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Shafeeq Shajahan’s slick adaptation of the 2005 film Sepet is a cheerful coming of age romance which will leave you with goosebumps and heartache. This is a touching tale of innocent adolescence in the face of one’s mysterious future. Sepet captures all of the magic of the original movie with its carefully crafted transition to the stage.
On the surface, we watch a cheerfully clumsy tale of boy meets girl. Whether it’s the butterflies in holding hands for the first time or the fire below an awkward dinner date, this production is deeply romantic. But, overhanging all the pleasantries of young love is a deeper warning of how racial and religious divides shape the couple’s interactions. Orked (portrayed gorgeously by Badrika Bahadur) tells the audience, “Who cares if one person likes another because of their race? It’s when they hate them that’s the problem.” Shajahan intensifies the surface love story with the harsh realities of interracial love in a thorough and tender manner.
Joshua Gui and Bahadur are truly the foundation at the centre of this work, spinning life into the story. They make a striking comedic duo and the performance drips with chemistry. As the only cast members, they work to fill the stage, turning the set into a breathing environment. While I feel some of the musical sequences are a little underwhelming, Gui and Bahadur are skilled performers and continually snatch laughs from the crowd. A star moment is when Gui pops a crinkle crisp in his mouth and says he got his hair done at the, “Bisexual Hair Salon.” These two young performers work with intricate care to create a rhythm which filters through the audience and erupts in smiles and whispers.
While predominantly in English, the languages of Ipoh sparkle, and sentences are embedded within an affirmative, ‘Lah.’ The stagecraft, though minimalist, glimmers with life. The heavy lighting and loose costumes evoke the Malaysian heat, putting viewers at home right in the centre of the action. Orked’s delicate floral-pattern costume harkens back to the original 2005 movie and flows with such a simple mesmeric quality. As our couple dance under fairy lights, their bodies make stunning shapes in the darkness. The cinematic magic is transferred eloquently, leaving a tear-jerkingly pretty production.
Liver and Lung have taken this tame, charming tale of young love and spun it onstage into a spellbinding piece. If you’re looking for a heartwarming evening, then this is well worth the watch.
‘SEPET the Musical’ played for one performance on 10th April. For more information, see Liver and Lung productions’s website.