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Gemuk Girls

November 12, 2011
by


Event: “Gemuk Girls” by The Necessary Stage
Venue: The Necessary Stage Black Box
Run: 9th Nov – 20th Nov 2011

So much has been said about “Gemuk Girls” that it’s hard to add anything new to the discussion really.

I am just glad that a) I had finally managed to witness this remarkable piece of local theatre, and b) that I had finally made the trip east to visit the TNS Black Box, which turned out to be far more impressive than I had imagined, ignoring the fact that it seems to lead you down and down and down.

Don’t let the play’s title mislead you.

Despite its apparent light-heartedness, the profundity and gravitas of “Gemuk Girls” is apparent, mainly because it tackles what has been one of the major elephants in our room for decades – ISA detention.

It was not unlike sitting through a Beethoven symphony, with Haresh Sharma being Beethoven, Alvin Tan being Karajan, and Najib Soiman, Siti Khalijah, and Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit being gifted musicians, each being in perfect control of their technique, form and expression.

It is the perfect example of the magic of theatre when all the right elements come together to create something transcendental.

“Gemuk Girls” was first staged in 2008, and you could say that our awareness of ISA detention has grown somewhat since then.

This year’s General Election helped shed more light on the experiences of some of the former detainees (e.g. Teo Soh Lung), and Malaysia’s recent decision in September to abolish its ISA brings yet another angle to the subject.

But no matter whether it is 2008 or 2011, one comes away from “Gemuk Girls” with a rich sense of perspective on the whole issue of ISA detention and how it affects both the detainees and their families.

It is impossible to watch “Gemuk Girls” and not be moved by it.

The scene which many people would probably recount as the most moving was when Marzuki was so tantalisingly close to freedom after being locked up for so long, but because he refused to sign the forced confession, he was thrown back in again.

You could hear sniffing all around the theatre.

I suppose the name “Gemuk Girls” is a clever play on the name of the TV show “Gilmore Girls”, which incidentally also centres around the relationship between a mother and daughter.

However, I felt that in “Gemuk Girls”, perhaps the focus on the whole “gemuk” aspect as well as the mother-daughter relationship wasn’t as central to the play as the title would have us believe.

To me, it was still very much about the links between the girls and Marzuki.

The Haresh-Alvin brand of “magic realism” makes an appearance once again toward the end of the play, when both Kartini and Juliana get their chance to spend a moment with Marzuki, which once again adds a refreshing perspective to the proceedings.

Lastly, with regards to the sliding platforms set, I was unable to grasp its significance, and although it was an interesting concept, I thought the platforms seemed to add a touch of clumsiness to the set rather than facilitate the flow of the play.

This being the second “off-Broadway” staging of “Gemuk Girls”, I look forward to TNS seriously considering finally taking this show to the Drama Centre Black Box or even the Esplanade Theatre Studio, so that more theatre-goers would be able to witness this absorbing work of art.

It is most certainly deserving of playing at a “Broadway” venue.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2011 5:27 pm

    Yes! It’s really a remarkable play! Meaningful and thought-provoking!

    It was also my first time to The Necessary Stage. Despite the limited spaces, I like how the place is designed and decorated, very artistic and impressive indeed! I like the “unevenness” of how each room is shaped.

    I went to watch the play last Saturday, 12 November. It was full house! Congratulation! “Gemuk Girls”! Very well done! I think this play is a success! ^^V

    I was impacted by the story and also how it was presented, so were most of the audiences from their expressions I had observed after the show.

    The content of this play is rich; like a profound book, whereby when you read it at different period of your life or when you recall certain scene or dialogue from time to time, you will be able to discover new thing and enlightenment that you could relate it with your own life or the people around you.

    The script is skillfully crafted; like a good Literature text – layer by layer, deeper and deeper, you could engage a quality and significant discussion about it in every part. Even the title, “Gemuk Girls” is interesting to talk about why it is given this name, for example. 😉

    I love every character in its individual charm and uniqueness. All the three performers had acted their roles very well!

    I also like the choice of the music pieces in this play very much! They are very well-fitted with the characters’ emotional state at different junction.

    Many scenes had touched me and also made me laugh. Apart from the scene which Jeremy mentioned above, I was also moved by one of the scenes when Kartini (acted by Siti Khalijah) gave her speech during a protest, about the injustices of how her grandfather, Marzuki, was being treated and how her family was affected by it. I almost cried with her.

    To round up, I am very proud that we have such an excellent play like “Gemuk Girls” from our local field! ^^V

    ***

    Hey! And well written review, Jeremy! I like best of how you had described this play to be like a symphony (orchestra) whereby the perfect timing and chemistry among each member “is” critical (when they could come together as “ONE”!!!), which to me, is also the most important element in every performance!

    “It was not unlike sitting through a Beethoven symphony, with Haresh Sharma being Beethoven, Alvin Tan being Karajan, and Najib Soiman, Siti Khalijah, and Aidli ‘Alin’ Mosbit being gifted musicians, each being in perfect control of their technique, form and expression.

    It is the perfect example of the magic of theatre when all the right elements come together to create something transcendental.”

    I agree with you partially regarding the sliding platform at TNS Black Box which I also realised that at certain scenes the platform had became a stumbling block to the flow of the play but yet at certain parts I find that it had brought magic and had added the extra touch to the play with its creativity.

    Lastly, I feel that this play should still perform at TNS and not move to another bigger theatre as I find that certain play is best presented in front of a smaller group, so that the intimacy and impactful effect in connecting with the audiences will not be minimised as a result.

    Furthermore, in my personal opinion but with no professional knowledge in this area, I think the projector screen at TNS stage which covers across the full background has added further enhancement to this play in the visual effect too.

    And since many good critics had been given to this play where it was performed at TNS, I believe the design of the Black Box at TNS do have some credits to its success. Therefore, I feel that this play should continue to perform at its Home (unless it is perform in overseas), though it could not hold a bigger crowd, yet let the sense of cosiness remains. =)

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