Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Review of Pygmalion

Sorry for the late post...haven't got the time...been busy doing dunno what...even I'm confused...

Last Friday was a totally eye-opening experience for me. As mentioned in previous post, I went to the musical Pygmalion at the KLPac in Sentul West. Didn't take too many pics, coz me too pai seh to have the attention all around me when the flash goes off, so the pics are quite blurred.

Anyway, the area around the Performing Arts Center was spacious with a few funny looking building resembling the Angkor-Wat monuments :P We got into the stage 10 minutes before the show starts.

The actresses playing the Chorus Girls came out greeting us and chatting up with the audiences, already in character with their Ah Lian mannerisms. There's two who are quite beautiful I must say. They kept asking us where we're from and we said TAR college lah, of course. By the third enquiry I was already quite sien, so the obnoxious side of me emerged and thought I would play the fool with them...

Chorus Girl A: "where u all from hah ?"
me: "MMU, we traveled so far u know..."

Chorus Girl B: "where u all from hah ?"
me: "Sunway College lor..."
Chorus Girl B: "u dun play play with me ah!"
me: "u know already still ask ah? "
Chorus Girl B: (walking away) "I remember u ah!" (everyone looking at me. Me and my big mouth...but it was fun.)

Back to the show. The stage was elegant and simple, not too many objects obstructing the view, with a balcony for the musicians and their equipments built on the left. the music was great thoughout, credits to the musical director Llewellyn Marsh, who also did a cameo as Freddy. The progress of the story was quite OK, the first half was light hearted with the comedic elements more on the Ah Lian jokes and slapsticks to get the audience attracted I reckon. The second half was more dramatic as the story finds Lisa confronting Higgins about his role in 'creating' her.

As a lot of people already know, the dialogue is presented in a mixture of Brit and Manglish accents. It's to reflect the multiracial surroundings in Malaysia, so says the production, but sometimes it seems just out of place when the Ah Lians go over the top screaming the lungs out, as though Malaysians have trouble understanding Brit and Euro accents. I understand it's for more appeal to the average viewer, but to a certain degree it's dumbed down. The dialogue is also sprinkled with light political and social commentary, making for good satire. (The best: after Higgins said goodbye to an offscreen character complimenting her brand new car "I just spoke to Lady Rafidah, mom" ) Unsurprisingly, it's these subtle humour that sticks in my mind, not the slapsticks.

The character developments are fleshed out alright, but I have the feeling that some parts are hanging and especially during the transition from Act 3 to Act 4. The portrayal of Higgin's feeling for Lisa is too brief. I haven't read the original play and don't know much about the characters, so you can ignore my critical abilities.

There are some fun and memorable songs thrown in between dialogues (this is a musical afterall), some with a Malaysian twist judging from the titles ("Muddy Bunga", "We Talk Like That One", "What To Do Lah", "My England No Good" - obvious poke at the Ah Beng English). But the best has got to be Michelle Quah's stunning solo "Who Am I" in Act 4. It's such an emotional scene with her haunting voice, contrary to what others say. Only after finished mesmerizing by her soprano that me and Frankie realized we forgot to capture that scene in my camera and his MP3 player. Shit.

Now let's talk about the cast. Harith Iskander, as usual, is good as Professor Higgins, with shades of gray in his character. His mix of low key humour and intensity (during the aforementioned argument scene) is great, and he's the main reason I watched this play. Indi Nadarajah's character is cool, calmed and controlled, never flashy, obviously a veteran. And there's Michelle Quah, as Lisa Doolittle. Man, her transformation from street Ah Lian to classy Datin is great, and her singing, WOW! My only gripe is that she should've tone down the Ah Lian mannerisms. The fact that this is her first time doing a musical on stage reminds us that she will be a force to watch out for in the future. But the real scene stealer is Sarah Shahrum as Mrs.Pearce the housemaid. Her appearance is brief but memorable thanks to her sexual innuendos and watching her walking in high heels is quite funny.

All in all, it was a good experience. I can't compare it with other dramas or plays coz' this is only my first time watching a play and I'm no critic as good as Soe Chin, thus this sucky review, thank you for reading......but it's a good show nonetheless. Support Malaysian theater people!

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