When the full dress rehearsal for Still Taming & S’kolah concluded, I silently walked out of Pentas 2, made my way to the entrance of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (Klpac) and after taking a few deep breaths, I lit a cigarette.

My eyes were still teary and I had to pretend I was suffering from a bad case of the flu.

It is extremely rare to find local theatre performances that tug your heart, let alone leave the audience speechless as Malaysians are typically  drawn to shows that are funny or light hearted.

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Still Taming begins on a lighthearted note. *All images credit: Sha of klpac

Mark Beau De Silva and Ho Lee Ching’s brilliant artwork has all the elements thrown in.

I laughed and cried. And then cried some more.

Exploring themes concerning sexuality, religion, racism, feminism and even existentialism to a certain extent, Still Taming left the biggest impression on me.

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Lily Jamaludin and the cast portrayed existentialism beautifully

I remembered my wife relating her experiences of growing up, falling in love, getting heart broken, and the stigma that society has on girls and women. But the extent of what she experienced never really set in until I saw it live before my own eyes through the extremely talented casts.

Nearly every girl, especially those growing up watching Disney princess cartoons wanted to be a princess at some point in their life – just ask Ista.

Still Taming basically slaps you in the face, pulls that dream away, crumples it, throws it onto the floor, kicks it away and then gently gives you a hug.

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The entire ensemble tamed the audience and left them still in silence.

There were two scenes that basically broke my manly floodgates.

The first was when Davina Satvinder’s character asks her mother for money to celebrate her 16th birthday – this despite knowing that her father, played by Arkin Pal, had squandered the cash through a failed business venture.

After an argument with her mother, Davina’s character pits the blame on the father for being poor. The scene where Arkin silently passes what little money he still had in his pocket, broke me. It was too familliar to my own life, during my rebellious teenage phase.

Mark’s play shines the spotlight on pertinent current issues in Malaysian context, and one such inspiration was derived from the true experience of Malaysian teacher, Indhira Gandhi, who has been in an ongoing custody tussle with her ex-husband, turned Muslim convert for eight years now. He had taken away their youngest child and has kept the girl’s whearabouts hidden.

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Roshinee Mookaiah (left) and Davina Satvinder deserve a hug for making this scene memorable

Roshinee Mookaiah; who plays the role of Susheela – a mother who loses her daughter thanks to a failed system – gave an authentic portrayal that can move audiences to tears. When the 23-year-old, broke into sobs on stage, as she sang a Hindu hymn to her daughter, my watergates were again broken, unleashing hot tears.

Remarkably, there was minimal use of props – especially in the first half, with the cast carrying the show entirely on their performance skills.

Clever play of lighting played a vital role to set the mood in Roshinee’s heartbreaking scenes.

This was exceptionally prominent in the scene for a class reunion, in which the schoolmates wondered what happened to Susheela.

That’s when in a corner, we see Roshinee climbing a chair – a pale green light dancing softly on her face, symbolising her tragic fate.

While Still Taming had the cast members moving about in patterns, making full use of the entire stage, S’kolah, co-directed by Ho and Mark was given a different treatment altogether.

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The sorry state of the Malaysian education system was addressed through S’kolah

Forever etched in my mind from S’kolah are the words, “Struktur Pentadbiran Negara”, which was written on the blackboard at the start of the second half, by Farisha Nadia’s character, Puan Hafzah, a snobbish self righteous tudung clad teacher.

The words are not erased, serving a sad reminder throughout the entire duration of the play.

S’kolah equally touches on the difficulties school going girls back in the 90’s faced, with much of it revolving around friendship with Malaysia’s education system in focus.

The character of Puan Hafzah, symbolises an archaic paranoid based operational system and then you have, the character of Puan Jasmine – played by Roshinee – who tries her best to go against the grain by introducing a much more holistic human approach.

emlynne Tham
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Emlynne Tham and Amanda Xavier depicting the trials and tribulations of being teenage girls.

Despite the story being set in 1992, the issues raised in the play are still very much relatable.

Perhaps it is due to the fact that the play was inspired by true stories of true people, comprising members of klpac’s T4YP 2016.

Still Taming was conceptualised in March this year and S’kolah came about in August. Both plays were crafted following a heart to heart discussion among the members, who shared their experiences of growing up in a patriarchal environment.

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Sue-Ann Lim was terrific in her role as a naggy mother

Mark shared with me that although theatre has its fun aspects, he wanted to show another side of the art – one that many forget – that theatre is a reflection of the realities we live in.

In exploring issues that are personal, both Mark and Ho hope to affect people’s perception on these pertinent issues and hopefully bring about a positive change through theatre.

Still Taming & S’kolah is a brilliant start to bring forth such a change. The standing ovation the Masak Masak Ensemble received on the first day of the show, was truly fitting for the immense hardwork they put in for the production.

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The Masak Masak Ensemble will be going very far.

Adam Luqman, Amanda Xavier, Arkin Pal, Avelyn Lew, Celine Wan, Christine Liew, Davina Satvinder, Emlynne Tham, Farisha, Gurpreet Kaur, Jad Hidhir, Michelle Tan, Roshinee, Lily Jamaludin, Sue-Ann Lim, Tiara Jane Anchant & Veshalini Naidu are the next generation of actors you should definitely keep an eye out for.

I wouldn’t be surprised to spot them in future films and advertisements in years to come.

Still Taming & S’kolah ends its run on Dec 11th. Call 03 4047 9000 or head over to www.ticketpro.com.my to purchase your tickets.

Have a theatre show for us to review? Send us the invite to editors@eksentrika.com