It’s always a shame to let anything good go to waste. This principle apparently doesn’t just apply to food, it also applies to scripts to hear theatre director and playwrright Mark Beau de Silva tell it.
Looking back over the course of his career, he realised he had encountered four significant scripts that, coincidentally, had all been “left over” in one way or another. And when he realised they all shared a common theme, de Silva decided to put a show together based on them.
The result is Sisa-Sisa: A Collection Of Four Plays, that will be staged at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, opening on July 30. “Sisa means leftovers, or remnants, and for me, every of one of these four pieces fitted that description,” says de Silva, 35, in a recent interview.
He has been working in the arts since 2001, first as a stage manager, then a writer and director with The Actors Studio.
Three Doors and Blind Spot, for example, were written by de Silva a while ago but shelved temporarily after he thought they were too short to be staged separately. And The Joy Of Solitude was assigned to de Silva during the Short and Sweet Theatre Festival in 2010.
“Joe (Hasham) and Faridah (Merican) from The Actors Studio called me to their office and said, ‘There is this brilliant script, but the director assigned to the piece has decided to not direct it!’
“So I ‘rescued’ the piece, and directed it that year, and until today it remains one of my favourite pieces of writing,” says de Silva. “When I thought about it, all four pieces deal with loss, abandonment, and loneliness. Whether or not these people decided to be alone is another story, but all four protagonists eventually find themselves in solitude.”
Working on this play also gave de Silva the chance to direct his mentors, Faridah and Hasham.
“Having the opportunity to direct my gurus is like being given the best of ingredients to work with. Imagine, after being mentored by Joe and Faridah for more than 10 years, they have now given me the trust to take the lead. This is a once in a lifetime event for me, and hopefully not the last!” says de Silva.
Sisa-Sisa comprises of four unconnected plays, two written by de Silva.
In de Silva’s Three Doors, Faridah portrays a wife and mother on the night of her husband’s funeral. She contemplates, dreams, and reminisces about her three boys, and the three doors she would now have to choose. Douglas Wong and Ho Lee Ching play supporting roles.
“It’s all in Mark’s writing,” Faridah says about the script. “The characters he has written are very real, particularly the mother – from her feelings, musings, and the words, but more so her sons, especially now because she is wondering which of the three sons she will live with. Will they take her in, and will she fit in?”
“Not only does she start thinking about her husband, but more so her sons, especially now because she is wondering which of the three sons she will live with. Will they take her in, and will she fit in?”
“Mark has given Mama many meaningful lines, as she dreams about the future. There are times in the play when the reality and the fantasy of this mother is blurred, and that is what makes it so interesting,” she adds.
The other play by de Silva is Blind Spot, and has romance in the mix. Hanif (Aiman Asmawar) and Daniel (Cheah UiHua) meet at a shopping mall; pleasantries are exchanged, memories are evoked, and decisions reflected on.
“I use the word ‘revisited’ because I believe every time a relationship ends, the love is still there. It is, of course, never an easy experience to ‘revisit’, especially if the love that remains is not equal for both parties,” he says.
Aiman says reading the script challenged and enhanced his acting due to the many layers that the story has. “I’m playing a character that is conflicted about his sexuality.
He bumps into his old flame many years later, and that sparks some history and familiar emotions in the midst of looking for his lost son,” reveals Aiman.
“It’s difficult to entirely relate to the character, as I am not as complex and emotional as him, but I am compassionate enough to appreciate and understand Hanif,” he adds.
Reservations by Jeffrey Fischer Smith is a relationship story interwoven with ageing. Hasham and Amelia Tan play Edgar and Mae, a husband and wife. One remembers things well, while the other is starting to forget. “I’m very fond of the story. I like the fact that it addresses issues faced by the elderly. There doesn’t seem to be enough of these types of plays,” says Hasham.
It’s a rare treat to see Hasham on the local stage as he’s usually directing a play. In fact, Hasham says he has only been on stage as an actor four times in the 30-odd years he has been in Malaysia.
“I suppose you could say I’m rather selective when it comes to acting. I have to be blown away by the play. I have to have total faith in and respect for my director and fellow actors. Fortunately all of that came together for Sisa-Sisa,” he says.
Tan says it was difficult for her to prepare for her role, as the script is not in her first language. Nevertheless, she connected enough to be very touched by her character.
“I don’t think the character is like me. I’m a straightforward person. I don’t really take care of the people around me. But Mae takes care of everything, even small things like a cup or pan,” says Tan. “The wife really loves and takes care of her husband, no matter how he feels every day. It’s a true love story,” she adds.
The Joy Of Solitude
Lastly, The Joy of Solitude, by Dean Lundquist, is the only play which will be performed in a Chinese dialect, with surtitles. According to de Silva, it is about loneliness.
The play is the story of Young Charlie (Siangwei) who is locked in his apartment with Old Charlie (Wong).
“This is a very meaningful play to me because every time I see it rehearsed, with the character Charlie trapped in his own apartment, it transports me to the magical place that is the beauty of solitude,” says de Silva.
“I think people view being alone as a sad thing. But I think sometimes being alone, solitude, is the most beautiful thing a person can have,” he asserts.
Sisa-Sisa: A Collection Of Four Plays is on at Pentas 2, KLPac, Jalan Strachan (off Jalan Ipoh), Kuala Lumpur from July 30 to Aug 2. Tickets are RM43 and RM33 (for students and The Actors Studio card members). For more information, call 03-4047 9000 or visit klpac.org