By Muhammad Nabil

Truth be told, I was never much of a performing arts buff, having only attended a grand total of 4 plays in my 22 years of existence. Some reasons could be that I wasn’t brought up in that milieu, nor was I particularly interested in acting, even as I was forced by my mother to attend a mini theatre school when I was a child. I never could bring myself to act and channel being another person, probably because in my head was always a conjuncture of two emotions: fear and doubt.

Despite all of my protests however, I’ve only seem to discovered this soft spot I have for the performing arts recently, a feeling that simmered in my head and bubbled up my thoughts when I was invited to witness perhaps one of the most raw and talented showcases the Malaysian performing arts scene had to offer.

An invitation came my way to see a play called Thunder, originally written by Tsao Yu almost a century ago, but adapted and translated to give a Malaysian influence to the performance by none other than the First Lady of Theatre, Dato’ Faridah Merican. The premise of the story revolves around family, societal issues, and corruption.

Taking place in Ipoh, Chou Pu-Yuan (played by Patrick Teoh) is a wealthy businessman who owns a mining company, portrayed to have it all, money, power, and a seemingly happy family. But a facade is just a facade, as beneath the veneer, lies a complicated web of strings that hold together a dark family secret.

The story pans out across all levels of societal classes, mainly focusing on Pu-Yuan’s family, a respectable and rich, contrasted with Lu Kuei’s family (played by Mark Beau De Silva), who is under Pu-Yuan’s employment in the mine. The immaculate costume work was the first thing that caught my eye – everything was period correct and accurately reflected the wealth gap between the two families: Pu-Yuan’s family dressed in beige 3-piece suits and cheongsams, Lu Kuei’s only wearing worn tank tops, short cut slacks and musty jackets. It already set the tone for the whole drama, and I was hooked from there on then.

I wasn’t ready for what was going to happen further into the story though.

The rollercoaster ride of a plot kept throwing punches, one after another unto my gut, and by the end of the 2 hour playtime, I was reeling from the pain of it all.

And that to me is what makes a play so special.

Movies don’t really manage to capture and encapsulate raw human emotions, and seeing with your own two eyes how a person channels another personality and make it their own is really something that must be experienced in person. Not to mention, the stellar performance that only hours upon hours of hard work can achieve.

I do sincerely think that everyone who has the opportunity should at least attend a play in their life. The sincerity in their performance, the commandment of their given characters, and creativity to bring it all together makes it all worthwhile. And Thunderstorm is a good place to start.

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