By PAWIT MAHASARINAND
FANS of local theatre will probably still recall Noor Effendy Ibrahim’s solo performance, “Dancing with The Ghost of My Child” at Sodsai Pantoomkomol Centre for Dramatic Arts in early 2013. It earned plenty of praise, with Canberra Critics Circle’s Alanna Maclean describing it as “a deeply mature, moving and challenging piece that played with gender roles and the longing for a child”.
Effendy is now back in town with “Si Ti Kay”, a work that explores gender, power, pleasure and pain issues, among others.
His director’s statement reads, “In the beginning, god created despair, for man to find hope within. I know I have heard someone say this somewhere before sometime back, but I’m not too sure who, when and where. It must have been god herself who had said this through some men. I mean, who else could be that smart to tease men into such futility other than god herself? So there you have it. And here I find myself being teased into my own despair, holding on to too much faith, knowing that hope for me lies deep within. Gingerly, I slide a finger in, resting, probing. Somehow sensing the despair within feels warmer, softer, safer, I slide in another finger, followed by my thumb. But reason suddenly makes me pull both fingers out almost instantaneously, reason that too often leads to greater despair. I am confused. My thumb is still inside.
“The title really has no meaning other than the sounds it makes with ‘Si’, ‘Ti’, and ‘Kay’,” he tells XP.
“However, it’s inspired by a friend and one of the most talented young female actors in Singapore, Siti Khalijah, but who’s known endearingly as Siti K for short. The performance has nothing to do with her in any way. If it were not ‘Si Ti Kay’, then I would’ve borrowed another friend's name. Maybe for my next work?”
The July 2012 premiere of “Si Ti Kay”–the photos of which are seen here – at the Esplanade Theatre Studio, was a production by Cake Theatrical Productions but was “by invitation only”.
“It was scheduled to be presented for public for three performances or so, but after sitting in on several of the rehearsals, The Esplanade was uncomfortable with several images created by the performers and cautioned that they might be offensive to certain audience members. To cut the story short, The Esplanade wanted the identified images and scenes to be taken out totally or reworked, but Cake Theatrical Productions was able to negotiate instead a one-performance for an invited audience list only with no changes to any parts of the performance,” Effendy explains,
The Flying Inkpot’s Tan Sock Keng critic had this to say about the performance, “
Four performers engage in a series of unnerving acts. The action takes place initially at a white dining table in a white prop house placed in the centre of the Esplanade's Theatre Studio, which audience members are encouraged to view from various angles. All the performers are dressed in white – the men in straitjackets and the sole woman in a lacy, full-length bodysuit – though the red lingerie sported by the men under their straitjackets provides a curious contrast.
“Beginning with a peaceful family dinner, the performers start to interact with each other physically in increasingly disturbing ways. For example, while the performers begin the show eating normally, they soon start to eat grains of rice off each other's fingers while one performer unsettlingly pours milk from a jug into a glass over and over again. Later, the performers dispersed into three corners of the Theatre Studio, engaging in separate acts simultaneously that ranged from wrestling with a piece of cow liver to simulating sex.”
As for this Bangkok run, Effendy says, “I approached BACC in the middle of last year to study possibilities of a Singapore-Thailand artist exchange while I was still the artistic director of The Substation in Singapore.”
And as for why he particularly picked this controversial work when BACC offered a space in the 4th Performative Art Festival, he says, “It’s a work that was denied a larger audience, and I’d always wanted to revisit it when the opportunity presented itself.”
Effendy says there are no major changes from the 2012 production, other than three new artists, a performer, a lighting designer and a sound artist.
The public, with or without “Si Ti Kay” tickets, are also welcome to take part in two artist dialogue sessions, this Saturday afternoon and again the following week. In English and Thai, they are on the topics of, respectively, “Challenges in Creating Art for an International Audience” and “Understanding Collaborative Approaches to Interdisciplinary Art Practice.”
“The two discussions are real opportunities for open dialogue between myself and the ‘Si Ti Kay’ team which consists of multi-disciplinary artists, a few of whom already have international exposure, with the Thai audience,” Effendy explains.
“With these, the aim is to have a better understanding of artistic dialogue within the Southeast Asian region, especially on contemporary theatre/performance.”
And as another Flying Inkpot critic Kenneth Kwok wrote, “It [‘Si Ti Kay’] punches you in the face and then smacks you around,” I will not miss this bout.