Friday, November 28, 2014



Greetings people who visit my blog. This is going to be a review but this time of a play. A very famous and popular play called Shear Madness. Don't know what it is? Well, I didn't either until I saw it and after that decided to find out more about it. In order to write this blog.

Shear Madness is apparently one of the longest running non-musical plays to have ever existed. Although it wasn't originally called Shear Madness. It was originally called Scherenschnitt and was written by the German playwright named Paul Pörtner. The rights to Scherenschnitt was then bought over by Marilyn Abrams & Bruce Jordan and turned into Shear Madness. Scherenschnitt opened in 1963 but the current version Shear Madness opened in Boston at the Charles Playhouse Stage II in January 1980 and has been playing ever since. At the moment the Wikipedia entry that I got all this information says that Shear Madness is currently playing in Boston, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, Seoul, Korea, Athens, Greece and Paris France. Of course I didn't watch it in any of those countries, I watched it in Malaysia at the PJ Live Arts Theater.  

So what is this long-running play all about? Well, it's a murder-mystery that takes place in a unisex hair salon. There are four main suspects and two police officers. The main suspects are the hair salon owner, his ditzy assistant, a rich female patron and an antiques dealer. This is the basic set-up regardless of where the play is currently running. The same in Boston, the same in Seoul and the same in KL. Now you're probably wondering what's so special about that? Well, yeah the basic set-up and story is nothing special of course until after the murder takes place and the copper goes about his business trying to figure out who the culprit is.

You see the reason for this plays success is the fact that it's an interactive play. You as the audience get to interact with the actors and ultimately decide the way the play ends. The other reason is that this play for the most part is ad-libed, improvised by the actors which means that no matter how many times you watch it outside of the main story line of the lady upstairs being murdered and the main dialogues, it's never really the same.

The set from where we sat. 

So what did I think about it? Well, at first I didn't really know what to think about the interactive part, I'd heard that the actors will be asking questions and other things but didn't know what to really expect. And honestly during the first part where they play out the scenes establishing the characters and whatnot all the way up to the murder it was pretty ok but nothing really special or funny. Not saying that it wasn't funny but it certainly wasn't hilarious by my reckoning. But it really picked up when the "Inspector" stopped everything and turned towards the audience asking them(us) to help him figure out who did it. This is when the fun starts. 

You see from this point on the "Inspector" will ask us about certain details of what has happened prior to the murder and to do this the "suspects" are asked to re-enact "exactly" what transpired up to the murder. Now being human, the "suspects" will of course "forget" to repeat certain things or say and we the audience are asked to raise our hands whenever we spot their forgetfulness and correct them. Of course being suspects once their mistake is pointed out the have a very convenient excuse or reason. Now because all of this is now improvised it becomes very fresh and surprising.

Two of the cast hamming it up for a shave. (Picture courtesy of The Star, click that link for a nice little write up about the show.)

The other thing that was enjoyable about this part is not only how the actors react to the audience but how good they were at improvising. They were throwing jokes, witticisms and silly observations of current evens so smoothly in their lines that it felt like they really had become their characters. But all this would be for nothing if the audience too wasn't ready to play along and luckily enough for me, the audience on the evening I went to were very ready to play.  But it was even more special because of one particularly very vocal member of the audience, someone I remember from way back in the 90's, Louisa Chong. 

Now most of you outside of Malaysia won't know who she is and frankly speaking anyone born after something like 1990 in Malaysia won't remember her either but she was once part of a cast of a very successful and very funny TV Sitcom that aired in Malaysia. The sitcom I'm speaking of was called 2+1 and aired in the early 90's, there's little record of it online so I can't be sure. The other thing that was remarkable about that series other than it being funny was that it was the first to have a really  multi-cultural main cast consisting of an all female lead. The main stars were Susan Lankester, who is of English and Chinese parentage, Louisa Chong, who is Chinese and Raja Ema, who is Malay. They were supported by some of the funniest comedians Malaysia had at the time and I for one remember the series fondly.

Best picture I could find of the TV Sitcom 2+1, Louisa Chong is seated far left. 

During the play she really made her voice and opinion known and it just made it all the more special. I'm not saying that everyone else in the audience was taking things seriously or was more reserved in their interactions but when Louisa Chong chimed up to put in her two cents it was something to see. So basically for me the best thing about Shear Madness is the audience. If you're lucky to go on a night where everyone is ready and willing to play than you're in for a fun night. 

So to sum it up, I did enjoy the play but I really enjoyed it more when the audience got to play as well. And like I said not only was I part of a fun audience, I also had the extraordinary luck of having Louisa Chong as one of us. So honestly if you've the time and you're looking for an interesting and fun night go check out Shear Madness Malaysia, it's worth every penny and every minute and also be ready to play. This is the second run of Shear Madness Malaysia, the first ran in May or June of this year and I heard the people back then enjoyed it too. So don't miss this second run if you can.Shear Madness Malaysia is brought to you by Gardner & Wife Theater and will run from 26 November till the 14th of December.  And this time around Churp Churp Malaysia is the Official Social Media Partner for Shear Madness Malaysia.




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