A Long Cheet Chat

There I was, excited, a bit scared even, when the lights were dimmed. On stage, save for two plastic chairs (like the type you get in modern kopitiams) and a small table, on which sat a mini compo, were all there was to a set. A blueish-silver saree hung from the ceiling. Oil lamps lit the floor, adding much Indian flavour.
I had come to watch Cheet Chat at The Actors Studio Greenhall, a play about two colleagues and the tragedies and comedies of their lives.
Subbuletchumy is a frustrated, even harried mother of three bottomless pits who constantly harangue her for food.
Suzy or Tan Soo See (previously Buddhist until she ‘found’ the man in her life) is an unmarried 40 year old Catholic, still living with her mother at home and grumbling about the unfairness of life.
Subbu (played by A. Janarthani) and Suzy (played by Mark Beau de Silva, yes, that Mark who wrote ‘Stories for Amah’ not so long ago), are ‘girls on the edge’, and honestly, they were edgy and dramatic. Add a dangdut -loving, butt-gyrating Indon worker called Siti Sootee and you can see how three women, so different in outlook and personalities, really mirror each other’s hopes, lives and dreams.
But they also portrayed the lives of women perhaps you and I recognise. Perhaps it’s our sister. Perhaps it’s our friend. Perhaps it’s also us, sometimes. Fidgety, annoyed, frustrated at the deal that Life’s putting us through.
But it was not always about life’s pettiness and provocations. Humour helped to lessen the tragic which Subbu and Suzy found in their lives. Suzy and Subbu looked back into their lives to find the shapers or influencers, from Suzy’s nemesis, Tabitha to Subbu’s monster of a mother-in-law.
I loved it for it was Malaysian to the core. Added to it was that A.Janarthani who played Subbu is my friend from oh-so-long-ago and I knew she would be a character to watch. Like a Bollywood movie, Subbu, Suzy and Siti Sootee hit the right notes with their song and dance, sometimes elaborate and over the top, perhaps an exaggerated life of the regular working woman.
Their run in Penang has finished and they played to a sold-out performance on their first night(yes, and that made me mad because I did not manage to get a seat!). But the good news is, they’re taking Cheet Chat to The Actors Studio Bangsar on 10, 11 and 12 Feb.
So catch the girls if you can.
It’ll be a good one and a half hour of pure Tamil, Catholic and Indon humour.
Worth the RM30 you pay.
Note: Janarthani and I go back a long way. But she has always been a natural performer, having entertained me with her rendition of MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This when we were bored school girls. In real life, she is as bubbly and as animated. The bharatnatyam dance is in her roots as she used to take bharatnatyam classes as a child. The Cikgu Salim references struck a familiar cord too as we used to take BM tuition with a gorgeous-looking teacher of the same name. And Tamil? Well, she taught me a couple of Tamil swear words then so I could stand on my own if I ever came across Tamil-speaking bullies! Hah!
Oh, and by the way, Jana was voted the Best Newcomer in Penang theatre last year.
Here’s The Star’s review of Cheet Chat.

5 thoughts on “A Long Cheet Chat”

  1. Sounds good. Think I will make a date with the Actors Studio in February. So if it turns out lousy you will refund my RM30? Just kidding. I’m sure it’ll be great. Hehehe.

  2. I always wonder what people think of our office when they read that the inspiration for the play came from ‘entertaining’ their colleagues! I gotta ask Jana to do a MC Hammer ‘Can’t touch this’ dance…


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