'Malaysian spirit' on stage

LONDON - Student theatre productions seem few and far between in London, so it came as a bonus to learn that Malaysian students at University College London (UCL) have put together a play that would open a window to Malaysian history and culture to Londoners.

'The 3 Machas' (3 Brothers), to be staged on Friday at the Institute of Education, couldn't have come at a better time.

As election fever grips Malaysia, issues of race and conflicting loyalties inadvertently come to the fore, what with the Internet giving a platform to irresponsible people playing on race sentiments.

The play by UCL Union's Malaysian Society seeks to remind us that whatever our racial differences, we are one nation and our people have stood shoulder-to-shoulder to fight against the common enemy.

Set during the Japanese occupation and the ensuing communist insurgency, it charts the lives of three friends, Shahzan (Joss Knussi), Junming (Derrick Leong) and Ranjit (K. Aravinthan Kunju Raman) whose lives and friendship were turned upside down by the war and occupation.

The brothers soon learn that the challenges and difficulties of fighting the occupying force is easier than their own internal challenges which threaten to destroy the very thread that has held them together.

The play is the highlight of the Malaysian Society's calendar.

Its president, Anas Ahamad Tajudin, said the themes tended to be based on historical events in Malaysia.

"Last year, it was about the legendary Mahsuri from Langkawi while the previous year, it was about the 1969 riots."

More than 700 people are expected to attend the play.

Joss and Aravind are studying mechanical engineering while Derrick is reading law.

Lee Yan Gen, who wrote the play, is a chemical engineering student.

Director Kevin Chu Kai Wei is an economics undergraduate, while the producer, Vivian Lee is pursuing a History degree.

Preparations for the play started in February last year but the auditions could only be held when the new students had settled in, after September.

More than half of the society's 150 members are involved in this project, including the 12 supporting actors and 16 dancers.

These students at one of the United Kingdom's top 10 universities are high-achievers and have the right attitude towards achieving an all-round education.

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