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Rumah Lakon recently staged Romansiprokal a theatre show in collaboration with Live in My Poetry, at at Revolution Stage on 2 October, 2020.
It was supposed to end on 11 October but had to cancel after its fifth show when COVID-19 cases in Selangor rose to unprecedented numbers.
Despite this, there is hope for a restaging to take place once the pandemic crisis is brought under control.
This write-up gives you a hint at what to expect, should that chance arise in the near future.
The title is a play of words between ‘romance’ and ‘reciprocal’, that also hints at the central focus of the play. It explores different dynamics of love, romance, and reciprocation in the relationships between partners, family members, and even society.
As a theatre piece, Romansiprokal, attempts to be bold by not sugarcoating the depictions of sensitive issues. Each scene and plot performance, is geared towards keeping audience members in thrall throughout the close to two-hour long duration.
Based on seven different adaptations of Yusof Bakar’s work, Romansiprokal is directed by three different directors: Dzeelfa Zainal, Izhar Azree, and Remy Eldhani. The theme, staging, and cast is designed to “an extremely chilled vibe”.
At first glance, the stage is arranged is simple: A long rectangle with white cloth backdrop. The walls had some clothes hanging from the ceiling down to the floor. Three big boxes served as props for the cast of all seven plays.
These would be turned into a sofa, bed, bus stop, and several more. The audience sat, surrounding the stage to give off a “theatre in the round” or a black box feel. Keeping the props simple and sparse was a deliberate choice in keeping with the show’s sense of minimalism.
The music ranged from indie to lofi-hip-hop. A spotlight from the front of the stage and two from the edges edges served as primary lighting. The colors used were pink, purple, red, and yellow. The directors took this effort to give the show a unique ambiance and provide a vibe for each of the seven plays.
Audiences seemed to be impressed by the heart-warming performances, especially, Cahaya Jais as Maisara and Rahim Jo as Abah (Sharif) in director, Izhar Azree’s ‘Dicarik Senja’.
Rahim stole hearts with his vibrant and balanced portrayal of a father suffering from Alzheimer’s. His delivery in words and actions effortlessly depicted the opposite characters and motivations of a father who remembers Maisara as his daughter as well as someone who is trapped in olden times; a child looking for his mother.
Cahaya Jais was also commendable in her performance as Maisara, the daughter who took care of her sick father and always prioritizing others more than herself.
‘Untuk Lelaki dan Wanita yang Bercinta Tanpa Kata-kata’ directed by Izhar Azree is a funny and entertaining play that allow audiences to experience the characters falling in love with one another. The story itself is pretty simple and unique: Lelaki played by Khal Isyaf and Wanita played by Aida Amron meet almost every day at a bus stop. They fall in love without realising it. They don’t even know each other’s names and only talk about books.
This story is narrated by Syahzrin Z. who is a character introduced at the start as someone with a crush on Wanita. The development of the plot for Lelaki and Wanita is driven by the narrator’s intention to confess his feelings for Wanita.
Khal Isyaf as Lelaki, stood out as someone trying to pursue his love, with all smiles and charms. He finds out in the end, that Wanita is no longer alive, and brings out a most heart-wrenching performance. The chemistry between the actors, combined with the interplay of urple and pink lights gave it a most romantic vibe.
‘Fault Sapa’ directed by Remy Eldhani is about an LGBTQ+ couple seeking help from a counselor to solve their marriage problem, which was about: A sofa. The character Aidan, played by Anwar Hadi and Ridhwan played by Qiu Aril, constantly fights each other with inspirational quotes by well known philosophers.
In just 10 minutes, the play depicts the fine line between a happy marriage stemmed from love versus the other led by ego. The play shows just how much pride and ego can ruin a relationship. The heavy subject matter of marital relations is kept light through hilarious dialogue between the characters, Aidan and Ridhuan, with their counselor played by Tini Rahim.
‘Darah Malam Pertama’ directed by Dzeelfa Zainal is an indirect jab at child marriage. Najwa, played by Lea Syaurah, and Firdaus, played by Anwar Hadi are inspired by real life individuals based on a case in Kelantan, Malaysia, in which a married man lusts after a child. A poignant scene is one where the man’s first wife, Balqis, played by Afiza Asram, is forced to prepare Najwa for sexual intercourse.
All seven plays touched on many issues prevalent in Malaysia that largely relate to the realities of romance and the reciprocal nature (or lack of it) in love.
It has been a challenge to present the work amid a pandemic, in which strict SOPs and guidelines needed to be adhered to by the production team, cast down to every audience member.
Although. only a total of five shows out of ten were staged, I believe Romansiprokal has something big to offer for audiences and I look forward to its restaging.
Article has been edited for clarity. Cover image sourced from Rumah Lakon.