Tok Perak lacks drama
HIZREEN KAMAL found Tok Perak: Yang Mencari Dan Menanti — Drama Sepintas Lalu lacking in many ways. TOK Perak: Yang Mencari Dan Menanti — Drama Sepintas Lalu, based on playwright Datuk Syed Alwi Syed Hassan’s play Tok Perak, which was written and staged twice in the ’70s, both at Panggung Eksperimen, University of Malaya, resumes the tale of the Malay medicine man.
It is about middle-aged Tok Perak from the rural Malay heartland, who peddles his wares on the street. His medicine supposedly promotes virility, making him a popular figure.
Tok Perak is in a quandary though, as he has not changed with the times. He is in a country which has progressed.
Though he is sincere in selling his medicine, Tok Perak is thwarted by government agencies and society which are alien to him. He never thought that it would be difficult to sell his medicine in this modern setting. He is asked to leave by various quarters when he attempts to set up shop. He does not understand the need to have a permit, licence or even a stall, and the fact that he needs to pay a “commission” to the officers in charge, leaves him bewildered, as it was not necessary in the past.
Trapped in the transition between tradition and modernity, he, in the end, chooses the latter.
This is a noble effort by 78-year-old Syed Alwi who had twice received the National Literature Award (Drama) as well as the 2002 Anugerah Seniman Negara. He puts forth a message that affects many quarters from the current generation.
However, with the advent of computer technology, especially the Internet and the new media, many are well aware of the message Syed Alwi is presenting. Some may say that the issues may be old, but they are still relevant.
Like Tok Perak alluding to the erosion of traditional values in modern Malay society, Syed Alwi retained the syair and gurindam recitations (syair and gurindam are traditional Malay poems) in the play for the prologue.
At the opening of the play, the audience was mesmerised by the vocals of theatre first-timer Rozita Rohaizad, daughter of legendary actress Mariani, when she sang the syair.
Even though, she did not appear on stage, it was apparent that the individual behind the sultry vocals was her, as it closely resembled that of her popular aunt, the late Saloma.
Another element was the use of nazam (a form of syair) in between scenes for the narration. This aspect of the play was exceptionally entertaining. Aswara student Fauziah Suhain sang the nazam while strumming the gambus (a traditional guitar). She was assisted by her collegemate, Mohd Adlizah Baharudin, on the gendang (a traditional drum).
With Fauziah’s soaring voice, she managed to bring out Tok Perak’s feelings and his treacherous journey.
Sabri Yunus (who played Tok Perak), however, did not quite embrace the character. Lacking depth, there were several funny scenes which reminded me of his character, Wan Ismail Golok, in the highly popular ’80s show Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu instead.
In almost every scene, Sabri kept on walking in circles and saying his lines. I wonder whether it was his nerves acting out, or the fact that he was trying to use as much of the stage as possible. Either way, it was disturbing.
Perhaps if he could stand at one spot long enough and deliver his lines, the audience could hear him clearer.
It is a known fact that for an actor to progress, he would have to try out different roles, the more challenging the better. However, Sabri should stick to comedy for now, as he naturally excels in it.
Angeline Tan, who takes on multiple antagonistic roles in this production, should be applauded for her effort. It is not easy to play different roles. However, there seemed to be little improvement in her acting from her days in Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu, up till now.
Zaibo, famed for his comedy in the highly-rated TV series Spanar Jaya, was also in the cast. Appearing at the end of the play, his acting was commendable.
Even Rozita, who had a role as one of Tok Perak’s many supporters, did live it up, albeit a little stiff. However, I was hoping that Rozita, who had two albums under her belt, would be given more opportunities to flex her vocal abilities.
Other aspects of the play that could be improved further would be the costumes and design, sound system as well as the set.
Angeline wears different coloured tunic tops to represent the various antagonists in the play. The idea behind it is lauded but the tunic looked like it wasn’t even sewn — more like a piece of cloth with a hole for her head.
Apart from Tok Perak’s piece of cloth spread out to display his medicine, the stage was only done up with several fabrics hanging from ceiling to ground as the backdrop.
The sound system remained much to be desired. At the opening scene when Rozita rendered the syair, her great vocals were marred by the echoes. It was difficult to make out the lyrics. Scratchy sounds were also apparent when the special effects for the typhoon and heavy rain came on.
There was repetition throughout this play. Almost every opening scene sees Tok Perak selling his wares, and his assistant attending to his customers. It was a tad tiring, akin to watching reruns.
Tok Perak: Yang Mencari Dan Menanti — Drama Sepintas Lalu lacked the pull factor to draw audience.
Understandably, Syed Alwi, who also directed this production, may have wanted it to be a more artsy outing. Be that as it may, it is important to set a certain standard for theatre and stage plays, especially among the younger generation who is already exposed to numerous entertaining theatre works, whether they are by known or unknown directors.
The scenes were monotonous and there was hardly any dramatic moment, even though Angeline tried her best to craft some, through her multiple characters.
Syed Alwi is a renowned playwright and writing is what he obviously does best. Perhaps, he should just stick to writing and leave the directing to someone else.
A minimum of RM100,000 is needed to produce and stage a play at Teater Perdana DBP. It is a wonder how much was spent for this particular production.