Sunday, May 22, 2005

A New Home for Words

The monthly readings have moved from Darling Muse to a new venue. I initially felt sad because I'd got so fond of Yusof and Dax's place, but Bernice has found a gem in Seksan's place 67, Jalan Tempinis 1.

Seksan, a landscape architect, has gutted the original house, leaving a clean open space below his offices. There's paintings, wire sculptures scattered around and suspended from the ceiling so that they cast a dance of shadows on the walls. What little furniture there is is made from natural materials - a rough-hewn wooden bench, bamboo stools, a charpoy bed (bringing back memories of those Sikh guards who used to guard stores and banks). The stairs up to the office are made from old railway sleepers. And the landscaping is certainly unusual ... screens made of tall cages of coloured cacti, richly patterned porcelain balls lying in the lalang grass at the side of the house, and a koi pond.

Seksan's two lovely doggies played an active part (sometimes too active!) in the afternoon's proceedings.

First up to read was Datuk SHANmugalingam. Shan dedicated this reading to the memory of Krishen Jit who had encouraged him to adapt a couple of his stories for the theatre. I think this will work well - Shan has a wonderful ear for dialogue, a lively sense of humour and his work is populated by and assortment larger than life characters. Shan read from a number of his short pieces including Victoria and her Kimono.

Next was Jit Murad, actor, comedian, playwright and all round wit. He enjoyed the irony of an assembly of pigs in the huge painting behind staring over his shoulder as he read. His story is set in a steak house (in the Jakes's, Victoria Station mould) and tells of three very different lives meeting here. A very entertaining piece.

Then a break for wine (La Bodega sponsored as usual) and chat, before writer/filmaker Feroz Merican took the floor for just a moment to say "I wrote this when i was very patriotic", leaving Bernice to read from his work-in-progress No-one Has Claimed Responsibility. Hope he does get round to finishing it soon ...

Hishamuddin Rais ("everyone's favourite ISA detainee" as someone dubbed him) read last. "I'm not an artist and I don't pretend to be," he said. He read a chunk of his play Bilik Sulit about interrogation by Special Branch police officers. The play is supposed to open on 3rd June, I believe, but the performance has just been cancelled as DBKL will not grant it a license. It was in Malay but I found it pretty easy to follow ... it was fast-paced, angry and satirical.

I think I enjoyed this fifth set of readings more than any others so far. There was a terrific atmosphere of warmth and support and good humour. Thanks again to Bernice for making things move.

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