BWW Review: CIKGU DISIPLIN SEKOLAH AKU at Theatre Three-Sixty
Cikgu Disiplin Sekolah Aku is a collaboration piece written by Khairunazwan Rodzy and Khairi Anwar. Directed by Theatre Three Sixty's Christopher Ling, the play sets out to shed some light on a school systems actions towards achieving the title of Sekolah Kluster Cemerlang. Along the quest to perfection and performance, the play also highlights the struggles of its students, Daniel played by Andy Phoon and Pak Kob played by Aminul Syakir, as they are forced to succumb to the ridiculous sentences that are put on them should they not live up to school standards.
Baffled by the schools population of delinquents and less than average performing students, new principal played by Anwar Hadi, enlists Cikgu Ismail (Arshad TMZ), the schools existing discipline teacher to whip things back into shape. Despite his hard exterior, it later becomes clear that Cikgu Ismail does have a soft heart for his students although conflicted by the responsibilities given to him.
Cikgu Disiplin Sekolah Aku mirrors an aspect of the Asian culture that we all seem familiar with.The strive for excellence, pushing a generation of people to lengths claiming it to be for their own good. The play brings out the claws of the local education system by showcasing the trials and tribulations of each character be it teacher or student. The fight for image while simply forgetting the aspect of human emotion.
The play succeeded in bringing out its bold themes and messages, however falls short in terms of engagement. Much of the dialogue came out as heavy monologues that if you payed attention enough one would notice the actors slowly losing the intention of their words mid-speech. This is especially noticeable with Cikgu Ismail. Playing the role of the compassionate but strict discipline teacher, Ismail's character seemed a little underdeveloped as a disciplinarian. A little awkward and out of place, Ashrad TMZ barely scratches the surface of the struggle between emotion and duty.
The little that we know about Cikgu Ismail's backstory is told mainly through his wife Alia played by Mawar Roseka. It is through her plea that we learn about Ismail's soft side and the internal battle that he goes through to implement the outrageous rules set upon the schools students. It seems hard to feel for this character due to the fact that there were minimal interaction between him and the students. Which then raises the question if he truly understands their plight. The dependence on Alia's character in convincing us as to why we should feel for Ismail took away the ability to dive deeper into the essence of Azhrad's character.
However, the play does portray a comforting sense of comradery between the two students. Daniel a well succeeding school prefect and Pak Kob, an underperforming troublemaker. Despite their clear differences, there was an obvious sense of brotherhood and emotion put into the relationship between the two boys. Between the secret vaping sessions at the back of the school, and Daniel trying to help Pak Kob ace the exams, these two really did bring their intentions out into the light and help us understand their struggles.
Apart from the students and teachers, we should not forget Pak Kob's mother as played by Tria Aziz. This seasoned actress hit the nail on the head with her village lady quirks and wonderfully showed us just how much she feels. Most of this comes up through her interactions with the various characters that visit her home throughout the play. Meanwhile, Anwar Hadi's portrayal of the new principal quickly became everyone's not-so favorite character just as soon as the play began. It was relatively hard to find his character likeable what with his hard exterior with a sense of darkness looming over his head. Not to mention how he pretty much nailed his evil laugh.
The play was unlike any other in many ways. For the most part, audience members are split into two groups upon arrival and each group experiences a different scenario of the play at the same time, one beginning in the home and one at the school. Audiences would later switch places. Which probably makes for two very different takeaways depending on which part you saw first. The seating arrangement of the play is also another plus point to the whole experience. Having audience members sit on the ground and around the playing space really made one feel apart of the school community.
It is hard not to think about one's schooling days as you watch this play unfold. From the assemblies, to the chaos around exam season, to teachers that we hate, there's definitely a sense of nostalgia there. However, there could be so much more expanding done with this script for example more showing and less telling.