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A divorcee tells his story
THE protagonist of The Necessary Stage's new one-man show Best Of (His Story) is not the kind of man most women would contemplate marrying.
Played by Sani Hussin, he is simple, insecure, narrow-minded, unambitious and borderline misogynistic. He never talks about his work, which leads one to assume he's unemployed. His wife has recently divorced him after calling him "jantan dayus" - an extreme insult which in Malay means an "unmasculine man".
Yet, if one had to take sides, it may very well be the wife's.
Three years ago, The Necessary Stage created Best Of, a one-woman show starring one of theatre's favourite leading ladies, Siti Khalijah Zainal. She played a woman who had recently divorced her husband and was facing the social and religious implications of doing so.
Best Of (His Story), as the title suggests, turns the tables to tell the ex-husband's side of the story. Sani is a seasoned actor in the TV, film and theatre scene. But admittedly he doesn't have the theatrical star wattage of Siti - a casting choice that may be intentional, or not.
This new monologue, written by Haresh Sharma and directed by Alvin Tan, has the same meandering quality of its predecessor. Various tangential anecdotes are weaved into a retelling of the day the protagonist goes to Syariah Court to finalise his divorce. They include memories of his National Service years and the friends he made. They also recall his affectionate relationship with his grandfather who told him stories from the Koran and taught him about Islam.
These recollections display the tender, sentimental side of his character. But they are soon offset by his less-likeable traits, such as his casual misogyny and his deep-seated feelings of inferiority. At one point, he concludes through faulty logic that Muslim women in Singapore are less religious than the men. At another, he lashes out at a group of evangelising Christians at an MRT station.
His is a character not privileged by the Singapore stage - a lowly educated average Joe who spouts non-politically correct remarks and speaks English with obvious discomfort. He exists in the lower-rungs of society where art, politics and the media rarely explore. The Necessary Stage, a theatre company committed to indigenous stories, is once again showing us a side of Singapore often kept hidden.
There is, however, a niggling issue about Sani's performance. When he is in an ensemble, he always interacts well with his co-stars and holds his own. But here, given the entire stage, he fails to take command of it. Sometimes, he cowers in it as if he's not entirely comfortable facing a roomful of strangers. Perhaps, it is in keeping the weak character he plays. Perhaps, the actor lacks the requisite presence for a one-man show. Maybe, it's just first-night jitters. But here's hoping he grows into the role over the course of the run.
- Best Of (His Story) plays at The Necessary Stage's Black Box, Marine Parade CC, from now till Nov 13. Tickets from Sistic