Categorised | Columns

Historical threesomes


Patrick Teoh as US President Franklin D Roosevelt during the
script reading of The Yalta Conference
LAST Tuesday, on 19 Oct 2009, I attended a script reading of The Yalta Conference at the Instant Café House of Arts and Ideas (Chai). It was Japanese playwright Hirata Oriza‘s fictitious account of the wartime meeting held in February 1945 among US President Franklin D Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin.

In the play, the leaders discuss the shape of the post-war world, but the meeting is more like a kids’ birthday party. Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin slurp tea and gobble chocolates and cookies while quarrelling about how the world is to be divided. In one scene, Roosevelt exclaims, “Then we’ll go kapow!”, holding his arms up in the shape of a mushroom cloud.  Stalin mischievously puts a thumbtack on Roosevelt’s chair when he’s not looking. Churchill wants Korea and more cake. They hide secrets from each other, conspire one-on-one, bicker and gloat. Really, just like children.

The Yalta Conference was part of a series of events held at Chai in conjunction with its Global Playwrights Series and the theme of “history”. The reading itself was a precursor to the more fascinating aspect of the evening: an interactive playwriting session, in which we imagined three historical persons, living or dead, in an encounter with one another. What would they say to each other, and how would their different beliefs, ideals and experiences colour their meeting? More importantly, who would we, as Malaysians, pick to be part of this scenario? What were the stories and issues we wanted to explore through these people, using what we knew of their voice, their personalities?

Threesomes

We were divided into groups of three to discuss and conjure up a fictitious story involving various individuals from an eclectic list of threesomes. They involved, among others, P Ramlee; Tunku Abdul Rahman; model Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno; Aisha, wife of the Prophet Mohammad; Mahatma Gandhi; excommunicated Malayan communist Chin Peng; once-upon-a-time Kuala Lumpur founder Yap Ah Loy; exotic dancer Rose Chan; Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin; PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim; and even Raja Bersiong, legendary ruler of Kedah who supposedly feasted on human blood. We were tasked with coming up with a synopsis: what would three of these unlikely personalities talk about if they were in the same room together at any given time?


Kartika
In the process of conjuring our story, we had to bear in mind this salient point: would we be able to get away with sharing our stories without offending certain quarters? It was all well and good to discuss these things in a playwriting session, but if we were to tell these stories in the public arena, what could we get away with? There would be some who hold these figures in high regard, while others might see them in quite the opposite light.

Any rewriting of history, which involves reinterpreting these personalities’ ideologies and real-world experiences and contributions, runs the risk of offending. And depending on the roles these figures played or still play in real life, the writing and telling of juxtaposed encounters might cause the story to fall into the category of being a “sensitive subject”. The last thing anyone would want is a defamation suit or a charge of sedition on their hands.

That said, P Ramlee and Tunku are known to have been enamoured of their drink. Put them together with Kartika, who only recently was sentenced to whipping for being caught imbibing beer, and you have the basis for an intriguing story. One team paired Kartika with the Prophet’s wife Aisha, whereupon the two discussed morality, spirituality and compassion. And then Gandhi was thrown into the mix, he being a proponent of non-violence and non-discrimination who allegedly had a thing for virgins. Oy.

Another team selected Yap Ah Loy, Chin Peng and Rose Chan, and tried to come up with a story concerning a shared memory of Malaysia. Three differing but distinct viewpoints. There was the thuggish Yap’s perspective of his early days, having — purportedly, some might claim — founded Kuala Lumpur. There was Chin Peng, who was born in the country in the 1920s and withdrew to Thailand during the Emergency, and whose recent bid to return failed. And there was Rose Chan, Queen of Striptease who reigned supreme in the late 50s and early 60s, who perhaps viewed her life in Kuala Lumpur through rose-tinted glasses. Heh.  

Anwar, Che and Rose


(Che image public domain; rose pic by matka / sxc.hu)

My team selected the unlikely trio of Anwar Ibrahim, Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara, and Rose Chan. We came up with a story that perhaps shouldn’t be shared here in its entirety.

But just take into consideration Anwar’s bid to be prime minister, and his sodomy case. Then consider that Che Guevara played a part in overthrowing governments, and could probably pass along his knowledge and experience. And Rose Chan was a sexual revolutionary in her own right, who probably would have had some good advice on… cleaning up after oneself. Connect the dots, and we wind up with an outline for an interesting play, even if just a flimsy one. Never mind that two out of the three are dead; we could bring two of them back to life — or simply kill the third. It might not ever see the light of day, but hey, we had fun putting it together.

So I end this edition of Merely Playing with an invitation for you to ponder: which three persons would you like to see in the same room together? What would they talk about? Would they share their ideals or would they butt heads? At least one of them should be Malaysian, or have links to this nation. P Ramlee, Michael Jackson and PAS Youth chief Nasrudin Hassan Tantawi? Manohara Odelia Pinot, socialite Paris Hilton and the Man Formerly Known As Prince? If you could rewrite history — or at the very least, twist it — who would you pick?


Chai continues its theme of “history” into November, including a conversation between Emeritus Professor Tan Sri Khoo Kay Tim and his son, Eddin Khoo, on 31 Oct 2009, and a reading of Top Girls by UK playwright Caryl Churchill on 10 Nov 2009. This will be followed by another interactive playwriting session. For the complete list of events, visit instantcafetheatre.com.

Nick Choo is copy editor and graphic designer for The Nut Graph. He thinks the story of Anwar, Che and Rose should be made into an actual play. He would call it Che! Anwar Rose.

The Nut Graph needs your support

Post to Twitter Post to Google Buzz Post to Delicious Post to Digg Post to Facebook Post to StumbleUpon

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Historical threesomes”

  1. Eina says:

    Altantuya Shaariibuu, Mahsuri and Shamsiah Fakeh. Now that would be a story that beats SATC [Sex and the City] anytime.

  2. Andrew I says:

    Bernie Madoff, George Michael and Chua Soi Lek.

    What do you do for kicks when money really isn’t a problem?

  3. jim says:

    Anwar, [former IMF chief Michel] Camdesus and (convicted fraudster) Bernard Madoff. Can’t imagine the ideas generated to scheme the gullible world.

    Or Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Anwar. Talk about sexual revolution!

  4. Andrew I says:

    Bernie didn’t just want to do anyone, they had to be invited. George wanted to dance with guilty feet (and hands) in a shiny urinal-themed disco. And someone couldn’t get that tune out of his head, what’s it called, I Want Some…

    Bananarama. It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It.


Most Read (Past 3 Months)

Most Comments (Past 3 Months)

  • None found

Advertisement


<

Advertisement


  • The Nut Graph

 

Switch to our mobile site