Fa Abdul’s Tales From The Scars reopens old wounds with ten monologues
Review by Hamidah Abd Rahman

Tales From The Scars, a play written by playwright and director, Fa Abdul, showcased 10 monologues that touched on the struggles that are found within the ordinary, everyday life. The play was first performed in Penang in 2018, and a year later at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. In December 2020, the show’s past production recording was screened on CloudTheatre, an online streaming platform for theatre shows.

The play consisted of 10 stories with different titles such as Big love, Starting All Over, Happily Unmarried, My Beef With God, The Contract, Leftover, Brown Man In A Hood, My Greatest Accomplishment, Forbidden Fruit and The Widower And His Pubic Hair.

The stated 10 monologues starred actors Farisha Nadia, Lenny Wan, Caroline Yeoh, Tilottama Pillai, Karam Tab, Sabrina Ameen, Sudhan Nair, Adilla Ismail, Sharmila Kana and Chacko Vadaketh.

The monologues highlighted and tackled issues of race relations, religion, family, identity and grief which were told from a Malaysian perspective. However, the stories would resonate with any person that watches the play, as the message within the monologues are universal in their appeal, as they were all about the human experience, and therefore relatable to all.

As opposed to depicting a performance with a dramatic approach, the only prop used was a chair in the middle of the stage, where actors would sit and bring their story to life. The vast, empty stage surrounding the actors inherently demonstrated an open image to the audience and assured that the discussion of the provoking monologue subjects were to be said within a safe space, with no judgement or worry.

Even though the show was witnessed online, it was evident that the audience that was present in the same room as the performance felt comfortable and had a connection with the different stories told. Not only were they active in providing reactions but they were also interacting with the actors on stage.

Each story gave insightful perspectives on different topics, but a personal favourite would be Forbidden Fruit acted by Sharmila Kana.

Sharmila’s monologue in Forbidden Fruit is told from the perspective of a young woman recounting her past desire to live a pious Christian life, following in the footsteps of her late grandmother. Nevertheless, she finds herself falling in love with another woman, Asha, whom she met at church.

The woman begins to struggle in accepting her sexuality, as well as battling against the guilt and fear towards her church and religious teachings. Her predicament leads her to come to a heart-breaking conclusion to reject Asha, as she chooses God over love. In the end, the woman implies to the audience that she lives in regret for that decision and has decided to spend her life waiting earnestly for Asha at the church in which they first met, in hopes that her lost lover returns.

Kana’s performance as the woman was heart-wrenching, as we slowly see the character progressively growing restless as she relives the trauma. Furthermore, the monologue feels almost personal as it touches on issues of religion, sexual identity, guilt and acceptance, all topics that are rarely brought up within the Malaysian society.

The character’s painful predicament to choose God or Love are relatable and are lived realities amongst people. Kana’s convincing acting provides an empathetic perspective and food for thought for the audience as to how we would like to negotiate religion and self-identity in this country, and provide basic human rights and acceptance of people to love whomever they want.

As the monologues unravel the raw, unfiltered thoughts that most humans already have in our existing everyday lives, Tales From The Scars turns into an admirable show. The play truly makes the audience consider and engage with empathy on perspectives that perhaps one would not have been aware of.

However, despite a positive show that was clearly admired by many, the stories felt like they could have been elevated had there been more movement from the actors. Perhaps it was a directorial decision to allow the monologues to deliver for themselves, but some came off as “telling” and not “showing”, as the stories felt no different from hearing an over-literal narration.

It is understood that the focus of the play was on the monologues, but any sort of added movement, physicality, and pacing within the speech and tone could have added some dynamism. There is nothing wrong with telling a story while sitting down on a chair in the centre of the stage, but it did come off as static.

Theatre has such limitless potential, that it was a shame to see such an underutilised stage. If some of the actors had incorporated movements or paced around the stage with intention when delivering their monologues, it could have added layers, depth and nuances to the stories, which would have further strengthened the connection with the audience.

Nevertheless, the poignant, honest and sensitive writing in the monologues proved Fa Abdul’s literary gift to provide stories that seemed to have been cut out from reality itself.

Tales From The Scars ran for two nights on CloudTheatre on Dec 18 and 19, 2020.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are strictly the author's own and do not reflect those of CENDANA. CENDANA reserves the right to be excluded from any liabilities, losses, damages, defaults, and/or intellectual property infringements caused by the views and opinions expressed by the author in this article at all times, during or after publication, whether on this website or any other platforms hosted by CENDANA or if said opinions/views are republished on third party platforms.

Hamidah Abd Rahman is a writer under the CENDANA - ASWARA Arts Writing Mentorship Programme 2020-2021.

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