Arty Malay Theatre By Youths

They are known for their interactive zombie productions like “Zombi Serang Panggung” which sent the audience into spasms of delight. Now, these talented young people are back with more engrossing stage work.

A multi-talented Cech Adrea, 26, helms Sisi Seni Production, the arts collective group behind the popular zombie shows. The group was formed in 2009 and has been active since.

Despite making their mark with theatrical performances, the group also ventured into other artistic areas. Sisi Seni Production is also known for its installation art, devised plays and multidiscipline performances with video footage, said Cech, who prefers this glamourous name to his real one of Wan Shafiq.

This young man is a reflection of the multidisciplinary group as he also dabbles in other fields. Tumpat-born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, Cech is a part-time radio announcer and novelist (“Gocoh” and “Aku Rindu 90s”).

He is trying his hand now with an experimental play called “Skandal Lepas Mati”, to be staged at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) in mid-May.

The three-man, 20-minute Bahasa Malaysia play is about a teacher — Mustafa — who finds himself semi-conscious in a room. Many people are watching him, but he can’t hear what they are saying. A new guy walks in and they both soon realise they are in a version of the afterlife, with their memories fading as they wait for reincarnation.

Experimental in Concept

The production asks many poignant questions, about life, death and what happens after that. Chief among these existential musings is this — what would you think if you could live your life as someone else. This is the poser in the play and it explores the theme with much depth.

“It’s experimental in concept,” said Cech in Bahasa Malaysia, speckled with English words. He revealed he came up with the idea after a discussion with his Sisi Seni Production advisor and housemate, Mustaqim “Mus” Mohamed.

Their discussions are often off-beat and sometimes very thought-provoking. For example, when the news of the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road 1969 album was making its rounds in August last year, the discussion was heated about whether Paul (McCartney) is really dead.

“Well Elvis is dead, but people say he’s alive, so why not Paul? And that’s how the play’s idea began.”

There are several conspiracy theories about McCartney online — usually that he was dead and The Beatles replaced him with a lookalike. The play takes off from this fantastical theory and assumes the more exotic stance.

When other quarter-of-a-century-olds are grappling with the tough task of keeping their gadgets up to date, Cech is more excited about putting on plays that twist our idea of reality and “make us think about what we are all about”.

“I didn’t set out to do theatre. I am more of a writer and a fan of films. So, when I do theatre, it comes with a film perspective, of going shot by shot, frame by frame.”

“Skandal Lepas Mati”, he said, will boast minimal props, subtle lighting and English subtitles.

“I’m still thinking how to best use the stage. Rehearsals have yet to begin,” added Cech (at the time of this interview), as the cast is busy with their own schedules. On the cast list are Intan Nor Saina, Syahir Hazman and Han Zalini. “But I believe in my performers,” he said with a firm nod.

Mus nodded in agreement, adding: “Betul-betul sanggup (truly believe).”

Addicted to Theatre

Raising the question on the popularity of Malay theatres versus musicals, Mus said:  “I am disappointed by the lack of support for theatre in general. People are going for celebrity names, perhaps thinking that they want to be like them one day. That’s why musicals at, say, Istana Budaya are so popular.”

Musical theatre is certainly well-received by the Malaysian audience. Some companies specialise in musical theatre and have had healthy attendances at Istana Budaya. For theatre companies producing plays though, it can be a hit-and-miss.

“There is no wow factor in theatre today,” added Cech. “Even our films cater to popular taste with some exceptions like ‘Lelaki Harapan Dunia’ (by Liew Seng Tat). But how many went to see that?”

The Sarawak-born Mus feels his generation “is too lazy to think”.

“So, musicals, standup comedy, open mic nights are popular with them. We hope our kind of theatre will draw more people,” said the youth who was supposed to join the army but chose Aswara (National Academy of Arts and Culture) and theatre instead.

With a thought-provoking story and concept as well as dedicated players, there is no reason for them not to excel in the staging of the play.

Once part of a theatre collective Revolusi Stage, which began in 2006, Mus said he is “addicted to theatre”.

Added Cech: “If I don’t perform, I feel something is missing. It is my way of making sense of my world. It is difficult but the struggle to put up a play is just ‘cantik’ (beautiful).”

Season 3 Offerings

Sisi Seni Production’s “Skandal Lepas Mati” is part of DPAC’s d’Next Artist Project Season 3, which was initiated in 2014 as a platform to provide accessible performing opportunities like a free stage and support for Malaysian emerging artistes.

Others on the Season 3 bill are Yizi Seah who is making his directorial and scriptwriting debut with a monologue called “Rasuk”. It will feature Zhafir Muzani, one of the performers on local television’s “Oh My English” series.

Jinn Lau Beh Chin will offer a new dance called “Speaking To…” while Kyson Teo Khai Shen is a dancer who is offering a new choreography in “Trace”.

You can catch Cech and the rest on May 22-24, at 8.30pm, at DPAC’s Black Box, DPAC. Tickets are priced at RM30 (adults) or RM25 (Dcard members, students, senior citizens and disabled people). Call (+6)03-4065 0001, walk into DPAC at Empire Damansara or visit www.dpac.com.my.