Let’s be honest: a lot of us feel overworked. Office-life balance is almost foreign to most Malaysians. But what if you drop dead on the job? The Working Dead (TWD) takes on this morbid eventuality with a humorous, supernatural twist.
“Young adults who are already in the workforce or are just getting started in their career will find this musical very relevant,” says Nicole-Ann Thomas, the director of TWD, an original musical by Malaysian playwright Terence Toh. “TWD might even scare some of them!” she says, laughing.
Thomas, who has directed Bare Beckett (2016) and The Pillowman (2017), is also a choreographer, actor, singer and dancer,
Presented by AllNighter Productions, the workshop musical opens April 27 at Twenty20Two Studios in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. “The idea for this story was sparked by a story my friend shared,” says Toh, who has been working on it since early 2017.
“He’s a lawyer and is always very busy. One day he fell sick during an important project and his boss said, ‘I don’t care if you’re sick. Even if you die, I will bring you back to life. You have to finish this project.’ That got me thinking and I started writing the musical,” recounts the 31-year-old Star2 journalist.
The rock musical features compositions by Lydia Tong and Kelvin Loh, brought to the stage by an ensemble comprising Angeline Neoh, Brian Cheong, Iz Sulaini, Kirthana Kuhendran, Lenny Wan and Tina Isaacs.
TWD takes a literalistic approach to the adage “corporate zombie”. It revolves around Edwin (Iz), a dedicated salaryman who wants nothing more than to give his wife Sarah (Kirthana) a happy life. Unfortunately, this means working long hours at his office to provide for her.
The unhealthy work environment leads to his unexpected demise. His ruthless and demanding boss hires a bomoh to bring Edwin back as a zombie to finish his work and it is all up to Sarah to save the day.
This is Toh’s first attempt at a full-length musical, though this staging won’t be done in its entirety. TWD will be presented as a workshop, with smaller scale versions of major scenes from the play. Audience reaction and feedback will be considered to shape the final production, which Toh and Thomas hope to stage in 2019.
Though it’s risky to helm a project that’s relatively new, but that hasn’t stopped Thomas, 45, from entering the field as a director. “It’s good that younger people are coming out and trying to do original stuff. This is a chance for them to explore and many of them don’t have guidance and I think those of you who have been at it for a bit longer can help them,” she says.