YOU could easily have heard a pin drop when Inessa Irdayanty Khairil Anwar acted out her nightmare as the child of an abusive and drunken father. The audience was totally caught in the whirlpool of emotions, and the fear, anger and pain coursing through Family Portrait, the drama which won the Inti College Drama Competition award recently, was almost palpable.
“It was a challenging piece but it helped that it was based on an issue close to our hearts,” said the SMK (P) Sri Aman student.
The 14-year-old added that she only had a week to practise before the first audition on May 22.
“As this was my first time performing in front of a live audience, I was really nervous but I managed to overcome my anxiety,” said Inessa.
Her “mother”, played by 16-year-old Shangari Subramaniam, had written the script for the play.
“We brainstormed the story line and wrote it within a month, but the biggest hurdle was getting the cast together,” said Shangari who gave a riveting performance as a wife who blamed herself for her husband's behaviour.
She added that the actors had to be talented, fluent in English, and physically suited to the characters they played.
“Being a director for the first time was also very exciting. I learnt that teamwork is the essence of putting a play together,” she said.
Performed at The Actors Studio in Bangsar, the play, which involved 15 talented students, won over the hearts of the audience and, of course, the judges.
“They told the story in a very simple way, and this was terribly effective. A good play does not necessary demand a lot of props or elaborate costumes,” said chief judge Joe Hasham, from The Actors Studio.
Faridah Merican said that the play also met other criteria such as good articulation and staging, and was very effective in getting its message across to the audience.
“The winner did a great job of encapsulating the message within the 25 minutes' time limit, and the audience was fully able to appreciate what was happening on stage,” she explained.
SMK (P) Sri Aman was one of six schools that had managed to make it to the finals of the competition, organised by Inti College Malaysia, to vie for the grand prize of a challenge trophy, RM1,000 in cash, a printer for the winning school and gifts for its members.
Inti's judges for the competition included Inti associate vice president and School of Languages and Liberal Arts dean Dr Lim Ho Peng, Cynthia Cheong and Gurmit Singh. Besides giving students exposure to the world of performing arts, the competition aimed to provide a platform for students to express their artistic talents, and they certainly did not disappoint the audience.
The wide range of ideas and issues brought out in the plays was also testimony to the students' creativity.
Hin Hua Independent School students used The Way Home as a vehicle to relate the poignant story of a mother's love for her daughter.
“Teenagers tend to assume that their parents do not love or care about them when in actual fact, most parents would risk their lives for them anytime,” said Maureen Gunardja, 19, who played the role of the mother.
The Indonesian student added that she had been playing the role of “mother” in school plays ever since she was 13 years old.
“Apparently, I look like a mom, think like a mom and care for others the way a mom does,” said Maureen.
The boys from SMK Dato' Hamzah (acting in King Phratabong Chavatee) and SMK La Salle, Klang, (in Asoka), also proved they were a force to be reckoned with. Clad in sarees and Thai silk, they put up excellent performances. In fact, some of them could easily have been mistaken for girls if not for their deep voices.
The theatre was magically transformed into the kingdom of Siam in King Phratabong Chavatee, and later to stark, bleak Malaya during the Japanese Occupation in SMK Seafield's No Dram of Mercy.
Reuben Kang Wei Jin, 17, who won the Best Actor award during the preliminary round, gave an excellent portrayal of a Japanese general. The SMK Seafield student said performing on stage was an eye-opening experience.
“I thought I should try acting at least once in my life, and now that I have done so, I find that I've actually enjoyed it. I've learnt so much from this experience, especially about staying focused and meditating when you're nervous,” he added.
Also commended for their effort were students from Chong Hwa Independent High School who performed Sweet and Sour, a powerful story of incest and rape.