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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Experimental Japanese play gets a Malaysian makeover

Posted: 19 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Girl X gets a Malaysian makeover for the upcoming Festival Belia Putrajaya 2014.

Two guys and a projector. On the surface, that's all that makes up Japanese play Girl X.

"There's no actual female actress," said script writer Suguru Yamamoto, explaining the irony. He added that the projector plays various roles, including several female characters that could be Girl X.

With just a projector and some imagination, Yamamoto creates a semi-fictional version of Tokyo, where Ryota (played by Sachiro Nomoto) and a nameless man (played by Kazuki Oohashi) interact with a cast of characters composed entirely of text.

The 26-year-old, who is also the play's director, says he chose to have actors interact with characters made out of text as a way to explore theatre in a way that was true to how people increasingly communicate through text, rather than face-to-face interaction.

"Communication isn't just people to people, it's people to small screen," said Yamamoto, matter-of-factly, during a recent interview at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya.

Ahmad Ghadafi Meliki plays half of the troubled duo in Gadis X, who encounter and interact characters and landscapes projected live onto the screen behind them.

Ahmad Ghadafi Meliki plays half of the troubled duo in Gadis X.

He insists that the projector is not meant to be the main feature of the play, but merely a way to explore theatre. He adds that the group took great care to bring a sense of theatre to the show, despite the modern additions.

Oohashi, 28, reckons that since there are no voices or physical characteristics given to the projected characters, it depends entirely on the audience's imagination to create the character that's "looked at".

"The actors and audience have to imagine the characters and sometimes, we see things differently," he said, adding that it made for an interesting challenge.

Nomoto, 26, explained that the two did not collaborate on what the characters were supposed to look like. "And it doesn't matter, as we perceive people differently, based on what kind of relationship we have with them," he said.

In the play, Ryota and the nameless man are barely linked to each others' lives, with one being the brother to the other's ex-girlfriend. The two, who share a connection in the form of a sister/ex-girlfriend dynamic, obviously see the woman in a different manner, explained Nomoto.

While they agreed to disagree over characters, the actors found they did need to see eye-to-eye on locations they were supposed to be in.

"Like in one scene set in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, we discussed what we were supposed to be looking at," recalled Nomoto.

Yamamoto was recently in Kuala Lumpur to have his play translated by Malaysian playwright Ayam Fared, as part of a collaboration facilitated by Kakiseni for the Festival Belia Putrajaya 2014, which runs from May 23-25.

The text heavy nature of the script made for quite a challenge for Ayam and actors Ahmad Ghadafi Meliki, 25, and Muhammad Shqirin Moh Shariff, 26, who helped translate it into Gadis X. It took the trio three gruelling 12-hour-days to translate the 45-page script.

"It was so difficult as we wanted an adaptation, not a translation. If we just wanted to translate, I could have just dumped it into Google translate and pressed enter," said Fared, drawing laughs from the Japanese crew.

He explained that an adaptation meant changing some locations and context – like how Gadis X is set in Kuala Lumpur, instead of Tokyo.

"It made me realise we have different slang, plus some Japanese characters can't be translated to Malay, so it was essential to catch the intent of the script," said Fared.

"Suguru's script was colloquial yet poetic, especially the monologues," praised Fared. He hopes the Malaysian version will be as elegant.


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