Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sign a.k.a. Tanda

Teater Tanda was banned by ASWARA because it had a sex scene.

Produced by Rumah Anak Teater, the play is a collaboration of five directors, with a crew of 40, and a cast of 20, who mostly are the students and former students of the academy; and the artistic director is Nam Ron, a lecturer at the same academy.

The play, scheduled to be staged from Feb 2-7, was previewed by the academy staff prior to approval, yet on the second night of the show the crew was asked to clear out their props and the show was shut down. Nam Ron, after his appeal was rejected, quit his post.

Aswara got their wish at the cost of an academic staff, a loss they would absorb.

The play, reportedly, contained a 30-second sex orgy scene. Seriously? I asked a friend.
“Teater Malaysia mana ada sex scene!” he replied.

Have you seen it?
“Yes, on the opening night. It was just a half a minute choreography. Tak de apa-apa pun,” said my friend, who was a director with a few controversies himself. His last work had a band of religious officers coming over to chat.

Then why ban?
He sighed. “I don't know.”

Surely ASWARA gave a reason.
My friend was a tired man, he sighed again. “They said Nam Ron failed to comply with the procedures.”

But they could have stopped the show before opening night right?
The director friend, no longer had the energy to amuse me. “Tak tau la. Belum jumpa Nam Ron lagi.”

The ground at Jalan Tun Ismail, where ASWARA is located  now,  is sacred. Decades before ASWARA was built, it had seen the works of many great playwrights at what was then called ET, the Experimental Theatre. In the mid-Nineties, the Malay theatre reached fever pitch. There was always something playing somewhere at Panggung Bandaraya, Matic and Auditorium DBKL. KL folk were spoilt with cheap tickets for fabulous shows on weekends.

ET defined 'experimental' Malay theatre. It allowed directors to dwell into social issues and hurl discomfort at the audience, regardless of their social standings. If you were a politician, a civil servant, an industry captain or anyone right down to kaki lepak, be prepared to be stung. Perhaps that was why it was popular. People, the likes of you and me, could relate to the plays.

The banning of Tanda feels like the sacred ground has been desecrated. The show, according to ASWARA, must not go on, but RAT thought otherwise. It opens tonight at PJLA, and plays until Sunday.

Over the phone, Nam Ron sounded calm and collected. “Alhamdulillah, sihat,” he replied my greetings.

How do you feel about the whole episode?
He laughed. “I have moved on.


The stray cat meowed louder. Mr D pulled out a packet of cat food from the pantry and turmed towards me saying: “Fared Ayam.”
The crackling plastic pack drove the stray cat into a frenzy but Mr D took his time looking for a pair of scissors in the drawer.
He couldn't find the scissors. The stray cat meowed louder almost standing on his hind legs. Mr D ripped the bag.
“Fared is one of the directors in Tanda.” He poured the biscuits into a chipped bowl and the cat dived in. The meowing stopped instantly. The cat food label said protein enriched chicken flavoured biscuits.