“Everyone wanted to change the government but no one is willing to change themselves” is the message that critically-acclaimed Penang-based playwright Fa Abdul wants to communicate with her new feature-length comedy, Tales from Malaysia Baru.
The two-hour play set in an old Chinese house in the heart of George Town, tells the story of four people, a 65 year-old tailor, her son, and two neighbours, who chat about everything that is not right in Malaysia. The play is performed mainly in “Manglish”, that unique version of English spoken here, with the occasional sentence or two of Malay for authenticity, but that won’t affect the understanding or enjoyment of the story by non-Malay speakers. As Fa herself describes it, “The script is strategically timed to reflect Malaysians’ current ‘wait-and-see’ approach to judging the new government and its policies, while also taking aim at the reluctance of many Malaysians to see this as a time for change within their own mindsets. Idiosyncrasy and idiocy take turns to show themselves in the energetic banter of the lead characters.”
Tales From Malaysia Baru is a remake of Big Nose Productions’ 2013 blockbuster “In a Nutty Shell”. This earlier version was set in a coffee shop rather than a Penang shophouse, and like Tales uses humour and stereotypes to address important social and political issues. Tales introduces a couple of new characters, and of course is updated for all the political changes that have happened in Malaysia since 2013. And it digs deep into the dynamics and complex layers of relationships among and between members of the different races and how that has or hasn’t changed in the new political climate.
In a Nutty Shell was reviewed in 2014 by author Mark W Sasse (read the full review here). He deftly sums up a key message of Tales From Malaysia Baru, that in Malaysia “there is much more camaraderie and country pride present than is readily admitted…Malaysia is a beautiful cross-section of religion, ethnicity, and culture. It has existed that way for a long time, and while it is not without problems, it has created a beautiful mosaic in the midst of Southeast Asia. If only the groups themselves would look past differences and see the potential of its vibrant and lovely people.”
The people of Penang will experience that pride and camaraderie while watching this play, written in Penang and featuring a cast of local theatre favourites, Aloyah Bakar, Sharmila Kana, Lawrence Chin and Ivan Alexander Francis Gabriel. Between them they have starred in many other successful local productions including Tales from the Jamban, Sex in Georgetown City, Tales from the Scars, Tales from the Bedroom, (C)LOVE and the Short + Sweet Theatre Festival.
There are 6 performances of Tales From Malaysia Baru, Wednesday 27th – Friday 29th November at 8.30pm, Saturday 29th November at 3pm and 8.30pm, and Sunday 1st December at 3pm. The play will be presented at penangpac, Straits Quay, and tickets cost RM 45 (concessions RM 39). They can be purchased from the penangpac box office or online.