What happens when caregivers need care themselves?

  • Arts
  • Friday, 08 Nov 2019

A rehearsed reading of 'The Carer’s Monologue & Chorus', featuring (from left) Ali Alasri, Hannan Barakbah, Leow Puay Tin and Darryn Wee, will take place at KL's Five Arts Centre on Nov 9. Photo: Centre 42

Theatre practitioner and academic Leow Puay Tin, synonymous with works like Three Children (1984), A Modern Woman Called Ang Tau Mui (1993) and Family (1995) usually reads her own writings as she writes.

“I do this to hear the ‘voice’ in my head, to check if the content and form are coming together, ” reveals Leow in a recent interview.

Leow is in the process of writing several new plays, scheduled for next year.

A new work called The Carer’s Monologue & Chorus is being developed and this time, Leow is employing a new method – a rehearsed reading. This one night, free admission event is on at the Kotak space, Five Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 9.

Directed by Fasyali Fadzly, the 50-minute rehearsed reading will feature Ali Alasri, Darynn Wee, Hannan Barakbah and Leow.

“This is the first time I am using readings to test the work-in-progress. So far, I have found that it is more economical and effective than doing a studio or workshop performance, ” says Leow, a performing arts lecturer.

The Carer’s Monologue & Chorus revolves around an 86-year-old woman who is a connoisseur of Chinese opera. As she grapples with the breaking down of her body due to old age, those around her are forced to confront hard truths about mortality, including their own.

“The central theme of the play is about ageing and dying, ” says Fasyali, 36, who teaches theatre studies at Aswara in KL.

“It is common to hear of middle-ageing and elderly people saying they don’t want to live with their children. Then who is supposed to take care of them? If not the family, then who? For me, it is a big question. What happens when the care-givers, the carers, start to need care?” says Leow.

The collaborative process with the playwright has been an open one, with input suggested by the cast.

“In rehearsal, we comment on characters and plot and we ask Puay Tin questions regarding the play," says Fasyali.

“Then she comes to each rehearsal with new ideas and a new draft. She claims she is a very chronic reviser. And I agree!” he adds.

Leow brought Fasyali on board for this project after watching his staging of Are You Game, Sau (dara)? in KL and Singapore early this year. In this commissioned work by Singapore theatre outfit Centre 42, Fasyali and his team had to create a work responding to Leow’s Three Children.

“After that project, she approached me and asked if I’m interested in directing her new play. With no second thought, I said 'yes' because I took this as an opportunity to learn from her, ” reveals Fasyali, who also has directed shows such as Teater Juta-Juta (2011), Kotak Hitam (2011) and Ingatan (2017).

Leow says that this collaborative process is truly beneficial to her as a playwright.

“It is very useful to hear other theatre people reading the draft. Problems come up very quickly especially when they are reading it cold and then I try to fix it. I want to use this approach for my future works, ” says Leow concludes.

The full version of the play is expected to be released next year.

The Carer’s Monologue & Chorus is on at Kotak, Five Arts Centre, 27 Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 9. Showtime: 8.30pm. Free admission. Facebook: Five Arts Centre.

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