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Confined spaces
By Aref Omar
| aref@
Open ended and abstract, the one-woman apocalyptic Walls surely tested the patience of its audience, writes Aref Omar
WHAT remains when you are the last person on Earth? That’s the question put forth by the latest production from Five Arts Centre, titled Walls.
The experimental play follows the journey of an unnamed female protagonist who, during a vacation in Janda Baik with her husband, suddenly finds herself alone and boxed in when a transparent wall mysteriously appears.
Based on the 2012 German film, The Wall, which in turn was an adaptation of Austrian author Marlen Haushofer’s 1963 dystopian novel of the same name, the female lead then struggled to survive and make sense of her bizarre and restrictive circumstance.
The localised setting had Mislina Mustaffa diving ecstatically into the role playing the confused city dwelling woman who is initially a fish out of water. Having to relinquish her material ways, her rants of being unfortunate enough to get stuck in a secluded area rather than in Pavilion or KLCC — to feed her obsession, in particular, with Birkin bags — were hilarious.
With her tech gadgets unusable and no help arriving, she rethinks her situation and slowly learns to carry on by living off her supplies, the fruits and animals of the surrounding forest and her garden — this after much exploration of her contained environment.
Her only companions were a cow and her husband’s loyal dog, played to quirky effect by Chi Too, who also portrayed her husband before the advent of the wall’s appearance and in flashbacks.
It’s during the snippets of her introspective memories that the audience get a glimpse of the lone woman’s life.

From her frustrated feelings of being married to her fervent activist husband (they met at a rally) to her identity crisis and religious ruminations (since he’s also a Chinese Muslim convert), many of the issues highlighted seemed as confining and analogically boxed in as the situation she was in.

Staged in Publika’s Black Box, the wide performance area was dressed in grey plastic sheets — wrapped around props, cut up and lined in various ways — to portray the environment, from her abode to the hill side and foliage area.
Much of the play’s 90-minute duration were taken up by scenes, set at a glacial pace, which concerned her wandering around the confined space, discovering the boundaries of the strange wall and her failed attempts at trying to find a way out.

Many things were left unexplained in this play. Who created the mysterious wall and how is it sustained? And those are just the obvious questions.

But perhaps directors Hari Azizan and Wong Tay Sy should have shortened the physical wanderings for more meaty monologues from the lead or conversations with her missing husband to really flesh her out to the audience — the best parts of the play were the revealing dialogue sessions, after all.

Towards the end a person suddenly appears only to kill her dog and cow before she shoots the intruder dead with a rifle she had found earlier during her excursions of discovery.

Stripped of the confining checklist of boxes that defined her prior to her strange predicament and with a sense of acceptance, by the end she seemed to have found the courage to make the best of things with optimistic grit — while the audience was left wondering about her impending fate with no answer in sight.

Walls is the kind of play that presents a little nibble of things and leaves it to the audience to figure out and formulate for themselves what the unexplained events really mean or represent.
From that perspective it provided much food for thought and reflective discussion but those with a shorter attention span might just wander off into their own spaces, confined or not.

When: Today (8.30pm) and tomorrow (3pm)
Where: Black Box@MAPKL, Level G2-01, Block A5, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur
Admission: RM55 and RM25 (students and senior citizens)
Call 016-6892 485 or visit www.kakiseni.com/events/walls/
Mislina (left) and Chi in a scene from Walls.
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