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Election Day


Checkpoint Theatre


Jeremy Samuel






Play Den, The Arts House



A Vote of Confidence

In the film Election, Reese Witherspoon and Chris Klein battled for the student council presidency in a high school contest fraught with name-calling and petty vindictiveness. Election Day demonstrates that grown-up politics can be just as juvenile, taking as its setting the 1999 Malaysian general election that swept UMNO back into power.

The set piece at the heart of the play is a wickedly funny portrait of the different groups canvassing outside a polling station, each side convinced that their candidate has been chosen by god to lead the constituency. The average student council candidate's hand-drawn posters look sophisticated next to the tactics adopted by this slightly crazed grassroots effort - golf umbrellas, fluorescent vests, and hackneyed slogans trotted out in a vaguely sinister fashion.

The play is not really a political one, though, or perhaps it is more correct to say it studies not politics itself but how the political can become the personal and vice versa. Its focus is on three housemates affected in different ways by the election - Dedric, a Chinese activist; Fozi, a London-trained Malay architect, and Francis, the crabby Indian narrator.

Huzir Sulaiman's script is filled with acidly funny observations about the state of Malaysian society and the quirks of each racial group. In a kind of reverse political correctness, there is no demographic group that is not dissected by Sulaiman's pen.

The real treat here, though, is in Sulaiman's performance. He plays every character in the show (apart from the enigmatic femme fatale, Natasha) - ducking in and out of accents with uncanny facility, subtly changing his body language to alter his age, race and gender at will. The effect is mesmerising, like a Malaysian one-man Under Milk Wood.

In the end Election Day is a rather charming study of how human beings in a claustrophobic environment can get just a little carried away with their beliefs. Its plotting, however, is audaciously implausible - the ending has Natasha returning to turn the entire story on its head - and its comments on politics are more witty than insightful. Where it succeeds, though, is at the level of pure entertainment - I do not recall an evening out at the theatre when I have had more fun.

"I do not recall an evening out at the theatre when I have had more fun"

Ratings out of 5, based on Practitioner's Vision / Reviewer's Response: ***** = Transcendent / Rapturous;
**** = Crystal / Appreciative; *** = Transmitted / Thoughtful; ** = Vague / Unsatisfied; * = Uncommunicated / Mystified.