Sex in George Town City has created drama before even the doors have opened. Hastily renamed Love in George Town City as a result of threatened demonstrations against pornography on stage, writer/producer/director Fa Abdul and her cast of talented and versatile actors have nevertheless opened on schedule, unbowed by intimidation and threats. This controversy is typically Malaysian, where creativity, tolerance and freedom of expression go head-to-head with a minority who are ill-informed, intolerant and prefer censorship.
Of course there is no pornography. With Sex in George Town City, Fa Abdul has built upon her successful 2018 production Tales from the Bedroom, this time digging deeper into relationship dynamics among and between different layers of the many communities that live together and share beds with each other in George Town. Ten short stories open windows into attitudes about one night stands, unconventional sex therapy, sexless marriage, office flings, prostitution, extra-marital affairs, sexual preferences, paedophilia, and mixed race relationships. Some of the stories are hilariously funny, such as the one about three street sweepers discussing their relationships with their wives, others are touching, and one, about a paedophile father, is deeply disturbing.
Most stories are staged in and around the bed in the centre of the stage and are almost entirely in English, with a sprinkling of some of the other languages commonplace in George Town. One takes place in a replica kampong house, and is performed entirely in Malay (with English subtitles overhead); another in a Chinese massage parlour, whose interfering auntie-owner’ speaks in flawless Malaysian-Chinglish. Each member of the cast acts in multiple stories, switching between not just the language-habits but also the totemic mannerisms of the character he or she portrays. There is a lot of genuine acting talent on stage, and at one point, even real tears.
Congratulations to Fa Abdul, and her cast, Sharmila Kana, Aloyah Bakar, Ivan Gabriel, Karam Tabba, Tan Seoh Chin, Ida Suhaini, Tasnim Hasina and Kabilan Murali Dharan, for these heart-warming and thought- provoking stories. If you haven’t already bought a ticket, don’t delay as the run of six performances is almost entirely sold out.
Sex/Love in George Town City is at penangpac, Straits Quay, with performances nightly at 8.30pm from Thursday 14th until Sunday 17th February, and matinées at 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost RM 40 and can be purchased from the box office or from proticket.com.my.
All photos courtesy of Lu Jia Chen Photography.