It was the Bomb!

Students in Nilai U's Theatre and Acting module put on an ambitious staging of Atomic Jaya.

"This was to see if the students could cope with a play of such magnitude. Not just the length but the presentation of subtle political and topical jokes," explains famed thespian Mano Maniam, who co-ordinates the Theatre and Acting module at Nilai University (Nilai U). He was referring to the end-of-term play staged by his pupils. But unlike previous years where students were expected to write, direct, act and produce the plays, this year Mano decided to throw down the gauntlet and challenged his charges to stage the biting political satire written by Huzir Sulaiman - Atomic Jaya.

In previous years, students would usually stage three or four short vignettes to highlight what they had learned from the course but this year, they would have to memorise all the lines to the 45-minute play which featured plenty of lengthy wordplays and even lengthier monologues. On the night, in front of a packed President Hall, the students delivered their lines with a cool confidence of stage veterans and were able to elicit laughter from the audience with subtle digs at the Malaysian habit of stereotyping according to race. However, jokes about the Official Secrets Act (OSA) were somewhat missed by the audience who is perhaps more used to the Sedition Act but the applause that greeted the end of the performance indicated that they were thoroughly entertained.

Original shorts were not totally discarded as there were three other vignettes on show - The Unbrella, The More, The Merrier, and The Chance of Life. In keeping with previous years, infidelity and violence reared its thematic head in the first two plays while students got to showcase their flashmob and vocal skills in The Chance of Life. Mano had always maintained that the real measure of a performance is not its glitz, fancy props or even faultless delivery of lines but whether the audience reacted positively. On that count, it would appear their reading of Atomic Jaya as well as the original skits certainly met the 'laughter-and-applause' quotient.

 

Nilai U degree students are required to complete four additional modules divorced from their core fields of study. Choices include subjects as diverse as Ethics, Anthropology, Public Speaking, and courses by well-known organisations such as Dale Carnegie and Outward Bound. The aim is to expose students to a different challenges which will equip them with the requisite soft skills that are very much in demand in the employment market today. For instance, students who have undergone the fun-illed Theatre and Acting module will have learned valuable communication and teamwork skills, not least the ability to perform in front of a crowd. Most alumni who have undergone this module will attest, their fear of public speaking evaporated after undergoing Mano's programme. Both international and domestic students speak of growing confidence when using English in a public forum.

Each semester sees an increasing number of applicants for this fun-filled, textbook-free module, indicating its growing popularity and that more students are hearing of the positive impact this module have had on previous alumni. Already, some students in the audience were overheard thinking aloud as to which play the next batch of students would be asled to tackle. Given that the bar has been set pretty high by this term's students, whatever play is to be staged next, future cohorts have their work cout out for them.

Nilai U was established in 1997 and all of its programmes are approved by the Ministry of Education. For more information, please go to www.nilai.edu.my or call 06-8502308 / 07-2262336.

 

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