KL-KO: The Magic Behind the Curtain

Meet the people that were behind the production of Kuala Lumpur – Knock Out!

For the very first time ever, LADS will be performing a local play – KL-KO – that is written by a female playwright and is centered around a female lead. The costumes, production, directing, emails, and advertisements, etc. were done solely by students. The costume team bought the costumes themselves, while the tech crew had to work with the stage managers, actors and directors to time everything properly. The entrances, exits, how the scene begins, how it ends, and everything in between was the responsibility of the tech team.

More often than not, people tend to focus exclusively on the actors on the stage and forget about those behind the curtain. The people behind the curtain that made what’s on stage – costumes, lights, and everything in between – possible. Here today with IGNITE, we will be interviewing the directors and production team of KL-KO to know their journey they undertook to create this play.

IGNITE: What is the general idea about the play?

Danial: The play follows Miss Tan Ai Leng, a factory worker in Penang. She is a middle-class character, most of the characters are as well. Her dream is to be a boxer. She was inspired by Mohammed Ali and the struggles that he faced with the black civil rights in the US parallels with the struggles that she faces as a female boxer in Malaysia. Ai Leng goes for the boxing audition but she is criticized immediately because she is a woman as the two coaches kept insisting that they are looking for men to fight Mike Tyson because he is a big star champion and they want to make money out of the event, and they can’t just bring in a girl to fight. She goes back home but she is still determined to fight Mike Tyson. So, she keeps on writing to one of the coaches every day until she finally gets her chance. The play critiques through the character of Ma – Ai Leng’s Mother – the traditional Asian patriarch in the Chinese household.

Shaleen: Which practically means the certain expectations that were held for women in the 90s.

Danial: Yeah, for example, the pressure to have a boyfriend and get married.

IGNITE: Do you think the stereotypes changed? Did the mentality of Chinese people change?

Danial: There are some changes of course because of the more open communication, for example, there are more Malaysian female boxers now right here today.

Shaleen: I think a lot of the stereotypes are still evident now. For some women this is still there reality today even though this was a long time ago. However, people are more accepting now of what women want to do which they should’ve been even back then but there is still room for improvement.

IGNITE: This is the first play performed by LADS that is written by a woman, why did you choose to perform this play in 2019? What is so special about this play that you believe needs to be shared with the rest of us?

Shaleen: I think it’s a feminist play. It’s about women and it has a female lead which isn’t very common. Most of the times the women share the spotlight with a male lead, so it is new for a woman to be the main focus. Also, the physical aspect of the play is very cool, the boxing and finding actors that can box.

Danial: Usually LADS performs Shakespearean plays or plays written by male Malaysian writers. LADS has a streak of performing local plays.

IGNITE: Do you think the students will be able to relate to the main character?

Danial: I think they will be able to relate to the main character. For me, she is my favorite character. The play details a lot about her, her life, her family, being Chinese and a woman in Malaysia in her twenties. It’s very similar to a lot of the students here so I’m sure they will be able to relate it.

IGNITE: What are some of the issues that have come up and how are you dealing with it?

Danial: As co-directors we had to understand each other first, what we agree on and disagree on. We don’t really argue a lot, but we often disagree.

Shaleen: Yeah and we learned to help the other person understand where we are coming from so we can reach a middle ground.

Danial: We had to find our strengths, for example I’m more on to the acting side and she is more on the production side and attempt to step into each other’s roles. That helped us bond, and be there for each other, grow and understand each other better.

Shaleen: That also made us become more honest with each other and the crew.

Danial: The key to co-directing is that the hearts have to work as one because directors are the source of direction in the play. As for production difficulties, I think the most challenging part was boxing. We had to find a lead that had martial arts background and experience. So, it can look good and natural. We had to choreograph the boxing steps and make sure that no one gets hurt. It’s very new for LADS, and it’s never been done before. So that was very challenging on the production side.

IGNITE: What do you want the audience to come out feeling after watching the play?

Shaleen: I want the audience to feel a sense of determination, to be able to go after what they want. Hopefully it will give them a more sense of the world and make them understand that people have to stick together to get through tough times. For example, the main character from the play and her best friend. Their friendship is so strong, and their bond is beautiful. They are really there for each other in times of need.

Danial: My take away is different, it’s about fighting. It can be summarized in the word CHAMP. Consistency, handwork, attitude, motivation and patience. Thats what Ai Leng and her coach bring in to the play. I love boxing movies and in those movies the fighters get knocked down and then they have this big moment of motivation, then they get back up again and work really hard and win. It teaches the audience that it’s okay to fall down sometimes and get back up. It teaches them that they can face any obstacle. This combined with the power of friendship shows the true reality of most women in the world and how men are oblivious or unaware to the struggles they face. So, it teaches the audience to reach out and be more sensitive and empathetic.

IGNITE: Can you provide us with a brief summary of the themes in the play?

Shaleen: Friendship.

Danial: If there is a will there is a way, you may not see it at first, but it’s there.

Shaleen: Family is a big one. The constant battle between what I should do for my family vs. what I should do for myself.

Danial: Also, hard work beats talent anytime. It’s a good message for the audience and students.

Shaleen: The major one is patriarchy sucks!

Danial: Yeahh! I think that sums up the four most important themes.

IGNITE: Moving on to the costume and tech crew, what’s the biggest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

Kavisha and Clara: I think it was the amount of costume changes we had this time. The costume change is very instant, every other scene we have a costume change. We are trying to keep up with the time and preparing the costumes beforehand so it can be easier and faster to change between scenes.

Haziq and Kuha: I think our main problem is timing, getting the timing right with the actors and stage managers and the costume teams. Because if the timing is off you can really see it. We are trying to work around it by rehearsing more. Sometimes there are things that happen in the spur of the moment during the play. For example, an actor may trip or forget their lines or improvise so we have to be prepared and just wing it on the spot.

IGNITE: What stayed with you from this play? Was there something that changed you as a person or helped improve your skills?

Haziq: I think it’s the community itself, the community that came together and  committed their time and energy to come up with ideas and make this work. It’s a very uplifting environment because it motivates you, makes you want to commit and make sure you don’t let anybody down. It makes you bring out the best in you.

Stay tuned for more articles about KL-KO!

Written by Sara Mostafa