out other characters. Each of them brings something different to the characterisations of Hamlet, giving the audience a somewhat rich and diverse experience. Needless to say, each of them is a delight in their individual portrayal, like Kien Lee’s maniacal Hamlet is cockier and crazier than Anne James’s strong and contemplative Hamlet. 

While it was an enlightening and entertaining for me as an audience to experience a deconstructed performance of Hamlet, the literature student in me was in full awe. The Shakespeare Demystified troupe has a lot more to offer than mere entertainment, and that is education. The two hours spent watching them and listening the discussions during the Q&A session made me come to one conclusion:

WE NEED TO INCORPORATE SHAKESPEARE DEMYSTIFIED (OR ITS CONCEPT) INTO OUR LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE SYLLABUS!

In case anyone from the Ministry of Education Malaysia is reading this, please send this message to your higher-ups:

CALL SHAKESPEARE DEMYSTIFIED TODAY AND START BRAINSTORMING! ASAP!

As for me, I am going to wait and hope that Shakespeare Demystified does not make me wait a whole year for their next production.

 

 

Review: Marrying Me

Tying the Knot? … Not!

By Khoo Wei Cyn

Images courtesy of PenTAS

Everyone has their own notions on what a complete and well-lived life comprises. For most of the older generation, their notion is centred on marriage, which, in part, is the product of our survival instincts for ensuring the continuity of our genetic line. Produced by The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac), Marrying Me: A New Musical, directed by Christopher Ling, addresses this concept through script, dance and song for four days; from 5-8 December at stage 2, penangpac and 12-22 December at pentas 2, klpac.

Be sure to get your ticket today!
Be sure to get your ticket today!

In the musical, Stephanie (the main character) rebels against tradition and stigma to live a life she wants; freedom from all the problems that come when the “going gets tough” in a marriage. Her idea of normalcy clashes with that of her mother’s (Sandra). For Sandra, the desire to live as a woman in a matriarchal role and having a happy marriage is the normal path where as Stephanie, the NGO fighter for women’s rights, has seen the reality of marriages gone sour. To Stephanie, that reality is normalcy, and she wants to protect herself from that situation by being independent and self-sufficient.

More and more details about Stephanie’s upbringing are revealed as the musical progresses into the second act. We learn that her mother was a victim of an abusive marriage, and Tony, the man whom Stephanie had loved dearly, reminded her of her own father. Determined to never repeat the mistake her mother made, she insists on a life of singlehood but this is thwarted by Sandra’s faked chronic illness, where she makes Stephanie promise to get married in her “dying wish”. Whether she goes on with her promise or not, that you would have to discover for yourself.

Marrying Me is certainly the musical to watch. Its upbeat, snazzy music peppered with doses of comedy and hilarity is brought to life by a spectacular lead actress and a solid cast. I loved the music and the way the lyrics were written, plus the scenes where comic relief was prevalent to break up the sombre mood reflective of Stephanie’s dilemma.

You don’t have to love singlehood to appreciate this musical; I’m sure you can draw some parallels with your experiences about marriage from it. And if you’re single, you may walk away feeling better about staying that way. But no matter who you are, I think that you will enjoy watching Marrying Me as much as I did. What’s not to love about good music, great fun and endearing characters?

*A neophyte to theatre, Khoo Wei Cyn has just survived a thespian’s adventure at Short+Sweet Theatre Malaysia 2013 in Penang. She enjoys writing, reading and appreciating art in all forms.

GTLF 2013: Poetry at Lunch

If you are a fan of spoken word, you probably would have heard about Say It Like You Mean It. Widely known as SILYMI, this little collective of Penang musicians, poets, storytellers and other performance artists has made quite the waves in the local art circuit from its very first outing in Jan 2012.

In this year’s edition of the George Town Literary Festival, SILYMI makes an appearance (more like two) with the festival’s Poetry at Lunch segment. These Boots are Made for Walking, which takes place on the second day of the festival is “a collection of introspective, observational and amusing solo, duet and group spoken word pieces, exploring the landscape of objectification, colonialism and the nation state using the body of a woman as the map is a collective of Penang musicians, poets, storytellers and other performance artists” (GTLF).

The second Poetry at Lunch session is Bad Poets. Described as “a showcase of storytelling, inherited tales of great kingdoms and poetic stories in search of history and identity” that challenges “accepted notions and pre-conceptions of literature, poetry, history and identity”, Bad Poets takes place on the third and last day of GTLF.

Open to the public and FREE, Poetry at Lunch is not about to dish out any run-of-the-mill performance, that is for sure. If thought-provoking art is right up your alley, Poetry at Lunch might just  be the thing you have been looking for. Don’t just take our word for it, come and experience it yourself.

Poetry at Lunch

Moderator: Ksatriya

Dates

These Boots are Made for Walking: 30 November 2013 @ 12pm

Featuring Elaine Foster, Melizarani T. Selva, and Sheena Baharuddin 

Bad Poets: 1 December 2013 @ 1pm

Featuring Ksatriya, Mark Walker, Shannon Frances, Lucille Dass, and Ibitoye Azeez

Venue

Sekeping Victoria, 164 Lebuh Victoria, George Town