Red Velvet The Play is billed as a “dark comedy”. In fact it has been described to me as a play that deals with taboo issues that are viscerally uncomfortable for some people, making them laugh as a deflection or a release. What are these issues? Paedophilia, hidden predators, under-age sex, mental breakdown and the consequences of the lack of sex education in Malaysia; not issues for conversation in polite society and issues that have been rarely addressed on stage here.
The plot revolves around four characters. Ain suffers from Stockholm Syndrome when kidnapped by Amar and Aaron. She becomes attached to her captors and continues to have a relationship with them. At the same time, Ain is curious to explore a different type of relationship so she embarks on an affair with Ai Ling. After several years, her parents find out about her illicit activities. They confront her and she is forced to choose between Amar, Aaron and Ai Ling. Her choice is revealed on her birthday, with the Red Velvet cake of the play’s title.
Penang-born and -based writer and director of Red Velvet, Yusof Bakar, has written more than 50 plays (which will shortly be published as a book) and has directed over 50 theatre performances. Red Velvet was originally written and performed in Bahasa Malaysia in Selangor, and received a very good response from the audience. He decided to bring it to Penang because, as he explained “the content and issues in the play are universal, and I think the Penang audience deserves to taste the bittersweet flavour of Red Velvet”. He translated the script into English because he is hoping to reach the wider audiences of non-Malay speakers in Penang. His next project will be an adaptation of a famous Malay novel, ‘An Old Man at the Foot of A Mountain’ by Azizi Haji Abdullah, to be staged at the end of October 2020.
Red Velvet benefits from an all-star cast. Amar is played by 28 year old Ivan Alexander Francis Gabriel, a multidisciplinary artist well-known in Penang for his multiple appearances on stage, in film, and as a curator of important exhibitions including the recent Belang. Aaron is portrayed by Riz Zolkelpi, a USM drama major who has a reputation as an emerging theatre director and playwright to watch. In addition to appearing on stage frequently in Penang, he is a regular on the stand-up comedy circuit. Ai Ling is played by 30 year old Esther Kuan, whose theatre credits include acting, costume and make-up, set design, and assistant director over multiple theatre and musical productions in Penang. Ain is portrayed by Tan Seoh Chen, who has acted in Hamlet, The Glass Menagerie, several of director Fa Abdul’s Tales productions, and won best supporting actress at the Short + Sweet festival for her role in Fifty Cooks.
The play will be staged at 8.30pm on the 26th, 27th, 28th & 29th March 2020 at penangpac, Straits Quay. Ticket prices are RM 45.00 or RM 35.00 for students, with discounts for bulk purchases. Only those over the age of 16 will be admitted.
Tickets can be purchased from the penangpac box office at Straits Quay (+604 899 1722) or online