Headline: Kicking Up The Heels
By Bissme S
NEW THEATRE production Men in Heels aims to dispel the many misconceptions about an oft-talked-about segment of society, while at the same time, show that despite our differences, we are all the same underneath.
The show will be staged at Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac), and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac) over the next few weeks. Recently, director Joe Hasham invited me to sit in on a few rehearsals.
From what I have seen, Men in Heels, produced under the banner of The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat, will take the audience on a roller coaster of emotions.
The production centers around three best friends – Ilya (played by Zhafir Muzani), Bryan (Ivan Chan), and Peter (Mark Beau de Silva) – recalling the best and worst times in their lives. At its core, it is an outrageously funny and heartachingly poignant look into the world of drag, as seen through the eyes of its three characters’ alter-egos. Initially, Joe had wanted a grand drag show with 10 to 15 dancers on stage.
He turned to klpac’s resident director and writer Mark to write the screenplay. Instead, Mark presented a script with a different tone from what Joe had imagined.
“I feel in love with the script immediately,” Joe recalls.
“It is a wonderful script of three men with gender issues. People are so critical of those who are different. We should be celebrating our differences.”
On his script, Mark says: “I am going into the psyche of these three individuals. We are looking at the world of drag on many levels. We are asking many questions about this world. “Are we defined by the clothes we wear? Are we defined by our gender roles? “Often, I hear words like: 'We have to tolerate people like them’. But tolerance is such a dirty word. We make them feel invisible, as if they do not exist.
“We are trying to represent them respectfully in this play.”
Director Joe agrees. He points out that the play will showcase some of the hilarious scenarios these characters encounter, as well as highlight the struggles they endure.
“In the play, we have three very different individuals, at very different stages in their life,” says Joe.
“They rely on each other, root for each other, and celebrate their individuality fiercely.”
llya, also known as Sahara or Labia Labu, loves tough-looking policemen. Sadly, the attraction only goes one way. Bryan, who is also known as Double Entendre, leads a double life, while Peter, aka Caroline Sik Nee, is a stylish lady who likes Laura Ashley prints and tea parties.
In one scene, Ilya recalls his first love, a former schoolmate, speaking with humour and sweetness. But when he goes on to
reveal that their love story does not have a happy ending, all the sweetness in Ilya’s voice disappears, and all one can hear is the sadness.
There are no tears in Ilya’s eyes, but you can feel the pain in his body language. Kudos to Zhafir for nailing these emotions in his character perfectly.
Joe has also shot six music video clips featuring the characters in drag, which will be intertwined with the play on stage. The actors also had to undergo two months of training to learn how to walk and dance in heels.
“The audience will see the glamorous side of the drag world, but behind the glamour, there is a lot of pain involved,” Joe says.
Footnote Men in Heels will be staged at klpac from Feb 24 to March 11, and at penangpac from March 16 to 17