Anglo-Chinese School, Ipoh has a long tradition of staging Shakespearean plays that date back to the 1930s. And in the course of its transformation, has produced many prominent actors and actresses who went on to grace the Malaysian performing arts scene.
The school recently staged another brilliant play titled, “Charley’s Auntie”, the 76th in the series. For three consecutive days the play was open to the public to raise funds for the school’s maintenance fund.
Produced by the school’s Music and Drama Society, the production was a joint effort by students, former students and teachers. It tells the story of Jack and Charley who must propose to their girlfriends, Kitty and Amy, before they leave for London. The girls, however, prefer meeting Charley’s Auntie instead. The ladies’ late arrival forced Charley’s brother, Fuzzy, an avid cosplayer, to reluctantly agree to disguise himself as Charley’s auntie.
Things get complicated when Fuzzy’s father, Major Taufeeq, makes a surprise visit and the girls’ guardian, Megat, comes looking for the girls. Both men fall for the ‘woman’ whom they think is Charley’s Auntie and events get funnier, forthwith.
Things become more complicated when the real Charley’s Auntie turns up with a special someone in tow. The comedy heightens as the truth slowly unfolds. Charley and Jack finally manage to propose to their girlfriends providing some comic relief that get the audience in stitches.
Ipoh Echo met with Director Xavier Fong who had this to say about the play. “The production is a change from the norms. I’ve combined it with elements of Japanese anime, which I am experimenting with. The public’s response is most encouraging.”
The plot, which centred on a purely Malaysian theme, resonates well with the audience. The humour is neither dry nor racy.
The employment of traditional Japanese Kabuki theatre techniques, using stage hands dressed in black, was an interesting change from the past. However, a limited knowledge of Cantonese is required to understand the jokes. Most would have missed the jokes without someone conversant in the dialect to translate them. That aside, the performance of the actors were admirable, to say the least. They succeeded in conveying the director’s intentions, transforming them into action.
Charley’s Auntie is based on a script written by Brandon Thomas in 1895. It was given a Malaysian twist by Richard Harding Gardner and has since been staged six times in the country.