“We wanted to come up with something that suggested chaos and randomness – something that didn’t really have to do with anything.”
This is how Freddy Tan, co-founder of Sifu Productions, explains the title of their upcoming project “Never Eat Too Much Before Rapture: May 2014 Edition”, which opens on Thursday at the Free Space @ Kakiseni in SSTwo Mall, Petaling Jaya.
Randomness is indeed a major component of this production, which will see six actors – Calvin Tan, Ho Lee Ching, Jeremy Ooi, Nur Zakuan, Safia Hanifah and Tan himself – perform some 30 plays in 60 minutes.
There will be a ticking clock for cast and audience to keep time – and if the performers don’t manage to complete all 30 in the allocated hour, “they will be punished,” Tan says teasingly.
Adding to the chaos factor is the fact that the audience will determine the sequence in which the plays will be performed.
“The title of the first show will be shouted out, and once the play is finished, the audience gets to call out – almost ‘pasar malam’ (night market) style – the number of the next play, and so on,” he says.
“It’s a free for all. We’ll perform the plays based on whichever number is called out first, or the loudest. Hence, the audience is very much part of the show. There is no fourth wall. In some of the pieces, we will walk up to you, talk to you, even sit on you!”
Sifu tested the waters last year with a four-performance preview that had a question-and-answer session after each run. “The response was very positive, which was surprising because we’d thought it would be too new a concept for our audience,” Tan says.
“But a lot of non-theatregoers actually liked it because they could relate to most of the stories that were shared.”
All the plays were written as well as directed by the ensemble cast through a collaborative process that began in March under facilitator Ui Hua Cheah, also a co-founder of Sifu Productions.
“Ui Hua facilitated the rehearsals and writing processes,” Tan further explains. “He’d give us a theme – for example, ‘family’ – and we’d have to go away and write something, then come back and discuss it as a group, and work out how to stage it together.”
In one of the more unique assignments, each performer had to draw lots for another cast member’s name, and then write a script for, or about, that performer.
For actors Safia Hanifah and Ho Lee Ching, the prospect of performing such a vast number of plays wasn’t the most daunting part – it was the writing.
Ho remembers some of her fellow cast members coming up with “dungeons, dragons and swords, while I was writing about kopitiam – so boring! But I’ve certainly learnt a lot.”
Safia concurs that it was a challenge coming in to do ‘Rapture’, especially given her musical theatre background. “I’m used to a lot of structure, people directing me, solid storylines. I’m enjoying it but it’s also scary – you don’t have a song to hide behind!”
The interactivity between cast and audience will begin even before the show commences. “There will be games you can play to determine your actual ticket price,” Tan says. “The simplest game is just by rolling a dice – if you roll a one, you get RM1 discount. If you roll a six, you get RM6 discount. So nobody actually has to pay full price!
“Some people might call it a gimmick, but to me, it’s about making people feel good. You might find yourself thinking, ‘Wow, today I’m very lucky’, or maybe, ‘Today I’m not so lucky, but hopefully this show will make me feel better.’”
Another interactive concept is a segment of the show called “You Call The Shots”, which Tan likens to “a drinking game”. The audience gets to pick a number, which will decide on a condition to be imposed on a cast member in the subsequent play.
“For example, it decides whether a cast member has to be on all fours, or has to take off an article of clothing, in the next play. If the corresponding number is drawn by the audience, it has to happen!
“When you’re given conditions, it can work to the advantage of the performer because it allows us to be more honest in our performances, to be more vulnerable,” Tan concludes. “I mean, I might be performing half-naked to the audience – what more can I do??”
“Never Eat Too Much Before Rapture: May 2014 Edition” runs from 15-18 May and 22-25 May at Free Space @ Kakiseni, SSTwo Mall, Petaling Jaya. – May 13, 2014.
Tickets are priced at RM31 for adults and RM26 for students, with roll-back discounts at the door. For reservations, call Freddy Tan (017 360 6110) or Siti Farrah (013 394 9451). Details at https://www.facebook.com/NETMBR.