Wednesday, 16 April 2008

"Three" at the KL Performing Arts Centre

Photo reproduced from The Star, without permission, but in accordance with the principles of fair use.

Lynette's sister, Alicia, had very kindly extended an invitation to me to watch a play with her at the KL Performing Arts Centre ("KLPAC") after work on Tuesday.

Her invitation was graciously accepted and we had a dinner of tapas and beer (for me) and wine (for her) before adjourning to the theatre.

Much as I believe the developer of Sentul West, YTL Corporation, to be an environmental offender that is only marginally more mindful than the other property developers, I do think KLPAC is one of its biggest successes. It has managed to reclaim and preserve old heritage buildings and trees and incorporate the Performing Arts Centre into the design without destroying any of the existing flora or structures.

I wasn't terribly impressed by the dinner, and although the play wasn't exactly the Harold-Pinter -GB-Shaw-Tennessee-Williams fare that I am used to, I did rather find it not without its merits. This is my first experience with 'physical' theatre but had little difficulty in interpreting and appreciating it.

The play is loosely based on Mitch Albom's "Five People You Meet In Heaven". In the first scene, the female protagonist lies on the stage floor, palpably dead, while images of defining moments in her life and the fateful flight she last took are projected onto the stage floor. Enter a male angel-figure (Note: No pantomime-style costumes are employed here. The cast are all in white or black yoga-type outfits), who tries to help the protagonist come to terms with her death and her afterlife. It is important to note that the angel-figure does not play an active role in mediating the reunion of the protagonist with the other people she is to meet.

A femme fatale (Satan perhaps? Or just Sin, Lust or Temptation, personnified?) is the first person the protagonist encounters. Satan/Sin has the power to harm others and put them under her control. Our protagonist fights back and finally emerges victorious (or Satan/Sin lets her win, one couldn't tell for sure) but is angry with her angel for falling for the temptress and failing to protect the protagonist.

The next character the protagonist meets is her mother. The mother-figure mimes the actions of preparing food and drink for her child with benignant elegance, while the protagonist appears, through her actions, to have regressed to the age of a young child. There is a possibility here that the protagonist's mother had died when she was very young, and thus she never had the opportunity to say goodbye. Here in the afterlife, however, the protagonist finally gets to thank her mother and bid farewell, and move on, having resolved her feelings of guilt and abandonment.

The final person the protagonist meets is her lover. I cannot say for certain if there is an intimation of same-sex relationships here, because the cast of this play is, to me, asexual. The reunited couple moves in natural harmony with each other. Their movements are, in the beginning, synchronous, but the protagonist's moves soon become harsh and discordant, while the lover's remain tender. The lover grows agitated but the protagonist is hostile and unmoved. This rejection sends the lover running off in grief. It is not clear if the lovers had parted within the protagonist's lifetime, or if they had to part due to the protagonist's untimely demise, but we do know that both parties had to accept the separation and move on as individuals.

The protagonist realises that her experiences have made her the person that she is, and that she had taken the path of her own choosing. On her own again, the protagonist peels off her skin, signifying release from her corporeal self, and walks towards the light.

Not so much existential as formulaic -- I wonder what they will come up with next: Dale Carnegie's lectures in dance form? -- but still an effective, engaging and accessible play.

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