| Review | Malacca, Malaysia | 22 May 2016 | Asia Samachar |
By Demitra Alexandria
“When I walk the streets of Delhi today
I still see blood mixed with the dust
Each silent stone does seem to say
Scream out aloud you must you must
Relive those terrible days of fear
Faces in the crowd seem to leer
Blood soaked earth it speaks to me
Are you so blind you cannot see?”
-Excerpted from ‘Kultar’s Mime’.
Sitting in the remarkably beautiful Heng Ann Association Hall in the Malaysian city of Melaka, waiting for the play ‘Kultar’s Mime’ to start, is an enthralling experience even before the play begins. The audience, in small groups, is brought into the space with an ‘art gallery like’ tour of the set, a remarkably effective technique in breaking the wall between the performer the audience, creating an intimate connection with the story for the audience.
The set is simple and beautiful, made mainly out of 8 vibrant paintings lined up along the back length of the stage. The paintings, specially commissioned for the show, depict elaborate scenes adorned with feelings of beauty, fear, pain that we later connect to the play’s stories. A delicate watercolour of a Banyan tree, caught my eye in particular.
The play, written entirely in verse, tells the story of a group of American artists memorializing the suffering of their people by honouring the suffering of someone else, specifically the children of Delhi in the 1984 pogrom. The play quickly becomes a play within a play as the cast transports the audience into the lives of four Delhi children. Surrounded by the sparkling colours of the hall and the audience’s ornate dress, I was easily transported into the world of the play within the play.
Director Mehr Kaur is as vivid in movement as writer Sarbpreet Singh is with poetic language. The cast relies on body language and repetitive gesture as much as the text to bring the characters to life. What make this production most effective is the cast’s committed passion to the play and the narrative. It is clear that the actors care about the stories they are telling. Their commitment to both maintaining the integrity of the playwright’s poetic language and the director’s visual interpretation of the language is admirable. Even a non-English speaker would be entranced by this production. From top to bottom there is not a weak link in casting. The performance is sincere and raw from all cast members.
‘Kultar’s Mime’ was written roughly three years ago, based on a poem of the same name, written by Sarbpreet Singh roughly 25 years ago. The play broadens its universal appeal by cleverly incorporating extracts of H.N Bialik’s poem ‘The City of Slaughter’. This poem, about the crimes and suffering inflicted upon the residents of Kishinev, a Russian city, during the early 1900s, opens up the play to all the people of the world, reminding us of a message too often forgotten.
“Incorporating The City of Slaughter into the script makes the point that no matter who you are, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim or Christian, it is wrong to attack anyone because of their beliefs,” stated Sarbpreet Singh in the Q&A following the performance.
Yes these are the children of Tilakvihar
These are their stories of blood and gore
In the corners of Delhi near and far
Go and ask you’re sure to hear many more
Each of these children is a living shell
Each day each lives in his private hell
at did all of this roam free
Live under the leafy shade of the tree
That was planted deep by the Party’s Hand
How can they touch their faithful dogs
The Party machine’s most valuable cogs
Whose writ does run throughout the land
You may plead for justice till you die
There’s none to heed your desperate cry
-Excerpted from ‘Kultar’s Mine’.
Arguably, one of the most interesting parts of the production is the Q&A session with the cast and writer following the play. Cast member Rose Fieschko commented during the session: “The characters became alive for us when we started meeting survivors of 1984, so to me this is the most important part of the show.”
Cast member Ross Magnant, who has been with the show for two years, further commented: “We meet people touring who have been affected either directly or through family connections by these horrific events and are thankful that we are sharing this story, and that solidifies for me why I’m here performing this play.”
Kultar’s Mime will be performed four more times in Malaysia before the ensemble returns to the US. This show is a cultural must see, both for Malaysian Sikhs to connect with a painful chapter of their history and for non-Sikh theater lovers as well.
Cast: Ben Gutman, Rose Fieschko, Cassandra DeMarco, Sydney Grant, Ross Magnant
Directed by J. Mehr Kaur
Written by J.Mehr Kaur & Sarbpreet Singh
Stage Management: Geena Forristall
Demitra Alexandria is a driven and multi-talented 22 year old Greek Australian actress, singer and writer. She is currently following the Kultar’s Mime tour of Malaysia.
Kultar’s Mime shows in Malaysia:
21 May (Sat) at Malacca
23 May (Mon) 7pm at PJ Civic Centre
25 May (Wed) 7pm at ACS School Ipoh
27 May (Fri) 7.30pm at Penang PAC
29 May (Sun) 6pm at Temple of Fine Arts, Kuala Lumpur
Book tickets here (http://www.kultarsmime.asia)
(TICKETS ALSO AVAILABLE AT VENUE)
Kultar’s Mime theatre workshops:
Two Theatre Workshops for young adults 16-30 year olds:
28 May (Sat), 9am – 12pm at Gallery 1, Penang
29 May (Sun), 9am – 12pm at Dewan Mengkula, Fakulti Bahasa dan Linguistik, Universiti Malaya (UM), Kuala Lumpur
[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]
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Kultar’s Mime – Why am I helping to organise this performance? (Asia Samachar, 8 May 2016)
Meet Director, Poet in 1984 hidden story Kultar’s Mime (Asia Samachar, 6 May 2016)
Kultar’s Mime: Play depicting hidden story of 1984 (Asia Samachar, 5 May 2016)
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