Monday, November 19, 2007

Fallen Leaves: A Review

I haven't been to a play since Julius Caesar 2 years ago. So when BH asked if I'm interested and invited I quickly grab hold of the opportunity to revisit another play. Ticket was only Rm10 anyway, the money goes to charity, and I have never been to Bangsar before (seriously), so why not, I told myself. Besides, I needed some "refreshment" after all those hard work at office.

So I went to office in the noon just to clear up some stuff on the release package, and then went to wait for BH at the station. We dropped off at Bangsar LRT and took a cab to Bangsar Shopping Centre.

The show is titled "Fallen Leaves" and is having its last run at The Actors Studio. It's jointly organized by the Welcome Community Home, CloudBreak creative skills development centre, and sponsored by my company. It's a theatre production consisting 4 stories that explores the lives, prejudices and hardship faced by people living with HIV/AIDS that started at the end of last year. The part that spawned my interest in the first place was that the stories are performed by people infected with HIV/AIDS.

The set was minimal to the max (???) with only some dry tree leaves scattered at the sides of the stage and a projection screen on the wall. Each segment was mostly performed by one actor doing monologue, with only minimal supporting players. The first performance "The Poison Arrow" was by this 40-something Malay guy who dresses as normal and casual as one can get you'd mistaken him for some uncle on the street. The first 5 minutes of dialogue were plain and for a moment I thought it was gonna be boring, but as the play progress it gets interesting and livelier as he goes on describing how his own self was blinded by his own prejudice towards HIV-infected people.

Second act "A Shaded Life" was about a teen who started to use drugs during his teenage years and how it come to shape his adulthood. This part was not quite engaging but has a scene with the best stage lighting. Third act "Fool's Hill" was narrated by a man sitting on a hill top, reminiscing about his uncle who gave him a bag of branded clothes before dying of HIV. His fear of being infected by HIV prompted him to burn the clothes, and honestly disclosed this fact to the uncle. His unintentional disgust and uncontrolled fear caused him to bear a guilt after his uncle's death.

Fourth act was performed by a man sitting in a Zen like position on a bed, as he calmly tells the tale of living a life in a rehab centre. This part was especially memorable as the monologue conveys great imagery and the delivery was great, providing a sense of melancholy and giving a hint of hope in the last scene. Said last scene literally brought tears to my eyes, as the image of patients living their daily lives, going through their daily activities, just come across as so touching. I don't know why, it was a spur of the moment thing.

I have to give credit to the performers. Their performance was totally mesmerizing as the delivery and acting was so real and emotional. All this is made even amazing with the fact that they are neither professional nor amateur actors. I guess that their real life experience on drug usage and the hardship struggle against society's discrimination gave their performance the heart and soul it needed.

A brief Q&A session after the performance has the director Brian Jones describing the brainstorming and writing process, and how the production came to after these rehab patients were brought to see a Samuel Beckett play. Let me just say that it was really inspiring to learn from one of the performers, "When people applause us, it gives me courage." They have shown and proven that they are not the garbage society has branded them, and through the play, they can teach and even inspire the younger generation of not repeating their past

My previous experience with local theatre was "Pygmalion" and "Julius Caesar". Those were great shows, but this one has somehow struck a chord with its simplicity and relevance. I wouldn't say that it was groundbreaking or an eye-opening experience, but it definitely has changed some perspectives in me. Here are people living with HIV doing something meaningful while I just keep ranting on my work. Seriously, I feel so insignificant compared to them. I need to change.

It was DEFINITELY RM10 well spent. Upon exiting the stage I bought a "Fallen Leaves" T-shirt at a promotion booth for RM12.

Lingered around BSC for some 30 minutes before returning to Bangsar LRT. BH accidentally inserted her STAR ticket into the machine and it got stuck. Heh. The ticket salesperson helped
to remove it of course.

Went to KLCC and managed to buy tickets for Balls Of Fury. The movie was in the same reign as Blades of Glory ie. sports parody, but as a whole the welcome wears off fast. The first 45 minutes was ok, but the jokes started to fall apart from then on. The saving grace were James Hong's ping pong master-sifu character, who was dead on freaking LOL hilarious, and Christopher Walken, who is always great. As no-nonsense screwball comedies go, this one's pretty flat. But mindless fun it was.

All in all a great day spent on theatre and cinema with the company of someone whom I enjoy talking with.

I need more of this. After SR1, bring on the plays!

SIDENOTE: While on the way to BSC sped past by a restaurant with the name of "HSBC" in Hot & Spicy Bangladesh Cuisine....heh, another acronym for my company. :P

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