This post is originally written on my LINE timeline. I amended some parts due to the error on my part.
Yesterday marks the fifth time I’ve gone to watch EDSA’s English Nite performance. The first time I went to the event back in 2013 was also the first time English Nite got performed outside campus, which was in the Cak Durasim Theater. I’ve been coming to this event every year since. Now I have graduated from the English Department, I still came to the event yesterday all the same. But that time, I felt that I hadn’t done something I ought to have done all those past years.
To tell you the truth, I’ve been meaning to write about this experience every year. Since I’m no longer a student, I think I have to write this now. I might not be able to write this thing in the future for the next performances, anyway. No one’s been doing this thing either. So, if no one is doing it, I have to do it.
Just a heads up: I’ll go into a rant explaining what I see in each performance and what I think of them. I also added a table displaying features of each production, where they all get similar and where they differ.
Okay, let’s roll.
- As the title suggests, this is all about Sitti Nurbaya. Or… is it?
- You know the drill about that classic tale. A guy named Samsulbahri fell in love with a girl named Sitti Nurbaya, who happened to be betrothed with an elderly merchant called Datuk Maringgih. Being star-crossed lovers and all that, Samsulbahri tries hard to fight his heartbreak and Sitti struggles against her forced marriage to Maringgih, and in the end both lovers die.
- The play started ordinarily, with Sitti’s parents betrothing their daughter to Maringgih, against Sitti and Samsulbahri’s wishes to remain together. However, in a twist, Maringgih suddenly allows Sitti and Samsulbahri to marry each other. In secret, he offered a condition to Samsulbahri for this to happen. It turns out that the secret condition is that Samsulbahri has to fulfill the desires of Maringgih, who is found to be homosexual. In the end, due to desperation and jealousy, Sitti kills both her husband and the man who takes him away from her. She then kills herself. The end.
- That was brilliant, wasn’t it? I still think this is the best story among the others.
- The execution was also amazing, too. All the music scores and songs delivered by the talents are original. Yes, the stage production team composed all the songs and scores by themselves. This was an achievement that no subsequent productions had matched.
- This was also an adaptation. In fact, we can call it a triple adaptation, since this play was an adaptation of the film Beastly (2011), which is an adaptation of a novel of the same name (published 2007, which in turn is also an adaptation from the French tale The Beauty and the Beast.
- In this play, though, the story is set in the present time, where the handsome, popular, party animal guy gets cursed by a witch to have a horrendous face. To break free from that curse, the guy must obtain the true love of a girl who can overlook his looks (sorry for the pun). Luckily, the guy with the horrendous look hits up a pretty girl afterwards, after some complications. I couldn’t remember the rest, but in the end the witch gets killed by the girl and the guy’s face returns to normal and the couple returns to a happy relationship. The end.
- The play was also a musical production, with several characters singing, even though the songs are renditions to existing songs. But, this was still great, and those talents really know how to sing.
2015: Memento Vivere
- Of all the English Nite plays, this was the one I remembered least. Sorry. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t remember the story very well. If you happen to know more than I do, I’ll be very happy to hear from you.
- If I’m not mistaken, the play deals with inconsistent memories and split personalities, borrowing parts of Christopher Nolan’s (you heard it) Memento (2000).
- In a departure from the previous two productions, there were no musical performances this time.
- Again, if I’m not mistaken the story is told from the perspectives of two different girls, which at the end is revealed to be the same person. The only part I remember is the final scene, in which the protagonists shoot some guy. Other than that, I really can’t recall.
- I think the difficulty with this play is that it tries to adapt something that should belong on the screen (all of Nolan’s works are like this, I think). Plays are basically different from cinemas. Since this play deal with memories and thoughts, I think it needs a whole world of innovation to portray such a play in a theatre. And previous experiences don’t seem to support this creative direction.
2017: The Verse
- This production had to be postponed until 11 March 2017, but when it was performed, the Cak Durasim Theater was in a much better shape.
