ESSAY | ROMANSIPROKAL: A Sweet Escape From the Pandemic

Produced by RUMAH LAKON x Live in My Poetry

Date: 2nd - 6th October 2020

Projek Bilik Sempit, Revolution Stage Studio

If you're looking for a sweet escape from the pandemic and needed peace of mind, Romansiprokal was a great theatre hosted by Rumah Lakon in collaboration with Live in My Poetry. The theatre play made its way onto Revolution Stage on 2nd October, for a run that supposedly end on 11th October. But things take a turn when COVID-19 cases in Selangor have risen to an unpredictable number which worries everyone including the production houses and the casts. Taking the government's advice into account, the theatre play was canceled after its fifth show to avoid any risks. CMCO was later announced by the government on 12th October which will starts at 12.01 a.m. on 14th October.

The subject matter of the theatre play is essentially about 'Romansiprokal' which brings the meaning of romance and reciprocal intertwined into one title. The love, romance, and reciprocation in different perspectives including the relationship between partners, family, and social relationships amongst people was being portrayed in the theatre play. There are a total of seven different adaptation from Yusof Bakar's work. Romansiprokal is a piece of impeccably crafted theatre play directed by three different directors: Dzeelfa Zainal, Izhar Azree, and Remy Eldhani, with theme, staging, and casts in perfect accord. Perhaps the vibes they give off are so chill and unique that it catches the audiences' attention.

Looking back, Romansiprokal works so brilliantly because, unlike so many theatre plays, it makes sure that the messages they're trying to convey will always be delivered. Nor does it ever shirk or sugar coat any sensitive issues. Each scene, acting, and stories knocks whatever came to the mind of audiences so that you spend almost two hours completely in its thrall.

At first glance, the performance was uniquely styled. The stage was very simple: a long rectangle filled with white painted drop cloth, for stage edges and walls, just plastic drop clothes hanging around from the ceiling down to the floor. Three big boxes are on the stage, which is also the main props for the casts during every play. It became the sofa, bed, bus stop, and many more. The audience sat, surrounding the stage with bricks being put on one another creating seats, it gives off the feeling of a "theatre in the round" or a black box theatre. The music was chilling and ranged from indie to lofi hip-hop. The props were simple and sparse, keeping the best form of minimalistic. The lighting, which varied from different spotlight from in front of the stage and two edges of the studio, was intricate and significant. The colors used are pink, purple, red, and yellow. The efforts that the directors put into giving the show a unique ambiance, succeed in giving a good vibe for the audiences who are watching in the dark.

The majority of the actors did grasp the opportunity to strike the audiences in awe with their performance. One of the most heart-warming play was 'Dicarik Senja' directed by Izhar Azree. This play was performed by Cahaya Jais as Maisara and Rahim Jo as Abah (Sharif). Each performer played their characters flawlessly and naturally. Abah stole the hearts of the audience with his vibrant and balanced portrayal of a father who suffers from Alzheimer. Most importantly, Abah gave a balanced performance of the character he is responsible for through his words and actions, accurately portrayed a father who remembers Maisara as his daughter, a father who is trapped in the old times, and a child looking for his mother. Besides, Cahaya Jais played her character with a good balance and a keen believability too. Her character as Maisara was the daughter that took care of her sick father and is always prioritizing others more than herself.

'Untuk Lelaki dan Wanita yang Bercinta Tanpa Kata-kata' directed by Izhar Azree is a funny and entertaining play that leaves cringe at its best as the audience can vividly see through each characters falling in love with one another. The story itself is pretty simple and unique: Lelaki played by Khal Isyaf and Wanita played by Aida Amron meets almost every day at the bus stop. They fall in love with each other, without them noticing it. They didn't even know each other's names and they only talk about books. This story was narrated by Syahzrin Z. who is also a character at the beginning of the play, having a crush on some girl he meets at the bus stop. The story of Lelaki and Wanita influences his next move, which was confessing to the girl he loves. As I mentioned, the performances are wonderful from the beginning to the end. The actors did a great job of making us feel like we're watching our kids flirting. The standout was Khal Isyaf as Lelaki. Khal comes in right off as Lelaki who is trying to pursue his love, he is all smiles and charms. His heart-wrenching acting towards the end when he realizes that Wanita is no longer alive really shined his character so bright. The chemistry between the casts is so beautiful. In addition, the lighting during this play sets off a vibe that is so romantic with purple and pink light continuously switching.

'Fault Sapa' directed by Remy Eldhani is a play about LGBT + couple who seek help from a counselor to solve their marriage problem which was about: sofa. There were many things that fascinated me about the constant switching of the place they're standing or sitting every time the characters say a dialogue. Most importantly, how the character Aidan played by Anwar Hadi and Ridhwan played by Qiu Aril constantly fight against each other with inspirational quotes from famous philosophers all around the world. This approximately ten minutes play walked a fine line between marriage versus ego in which we find is indeed an ongoing issue in today's world. Partners are fighting because of a small issue such as what sofa should they be getting? The play shows just how much pride and ego can ruin a relationship. Despite all that, the play was very fun to watch because of its script which has a lot of humor aspects, it keeps the audiences alive by the hilarious dialogues between Aidan, Ridhuan, and the counselor played by Tini Rahim.

‘Darah Malam Pertama’ directed by Dzeelfa Zainal untangled a story about child marriage between Najwa played by Lea Syaurah and Firdaus played by Anwar Hadi. I believe that the play is a form of imitation from an actual case that happened before in Malaysia. A Kelantanese man married a young girl fully because of lust. Balqis played by Afiza Asram is a character that represents the first wife. During the first night, Balqis was forced to prepare Najwa for a sexual intercourse. Little did they know Balqis has prepared something special for Firdaus. The play indirectly mimics the actual issue that is still going on in Malaysia. Child marriage are definitely wrong and is an inappropriate act. The characters succeed in bringing the audiences’ focus onto this issue with their actions and words.

All in all, the scope of the show touched on so many issues in the romance and reciprocal aspect of life which concerns the reality of love. The challenge of presenting a work of theatre whilst the pandemic is still going on is a hard one. There are limitations on the audiences that are allowed to watch at one time. SOPs set by the government needed to be followed, sanitisation, temperature check, hygiene, and health are all very important to the production, casts, and also the audiences. Any risk would be a downfall to everyone and that is why Rumah Lakon took initiatives on lowering the risk for everyone who is participating in the show. As a result, the remaining shows are canceled. Only a total of five shows out of ten were able to be staged but I believe Romansiprokal has something big to offer for its audiences.

Written by Syahida Rahaman.

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