Dragon Side of Demure Princesses - Naga Women

Whether in pop cultural reference or in your weekly tête-à-tête at the local mamak, the term ‘Dragon Lady’ is usually a negatively-connoted stereotype of women who are usually characterized as strong, deceitful, domineering or mysterious. 

In efforts to redefine the dysphemism, three theatre powerhouses will come together in one sensational collaboration appropriately titled NAGA WOMEN, featuring theatre stalwart, Sabera Shaik in her solo as the beautiful but dark princess Puteri Saadongthe famed Rajika Puri as Eleni of Sparta, and Anita Ratnam in her captivating solo in A Million SitasNAGA Women which translates to Dragon Women, promises not just dance but a novel way of storytelling.

  

Originating from Kelantan, Puteri Saadong - a dark tale of obsessive loverevolves around a beautiful princess, who out of love for her country Tanah Serendah Sekebun Bunga Cherang Tegayong or Kota Tegayong, agrees to follow the King of Siam and become his concubine. She vowed to return to her husband in two months. Her husband vowed to wait until she returns, and although he waited, he remarried after a few years. Upon her return, Puteri Saadong was overcome with rage to find him married and in a heated argument, killed her husband with her hair pin.  

Following some years of ensemble acting, Sabera Shaik now concentrates on one-woman plays, most notably in her solo performance as Lady Swettenham in 2011. In this new reinterpretation of Puteri Saadong, she hopes to show off a stronger and fiercer “dragon-lady” side of the demure Malay princess.  

“The princess is a rich, multi-layered character,” said Sabera, “also chose her because I am KelantaneseIt’s a monologue with no props and I’m setting out to tell her story through my movement and elaborate costume, accompanied by music performed by Kamarul Bahrain and Susan John,” said Sabera who also wrote the script.  

Also taking the stage at DPAC is noted scholar of Indian dance, Rajika Puri, who will narrate scene from Homer’s Illiad, specifically in the mythical role of Eleni of Sparta, who is famously touted as the “face that launched a thousand ships”; recounting the life of the queen of Sparta known as 'Helen of Troy', through gesture, dance, and songs in ancient Greek, interwoven with an English text, and accompanied by master percussionist Suchet Malhotra, on a range of world instruments. 

A Million Sitas is a neo bharatam dance-theatre performance by activtist, choreographer and one of India’s most recognised dance icons, Anita Ratnam. Anita who has perfomed in over 27 countries over the last four decades, uses Sita expertly as a connecting link to explore the nuances of various other women in the Ramayana. Here the audience will not only see, but feel and breathe Sita in her role as a mother, as a friend, as a wife, as a woman. According to Anita, there is a bit of Sita in every woman. 

Although each artiste will showcase her solo performance in separate roles and stories, the stories possess the ability to melt effortlessly in what promises to be an exceptional theatrical experience. The show, which debuted in the Penang Performing Arts Centre last weekend, will premier in Kuala Lumpur, at Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) on the 10th, 11th and 12th April. Each show will feature two solo performances: 

April 10A Million Sitas and Puteri Saadong 
April 11Eleni of Sparta and A Million Sitas 
April 12:  Puteri Saadong and Eleni of Sparta 

“We are really excited to bring this theatre show to the public as it features beautiful stories told expertly by two women I admire a great deal in the industry. It also allows me the opportunity to express myself through the role that I play. This is an explosive collaboration, not to be missed by theatre goers and Malaysians alike”, said Sabera, whose most recent works include directing the acclaimed Chow Kit Road! Chow Kit Road! and Wayang: A Malaysian Story. 

“One of the common mistakes made in theatre is attempting to stage a solo performance to large audience. The size of the hall or auditorium plays a vital part on the delivery of the performance for both the audience and the actor. In that way, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) is ideal and conducive for a one-woman show,” she added.   

Tickets will be sold at RM100 (adults) and RM65 (students and senior citizens). All shows are at 8.30pm except for 12th April which is at 3pm only. For more information, please call 03-4065 0001 or contact Masakini Theatre Company Sdn Bhd at 03-2691 0119 or email: masakini7890@gmail.com for enquiries and group booking for 10 tickets and above for each show.  

This article was published in the Maiay Mail on April 11, 2015.