Let’s be honest. Sharing is not something that comes naturally to many. From children to adults, humans, in general, are predisposed to bouts of selfishness. In a tricky situation, many of us would stake our claim and stand our ground.
There is bound to be some form of conflict, and the only solution, as the characters in theatre production The Tragicomedy Of Errors will discover, is to find common ground and compromise.
“You have to give and take. Without that, no work can be done,” says Anwar Rusdini, 27, one of the lead actors in the new play by Pentas Project.
The Tragicomedy Of Errors, directed by Loh Kok Man, will open at Pentas 1, KLPac on Oct 18.
The trilingual play also features Lenna Lim, Anne James, Bella Rahim, Na’a Murad, Nabil Zakaria, Yeo Lyle, MayJune, Leow Hui Min and Jet Lew with guest appearances by comedy actress Miau Miau and Vernon Adrian Emuang. The play will feature three languages – Mandarin, English and Malay.
The Tragicomedy Of Errors, as direct as the title indicates, can be funny and sad.
It is about two theatre companies that are forced to rehearse in the same place due to a booking error. One group rehearses Secret Love, a tragedy about an interracial relationship, while the other theatre outfit works on Peach Blossom Land, a farcical tale about a depressed fisherman who comes across the hidden Peach Blossom Land by accident.
The groups have only one stage for their rehearsals, and that is where tempers flare up. But with a common goal in mind, the two groups learn to work out a solution that is mutually beneficial.
“The play is so fitting, in such a way, that you can see these different theatre groups – from two different ethnic backgrounds – clashing at the start and then, trying to share the space.
“It feels like it’s a reflection of our country where the space is Malaysia and the characters are the different races in our country trying fit ourselves in this jigsaw puzzle and work this out,” says Bella, 43.
In the play, Anwar and Bella stir up passions in the Secret Love theatre group.
Loh agrees with Bella and hopes the audience will be able to see – visions of Malaysia – in the love story explored.
“In our society, we always relate to each other through relationships, love and compassion. And through the love story in this play, the audience will have the chance to think about their relationship between each other,” says Loh, 46.
The Tragicomedy Of Errors is inspired by Secret Love In Peach Blossom Land by Taiwanese theatre company Performance Workshop. It was conceived by award-winning American-born Taiwanese playwright and theatre director Stan Lai.
It was the second stage play by Performance Workshop in 1986 and set an important milestone in Taiwan’s contemporary theatre scene by challenging the boundaries of tragedy and comedy. The play was adapted into a film, directed by Lai, in 1992.
Loh, who founded Pentas Project in 2005, has always looked to engaging cross-cultural works and multi-language productions. He decided to feature those basic elements in The Tragicomedy Of Errors by adapting Secret Love in Malay, while retaining Peach Blossom Land in Mandarin.
Secret Love was adapted by local playwright Fasyali Fadzly who has infused contemporary elements into the tale. Just like the play, this production brings together actors and theatre-makers from different language and ethnic backgrounds.
“I think collaborations are important because we are from different backgrounds and cultures and we speak different languages. Through this sort of works, we are able to better understand how different groups look at things differently and learn from each other,” says Loh.
Anwar enjoys participating in collaborative theatre productions and The Tragicomedy Of Errors has been a good experience. He is looking forward to taking this show on stage soon.
“I like shows like these because we can see how people from other theatre groups work. Sometimes, if we are too stuck in our own ways, we become too comfortable and complacent. So when we collaborate, we become more aware of our professional practices,” says Anwar.
In looking at the big picture, longstanding theatre practitioner Anne James is glad that The Tragicomedy Of Errors gives theatre a voice when it comes to everyday issues.
“I think this is specially relevant for Malaysia where people are trying to claim their own space, we only have one space and we need to think about how to work together to share that space,” she says.