2 days after watching Natrah, and post-reading Ajami Hashim's review at http://ajamihashim.blogspot.com/2009/12/natrah-persembahan-komersialisme.html
Thanks Ajami for reminding me of the backstory right at the opening, I agree that was important information that was too rushed. That frustrated me because I had to refer to the programme book in the dark to try and read up so I could get a sense of what the set-up was.
Since Ajami has mentioned technical aspects of the show, I have to tokok tambah here too I guess. Istana Budaya's in-house audio technical facilities alone cannot support a production. Unfortunately, if a production team doesn't have the means or resources to hire "outside" additional equipment, you will only find out when a production is already at technical rehearsal stage or worse still, on opening night, by which time it will be too late to make changes as it involves additional rigging and would involve a whole extra day of additional tech runs to test out the sound. Most unfortunately, the point about poor audio quality seems to be a struggle only a few of us notice (though in my books, a play is ALL about that you HEAR, besides what you see, or you will have no idea what the drama is all about). Thank goodness there were English subtitles on the side, but how ridiculous is it to have to watch a play whilst reading subtitles the whole way!
When we put PGL and P Ramlee on stage, we had no choice but to hire sound equipment and sound engineers that cost the production hundreds of thousands of RM. Sigh. Hopefully somewhere down the road, I.B will consider upgrading its inhouse audio facilities so that the cost needn't be borne by independent producers like me!
On the matter of subtitles, I feel even songs need to be subtitled, especially if the songs are in any way part of the story telling, otherwise you will lose the subtitle-dependent audience for a big part of the evening.
However, all grouses and niggly bits aside, Natrah was still a very commmendable effort on the part of Erma Fatimah and the Istana Budaya team. It's no mean feat putting together a production of ANY size, big or small, it still takes blood, sweat and tears to get a show off the ground and running on stage, so my hats off to IB, Erma and their dedicated team of actors and crew for that.
I need to make a special mention of the sets which I felt were quite impressive, especially the final cathedral scene and the huge statue of Mary. I spotted a Jewish design element in the Cathedral scene that, if was meant to be deliberate is fine, otherwise it couldn't be right in a Roman Catholic church. But not many people would know and even bat an eyelid anyway. Its nice to see that sets are designed to be much more mobile these days, and scene changes much smoother because of this.
The back projection was also very impressive. I'm glad I.B decided to hire the same team that worked on both PGL as well as P.Ramlee Musicals, working on our back projections because these are tried-and-tested people who have run more than 100 performances in the past with us.
I do see the evolution of our theatre industry today, having been on stage in all manner and size of stage productions for almost 20 years (!). There really does seem to be hope in sight for our industry. We just need everyone to continue to believe in it, be genuinely interested in it and support it, from the top down. We need to continuously produce compelling writing/stories, think of innovative new ways to put on shows, and train more and more new people all across the value chain. Corporations and the government can be the greatest help where providing funding is concerned, because quality costs and ticket collections alone cannot guarantee returns. And the audience, needs to hang on in there whilst we get our act together, to try and continuously provide Malaysia with artistic entertainment of an acceptable quality.
take a bow, Erma.