REVIEW | PAPA: An Improvisation About Memory

Storyteller by Norzizi Zulkifli

Date: 29th - 31st November 2020 | 8.30 pm

via FB Live


What a passionate remark that was of Dr. Norzizi Zulkifli’s about PAPA. This online performance is improvisation about memory: PAPA was first staged on 29th October 2020 and performed virtually, on Facebook Live. This story is essentially about her memories with her dearest late father, Dato’ Zulkifli Zain. The late Dato’ Zulkifli Zain who unfortunately died at the age of 76 was a great name, a veteran, and an inspiration to many in the theatre and film industry in Malaysia. This performance is filled with a lot of raw emotions. It implied that one should always appreciate the existence of their loved ones; it suggested the feeling of longing for who we lost, is a part of our growth. Even though the storyline of the show is somehow slow, it becomes more and more intriguing as the narrator, Dr. Norzizi Zulkifli talks out her emotions with very excellent acting.


As I mentioned above, this show is mainly about the journey of a daughter and a father through life. It acts as a tribute for the late Dato’ Zulkfli Zain. Dr. Zizi has reliably acted out her emotions in a form of narrative, reading her diary out loud. She proved the lightsomeness of playwrights: She tells a story of how her father affected her upbringing in life though in a very leisurely and unrushed way. The advice and the scolding, all are written in the diary she holds close to her heart. She mentioned that she practices what her late father preached until this very day. Dr. Zizi brags about the sweet memories she had with her late father. She precisely tells the story in detail, from when she was a little child until she became a mother herself. Ever since back then, Dr. Zizi considered herself as the closest child to her late father. The fact that their birth dates has a gap of four days, is such a miracle to Dr. Zizi. She was born on the 12th of October and her late father was born on the 8th of October. She tells every bit of memories she shared and at one point her heart-wrenching performance brings tears to the eyes of audiences. It’s amazing how the online performance succeed in gaining 1.4 thousand views on Facebook.


The performance was showcased at Art Space, Denai Alam. Staged with a very minimalist

background, and watched by me virtually via Facebook Live. It was a creative approach to a simple performance. The background changed every day during each show, showing perspectives from different eyes. The stage art in this online performance is very detailed whilst being messy. The props were pieces of papers littered on the floor, everywhere creating a mess. On the papers, it was written with topics, questions and some of them were letters for the narrator to read out loud and elaborate them. There was a red and black colored wheelchair in the corner of the camera. She mostly used props that can be found at home, for example: a basket that was made from Rotan, papers, a side table, and koleh. During every show, Dr. Zizi used different clothes. She wore black, red, and white during her shows.


Another chink of light in Dr. Zizi’s theatrical darkness as she tells stories about how her father became a coach and a choreographer during his old days. She danced gracefully as she talks to the camera, circulating her emotions in that very space, with her contemporary dance moves. Everything good will always have the bad sides of it. This performance has its cons too. Most of the time, the management was struggling with the technical aspects. Sometimes, the narrator’s voice couldn’t be heard because the cameraman was standing too far away from the narrator. I assume this is because they wanted to avoid shadows from entering the frame.


In my opinion, Dr. Zizi’s acting was very intense. It feels as if we are suffering with her along the way. She was very close to her late father hence the amazing performance. The show has its own sentimental value for Dr. Zizi herself and others who are watching. Though her father was not there, physically with her, it makes the audience feels his presence, all because of her acting. From stirring the coffee, sipping from an antique jar (koleh), and mimicking her late fathers’ behavior, all of them feel very real and natural. A lot of viewers left comments saying that they could relate to her feelings at the moment and that they were feeling heartbroken too. It shows just how much of a great actor, Dr. Zizi is because she succeeded in keeping the audiences linked to a promising show with only her acting, expressions, stories, dances, and martial art performance of Silat. She moves from an end to an end, performing Silat while telling stories. It is amazing how much energy she has inside of her, acting passionately at that very age.


An Improvisation About Memory: PAPA was showcased with only one character, one narrator, one director; Dr. Zizi. Without help from any supporting character, just her memories about her late father, her acting and her performances are more than enough to catch the attention of audiences and managed to gain over 1.4 thousand views on Facebook Live which is very impressive during this pandemic period. It’s indeed true how one says that talent runs in bloods. She is as talented and passionate as her father was. The acting blood runs in her family. Her performance keeps the audience waiting until the very end to know more and more about her memories.


This performance was a powerful insight into society’s mindset about gratitude and appreciation. The emotional and sentimental values of it brings benefits to those who watched PAPA. I enjoyed each and every minute of this performance because of how it speaks out to my feelings as a daughter myself. I think it is important to raise awareness regarding this matter because human beings tend to take everything for granted. They only regret once they lose this one thing or a person. Looking back, watching the overall performance feels as if I am listening to night-time stories told by my mother. It feels very close to the heart of mine and I’m sure everyone feels the same.


Written by Syahida Rahaman.

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