- Maybe as a reaction to the previous production, this time the team was determined to present something that can trigger reaction from the audience. They needed a story that the audience can relate to. Originally, the writers intended to put forward an adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. However, someone in my class year (2013) had an idea of a storyline about a mother’s sacrifice to her son. Again, the goal was to be relatable, so the writers eventually worked on that idea, resulting in a play entitled The Verse.
- The Verse, the title I mean, is a reference to W.B. Yeats’ poem The Cloths of Heaven.
- Alan, the only son of the widowed Petunia, aspires to be a musician. He dreams of having a guitar and enjoying a successful career in a band. However, his family, which now only consists of two people, is not very well off. Alan and his mother have a great deal of argument throughout the play. Long story short, he then meets a girl who later becomes his wife. Later, some friend of his gives him a guitar, which enables him to be active in music. As his mother becomes older and sicklier, Alan enjoys a good life with his wife and his rising career. He is confident with all the work that he puts in. Then, his mother died. It is later revealed to Alan that his mother had been keeping a book, in which she makes a checklist of what her son should achieve in his life. In turns out that every good thing that has ever happened to Alan is due to her hard work in communicating with his future wife and buying Alan a guitar and then asking his friend to give it to him.
- It’s worth mentioning that among the five English Nite productions, The Verse is currently the only one in which nobody is killed.
- There were one or two songs performed in this play, all renditions from existing songs.
- The second English Nite play in 2017 was performed just yesterday on 11 December 2017.
- Will, whose mother apparently died from suicide when he was 12, is now living only with his father, Ben. His temperament has changed since his mother’s death, and he frequently suffers from episodes of trauma. During a New Year’s Eve party in his campus, he gets to one of those episodes and is helped by Jane, the popular girl. Shortly after, the two get tangled in a relationship. Jane’s friends warn her not to hang out with the mysterious and weird guy. One of Jane’s friends bullies Ben and insults his mother. This triggers Will into having an episode. Will kidnaps the guy and ties him. He intends to kill the guy for making fun of his mother. Luckily, before Will slices the guy’s throat, he is again visited by his mother’s ghost, who reveals that her death is actually not from suicide. Will’s friends, who have known him since children, are beginning to worry about their friend, who don’t talk much to them about his condition. Jane begins to suspect on her own that Will’s mother didn’t die from suicide. She suspects that it’s actually Will that killed his mother. Ben knows about this, and invites Jane to a meeting to discuss the truth. When the two meets, Ben reveals that it is him who has murdered his wife. Not wanting the truth to spread, Ben shoots Jane dead. Will suddenly breaks into the scene, and after finding his girlfriend dead, shoots his dad during one of his traumatic episodes: first on his knee, and then on his chest. Will’s friends, who are worried about their friend not showing up for their appointment together, finds him on the scene. Still in his episode, Will tries to kill his friends before killing himself. Now crying over their dead friend, they don’t realize that Ben is still alive and is rising to get to them. The end.
- Wew. This play was intense. But what’s making it even more intense is the lights and sound effects. They really built the tension. Props to those guys working with those.
- I don’t know about the scriptwriting process, but I suspect that Left is a thinly veiled adaptation of, you guessed it, Shakespeare’s Hamlet. All the ingredients are there: 1) some borderline insane guy gets visited by the ghost of his parent (but it’s the mother who’s dead in this play rather than the father), 2) the main character’s love interest gets sucked into the guy’s dark past and is killed because of it, 3) in the end, all the main characters die (or seem to be), leaving the main guy’s friends to be alive at the scene (for a while, I suppose).
- Okay, that was just my opinion. Maybe the writer will protest after this.
Now, recapping this recap
To end this awfully long rant, I have to say that I couldn’t afford to see these performances, who all had endured long periods of rehearsals, preparations, and sacrifices, just end up as mere one-time entertainment pieces.
Theater performances are art works, and the worst thing to happen to art is for it to be forgotten. All art that is forgotten is useless. Therefore, I just want to say that all this English Nite thing is not useless, after all.
Is anyone still there?