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Review: U-En Ng’s ‘Kardashians’ Liven Up Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ In Bold Rewrite
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Review: U-En Ng’s ‘Kardashians’ Liven Up Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’ In Bold Rewrite

by The Daily SeniJanuary 23, 2016

The Daily Seni brought Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) student and T4YP-alumni Dean Shaari to watch Marble Hearts. Describing himself as a final year filmmaking student who enjoys performing arts and television, Dean reviews the play in this piece co-written with Deric Ect.

Though the general public recognises Shakespeare from his more popular poems and sonnets — some form compulsory reading in local schools — the bard’s work is best experienced on the stage, through his plethora of written plays.

On Wednesday, the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC) and The Actor’s Studio (TAS) opened their season with a reinterpretation of King Lear. Set in contemporary times ridden with corporate greed, Marble Hearts is an original play written and directed by U-En Ng which focuses on the lives of three women — daughters of insane King Lear himself.

Premiering to a full house, the two-act play starred three women: Marina Tan, Safia Hanifah and Christina Orow.


Goneril and Regan worry over their insane father. Photo by Ridzuan Rashid.

Those familiar with the original text will appreciate the adaptation’s complexities. Parallels between King Lear and Marble Hearts lie merely in its premise — three daughters are divided by their father’s love. Their father, King Lear, having gone cuckoo for coco puffs, have decided to splurge on strange demands to do with “national security”.

Overtones of incest, alcoholism, identity-confusion as well as voyeurism colour the audience’s journey as they experience the sisters through Cordelia’s eyes in the first act.  A story of deceit and lies soon surface; there seems to be a struggle of some sort among these sisters to gain control over their inheritance.

Marble Hearts is a self-deprecating play — these characters are fans of Shakespeare themselves and they make numerous references to the bard’s catalogue, with Hamlet playing a significant role in this story.


Cordelia is intent on securing her inheritance. Photo by Ridzuan Rashid.

The cast portrayed each character distinctly and successfully; Marina’s not-so-innocent Cordelia kept viewers on the edge of their seats with her innocence and multiple personalities, while Safia’s booze-loving Regan is a scene-stealer, proving herself a great listener on stage and delivering much-needed comic relief.

Christina Orow meanwhile may have been slightly polarising — some found her Goneril too “stiff”, others welcomed her strong stage presence as the eldest of three sisters.

Potentially seen as a Kardashian treatment of King Lear due to its more glamorous, modern version of Shakesepeare’s original three sisters, U-En’s Marble Hearts boasted some unexpected results thanks to a brave attempt at tackling the original tragedy. Because after all, what is life without a little bit of drama?

All photos by Ridzuan Rashid, who also shot all the gorgeous photos from Zamzuriah Zahari’s Jalan Primadonna.

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The Daily Seni delivers news on local arts and culture, aiming to provide insight into Malaysia's ever-growing creative community as well as provoke thought and discussion.

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