Review: Sidung Burung
No, I do not speak Malay – but thanks to clever subtitles, I am able to at least provide a cursory review of this production, staged by Teatre Ekamatra at the Esplanade. The english title of the play is “Conference of the Birds“, adapted from the original Persian text of the same name.
I have to say, this is the first time I had ever watched a non-English production here – I was not actually informed beforehand by Yisheng that it was, but I am glad I went, in keeping with my new life mission to experience and do things I normally would not do.
Sidung is a rather poetic, artsy, abstract kind of play. The actors speak in verse and in formal, archaic Malay, and the themes explored are rather profound. The play shifts in between the extraordinary and ordinary seamlessly – between the group of birds who trying to find their God and King, Simurgh, and a old man and a young boy visiting a Bird Park. You are left in confusion about what reality is – if there is a reality at all.
I found the first 30 minutes of the play ridiculously pretentious – it felt like an amateurish JC arts production. The costumes were rather unforgivable, and the over-preachy verses could get on anyone’s nerves. But I was rewarded for sticking it through to the end, because it got a lot better, and they proved it wasn’t just pretentiousness, that there was indeed substance and flavour.
One of the things I found interesting about the play was actually the preaching of the lead bird, in trying to rally all the birds to the cause of finding their God-king. I am quite aware that the identities of Malay and Islam are inseparable to most people, and the play did indeed reference Islam many times. That was fine – but what I found really interesting was that the preaching had decidely Christian undertones to it. Maybe I was the only one who thought so – and I will probably get rotten tomatoes thrown at me for saying this.
Another interesting thing was the idea that we are limited by our understanding of the world, in trying to find God and Truth. The birds, for example, were in a twisted way, seeking their God-King, who, if you zoom out the camera to reality, was the bird-keeper of the Bird Park. Or was he? You will never know.
All in all, it was indeed an eye-opening venture into untrodden waters.
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