Upcoming play ‘Stereo Genmai’ explores novelist’s writing process and character creation

From left: Stereo Genmai writer and director Ridhwan Saidi, co-producer Tan Cher Kian and actor Ani Aziz. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
From left: Stereo Genmai writer and director Ridhwan Saidi, co-producer Tan Cher Kian and actor Ani Aziz. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, Oct 15 — In Ridhwan Saidi’s stage adaptation of his 2012 experimental novel Stereo Genmai, the writer and director delves into the dark psychedelic world of a novelist searching for his missing fictional character.

In the throes of it all, questions of a creator and his creation, and the process of writing are brought to the forefront in the 80-minute Bahasa Malaysia play.

“As a writer, you often ask yourself, ‘Are you in control of your own ideas or does the idea take control of you?’

“In this story, the idea overrules the author,” Ridhwan told Malay Mail.

Given the novel’s experimental nature, Ridhwan said its stage version will be more coherent to ensure audiences will be able to follow the story.

A former architect, Ridhwan was never much of a reader until he started writing when Amir Muhammad was looking for writers his urban and contemporary novel publishing house Buku Fixi.

The 36-year-old who runs Moka Mocha Ink, an independent publishing house focusing on contemporary Malay fiction, has since penned six novels (Stereo Genmai is his third) and recently ventured into the performing arts.

In his first foray into theatre, Ridhwan presented Teater Modular, a series of offbeat playlets which he wrote and produced, which was staged this year in three instalments.

The well-received works which gained interest around the region have been described as ‘absurd and weirdly sexy’ and ‘politics, sex and religion existing in harmony’.

Full-length works such as Stereo Genmai are parked under Ridhwan’s Teater Normcore series.

Based on Ridhwan Saidi’s third novel, Stereo Genmai centres around a novelist in search of his missing fictional character. — Instagram/Ridhwan Saidi
Based on Ridhwan Saidi’s third novel, Stereo Genmai centres around a novelist in search of his missing fictional character. — Instagram/Ridhwan Saidi

Ridhwan is also currently writing a screenplay for Stereo Genmai.

“Adapting the novel into a play was a new skill and it’s my second time doing it. The first was for my sci-fi novel Mautopia which I worked for the Actors Studio’s The New Play Project,” he said.

Stereo Genmai will feature four actors, Hannan Barakbah, Sandee Chew, Nyna Roslan and Ani Aziz, who plays K.M. Raslan, the novelist in the story.

“I play a novelist who is struggling with the character he created and he has an existential crisis where he begins to question who is the creator of the character.

“One of the challenges the actors faced during rehearsal is showing restraint,” said Ani.

Ridhwan added that sometimes, a character a writer creates takes a life of its own, positioning the writer as a maker or creator.

“There are so many ways you can look at this play — on one hand, Ridhwan is telling you about his writing process but there’s also a theological aspect when you talk about the creator and his creation.”

“The piece is quite daring because the concept is rarely seen in Malaysian theatre,” co-producer Tan Cher Kian said.

Stereo Genmai will be staged from Friday until Sunday at KOTAK @ Five Arts Centre, 27, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. Tickets are priced at RM38 (RM30 for early birds), available here.

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