Image: Play Den Productions
Date: 15 August 2009; Time: 8pm; Venue: Play Den, The Arts House at Old Parliament.
by Richard Chua
16 August 2009
Right at the end of the performance, when the sarongs actor Gani Abdul Karim placed in the pool of water on stage slowly sinked to the bottom, it seemed like a form of closure. But, to me, it was the most significant moment for both the actor and the character, both the same. Gani Abdul Karim was playing himself on stage, his story, his life.
That’s confessional theatre, most probably one of the most powerful solo theatrical performances on stage. For it is difficult to pinpoint any faults, less to make a critique on it, for everything personal and confessional will move an audience, if you have a good story to tell. Good story – an irony actually – usually highlights one’s own conflicts and struggles in his/her life. Salusuah, a monologue presented by Play Den Productions, a new 3-year theatre incubation initiative jointly developed by Orangedot Productions and The Arts House at Old Parliament, directed by Artistic Curator Jeremiah Choy, is a story about a Malay boy’s – most probably Gani’s – growing-up journey with his grandmother and father.
A consummate actor as he is, Gani Abdul Karim painted broad brushstrokes of his life through dance and movement, something he is known for, before telling his story through a mixture of text, voice-overs, multimedia projections, and most important of all, the silences.
Lighting and sound design contributed greatly to the performance, coupled with Casey Lim’s multimedia projections highlghting Gani Abdul Karim’s inner life and textural references to his ethnic identity.
What sinks in with me most is his/his character’s devotion to his religion. Gani Abdul Karim’s use of voice and sounds, not to mention the reading of the verses in the Qu’ran – in the words of my friend who watched it with me – is simply beautiful. To me, the beauty of it encompasses aesthetics beauty with humanity and faith.
This experience is in great contrast with my earlier one in another performance in the same space involving references to Buddhist Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara, commonly known to the masses as Guanyin; where religion becomes an item of external criticism rather than a personal reflection of one’s own spiritual existence and strength.
I am not against discourses on religious matters, for it is a worthwhile intellectual activity. But what moves audiences in the theatre, on a personal level, is one’s own relationship with the religion, how it helps him/her get over the challenges in life.
Salusuah has definitely done that for me, even though I am not a muslim. I am just a human, listening to another fellow man’s story, trying to overcome challenges of my own.
– end –
I don't normally look up stuff on Internet let alone my own.. But my mom who is always inquisite and loves books decided to loan an iPad from the library cuz she wants to learn n understand these technologies that seem to baffle many her generation. So there I was explaining things and of course she didn't know how to close task bars n close pages n so the iPad lagged and as I started clearing things, I realized that she had been busy looking at things concerning me… Ie. she googled my name, and suddenly there are songs related to my late grandma, and then stumbling on this article.
When I did Salusuah, the original intent was to talk about my then still alive soulmate, my grandmother, but somehow things took a turn and my late dad took on a dominance in the piece tht I did not anticipate, by went with the flow anyway… It was a personal journey to understand realize and evoke apart from remembering…
The following year, my grandmother passed away while I was away… It has been three years. Then she refused to let me filmed or document her with pictures or video.. It oes not matter, the movies in my mind are far more vivid…
Today of all days I stumbled upon your article and suddenly, "ping" something that I've been trying to look for , for I have in recent months decided that its time I revisit this piece, but things have changed for all characters in the piece apart from me of course have passed on… My outlook and how I see n perceive have changed drastically due to a tempestuous sea change that came to full awe when death seem to end an old life… There's a verse in the Quran tht says, " the age of weening is 18 months and life begins at 40…" So I guess in hindsight, it is total destruction of old so that life can begin…. I'm a baby again except I feel older..
Thank you for your faith and seeing what others don't, for if God speaks to prophets and messengers through Revelation, He certainly speaks to s through Inspiration and inspiration being something "living", stumbling upon this was not coincidence but Co-Incident… The building blocks suddenly unravel by inspiration..
Thank you Richard for being the Vessel of Inspiration , in this case, a very personal messenger of that Inspiration.