QUESTION 1 The most obvious idea concerning history in the play is that history is fiction. History is usually interpreted as ‘his story’ and thus implies the idea that everyone will have their own versions of history. It all depends on who is conveying the history and who is receiving it. The conveyor can just manipulate the facts and pass around a false message. In the case of this play, the history presented is based on Kee’s point of view. He himself admits that there is no particular truth but many truths by saying “We are all recipients of manipulated truth and are manipulators ourselves” (p.12) in an interview. He has included conversations which questions the subjectivity of history and validity of the truth despite the fact that the version of history being played is his. There are few scenes in the play where the historical accuracy and nature of the play has been questioned. The first one is on page 27 in the following excerpt. ACTOR/M : Wait a minute. Is this how it really happened in history? (Silence as everyone looks at each other. ACTOR PLAYING SULTAN drops out of character) ACTOR/S : History? What history? We are creating fiction, Yatim! This is fiction. History is fiction. […] ACTOR/M : What about historical truth Mano? ACTOR/S : Truth depends on who is telling the history and what he is saying to get across, who is the audience are. History can even be manipulated to convey opposing truths. You can screw around with history laa. The next scene is when the ACTOR PLAYING SULTAN reads a newspaper article (p. 35 – 36). ACTOR/DS ACTOR/S ACTOR/DS ACTOR/S ACTOR/DS ACTOR/S : : : : : : Ei, Mano, what is that all about? History. According to whom? The newspapers. Do you believe everything you read in the newspapers? Don’t you?
The third scene is from page 56 to page 57. This conversation is about the character Kuntum who was not a historical person but is given a major role in the play.
ACTOR/DS ACTOR/L ACTOR/DS ACTOR/L ACTOR/DS ACTOR/L ACTOR/DS ACTOR/L ACTOR/DS ACTOR/L
: : : : : : : : : :
Did that actually happen in history, Mony? Depends on whose history. But did that character, what’s her name? Kuntum. Did Kuntum really exist? There were people like her. Like her. but was there a real-life Kuntum? Does it matter? But this is tampering with history, Mony. This is fiction, Yatim.
All the three scenes above causes the audience themselves to start thinking about the accuracy of history and also remind them that they are just watching a play. The message that Kee wishes to get across to the audience is very clear each time such conversations take place: Do not believe in everything that you see, listen and read. History is just a fiction and can be changed accordingly. Thus, there are many versions to it. In case you have not noticed, these conversations are spoken by characters that have dropped out of character. This technique is called the alienation effect where the actors are both themselves and also the characters they play. The actors are alienated from their roles in order to make the audience more aware of the issue, history is fiction. It also jolts the audience back to reality that they are just watching a play and reminds them that they are exposed to some truths as presented by the playwright and his plays which however may not be true. Each time the actors drop out of characters, they question about what they have just said in the play. For example, in the first scene, the actor playing Sultan who says “History is fiction” questions the character he is playing. By stepping out, he emphasises the point that history is indeed fiction. Therefore, the ideas concerning history raised in this play are that history is fiction and the truth can be manipulated. Each time the characters drop out of character, they highlight the reality and reinforce these ideas.
QUESTION 2 I agree with Robert Yeo’s statement and it is true that power is not only a pursuit of the past but also the present. The...
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