Still Great – Brickfields Now & Then Review

April 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm

It is certainly not easy to entertain a crowd by just sitting there and talking to yourself. But Thor Kah Hoong made it look so simple as he recounted his childhood memories to the audience on the opening night of his performance, Brickfields Now & Then. This latest edition is presented in two separate plays, 4 acts each with an introduction at the beginning of each part.

The play, which is a monologue, went splendidly as Thor Kah Hoong, perfectly at ease on stage, masterfully entertained the audience with stories of his childhood. The words that rolled off his tongue so glibly conjured up images of his antics as his words transported us back to a time where children fought imaginary wars and went on treasure hunts having been inspired by the onscreen adventures of Hollywood icons of yesteryear. Although it was a bit disconcerting seeing him dressed as a primary schoolboy, he manages to portray the cheekiness that is a common trait among young boys. The audience could not help but smile and sympathised with him as the young boy pleaded his case against his higher authorities, and were pained when the inevitable punishment was meted out. And all laughed, of course, when the young boy continued in his own ways, undeterred by the adversity he had endured.

Some of the gems that Thor shared in this play include “OooooOO! Tarzan chou lou poh!” – a Cantonese childhood rhyme that he and his motley crew of adventurers sang lustily after learning it from a wealthy man from the Brickfields neighbourhood; “It’s not fair!” – the young boy’s defiant battle cry against the all powerful figures of authority; and the eraser retrieval technique, used by schoolboys to spy up their teachers’ skirts.

Thor Kah Hoong in Brickfields Now & Then I

It would be foolish, however, to dismiss Thor’s monologue as mere rants or an elaborate telling of oral history. Each of the acts in this Part 1 is well crafted and allows the audience to contemplate on aspects of life that many seem to take for granted.

In Brickfields, the Movie, the Sequel, Thor shows us how Lido Theatre, a smelly and dirty local cinema, became a gateway to worlds filled with untold adventures that he and his friends re-lived every evening along the streets of their neighbourhood. He contrasts his own childhood filled with social, fun-filled, boisterous children with the current highly individualistic generation hooked to mobile phones and the Internet, leaving the audience to ponder on the merits of the change that has come about through the years.

In Crime and Punishment, we see a young Thor engaged in a conversation with the ‘Voice of Authority’. The unseen booming voice, often all knowing, is a perfect foil to Thor’s youthful primary schoolboy. The conversation is more of a debate, as Thor riles against the irrationality of what is supposed to be the logical ways of the scholastic world. He excels in this role, as he shows the audience that a young primary schoolboy is often no simple creature, but filled with curiosity, intellect, spirit and possesses an uncanny knack of always landing himself into trouble, no matter how much he tries to avoid it. The glee in which he devises and implements his small schemes is infectious as is his pleas and meek protestations whenever his endeavours are thwarted at every turn by his unseen yet omnipresent teacher.

Thor Kah Hoong in his primary schoolboy uniform

The schoolboy continues his journey in Like That Shock Meh?, where he embarks on an incidental exploration of the ever taboo subject of sex. He fails at first to understand what the fuss is all about, and returns to his boyish world of comic books and games after his innocent inquiries led him to be punished for ‘nothing’. The topic, however, does not leave the boy alone, and Thor discovers that the price of knowledge can sometimes be a permanent one.

Part 1 ends with I Sent Him to Boot Hill, a personal account of a private childhood rivalry that Thor did not even know he was part of. Set in the gardens and toy filled bungalows of a pre-independent Malaya, Thor weaves a dramatic tale of petty prejudices, childish greed and naïve innocence. Little did Thor, the native child, realise that his private stand against an insolent young English boy in the waning days of British glory would actually serve as a fitting analogy to the historic event that would take place on 31 August 1957.

What happened to the boy after that? Find out in Brickfields Now & Then II. We seriously recommend it.

Brickfields Now & Then (Both 1 and 2) is currently playing at the Actors Studio at Lot 10. Tickets are priced at RM 33 for adults and RM 15 for students and the disabled. For more information, please call 03 2142 2009 or 2143 2009 or log on to www.theactorsstudio.com.my

The dates and times of the performance is as below:
13 April @ 8.30 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 2
14 April @ 8.30 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 2
No show on the 15th April
16 April @ 3.00 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 1
16 April @ 8.30 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 2
17 April @ 3.00 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 1
17 April @ 8.30 pm – Brickfields Now & Then 2

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