Last night, I saw a collection of 4 plays at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) entitled Sisa Sisa (Jack doesn’t know what it means, I will ask another Malaysian friend soon). I loved ALL 4 plays, and marvelled at the brilliance of everyone in the cast. Three Doors (about a new widow sharing the loss of her three sons and facing a life alone; a monologue by Faridah Merican interrupted by almost genius commentary and prompts from Douglas Wong as dead husband and all 3 missing sons, and Ho Lee Ching as imaginary daughter-in-law wannabe, nursing home attendant, and dreadlocked homeless man) was just perfect, the rapport between the three actors was so spot on, and I felt this blow to the heart when Faridah as Mama said her last line, “I will be alone, and I will do just fine.” Another blow when Hanif from Blind Spot shared the moment he realised he had to sacrifice being with his son so that he won’t turn into the thing he feared the most about himself (and another blow while he demanded from Daniel why the latter knew there was such a blind spot in the KLCC parking lots). Not a blow this time, but a chuckle when I realised who the two actors were portraying in The Joy of Solitude (didn’t read the synopsis before coming in is why).
And then there’s Reservations, about a couple dealing with Alzheimer’s. I wouldn’t say it was the best one (I think Three Doors‘ material was much wittier and better realised), but it was the one that touched me the most. I guess because my grandmother died last year, and I’m still making sense of my grandfather’s grief, but also because I was thinking how I jumped over that hurdle of dealing with old age and all its deteriorations and went straight to loss. I loved how May (the wife, played by Amelia Tan) was so patient with her husband Edgar (played by Joe Hasham). I forgot that they were actors and believed that this is their everyday: breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast cooked in a suspicious pan, egg sandwich lor for lunch, and a choice of chicken, lamb or pork for dinner. Patience is not my strong point, but I believe in the power of love, and could see that when she took Edgar’s jacket from him to put away in the next room, although tinged with a hint of despair, you knew that she would go back to the kitchen and patiently defrost the chicken for him.
And it’s not as if she’s just submitting to this life without complaint; her real anxieties are revealed when she calls up the Malacca Grill to make dinner reservations and bewails that it’s been “closed for 20 years oredi.” But she sees how affected he is, remembers the man he used to be, and because she is still the woman who fell in love with that man and because she does still remember all that he has probably forgotten, she stays.
And that’s why it’s called a loss. It meant something to you. Edgar was weeping at the end of the play because he knows that whatever it is he can’t remember was valuable to him. Mama lost her husband but is grieving more over the loss of her sons and her own sense of self. Hanif sacrificed true love and his true self to save face for his conservative family, and then sacrificed his family to save them from himself, because having rejected his true self, it is only the possible monstrous version of it that he sees. If you don’t really care about something when you lose it, it’s not a loss. It is not grieved over, it is quickly replaced by other more important, more profoundly moving people, experiences.
As someone who has experienced such a loss, Sisa Sisa is gold. But I want another play to help me not be so afraid of losing again, and not be so afraid of caring so much about something I could lose. Maybe I should just be more patient.