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Little Violet & The Angel
The Sunday Mail
“Little Violet and the Angel” offers love and laughter,
and great entertainment for the whole family

By Marica van Wynen

A great idea for a festive family outing would be to take the whole brood, from grandparents to the little ‘uns to The Actors Studio, Bangsar Shopping Complex in Kuala Lumpur, to see Little Violet and the Angel. You would hardly find a better introduction to the magic of theatre if you’ve never been, while for those who regularly see plays, it’s a reminder of why we love “live” theatre so much.

Little Violet is funny and sad, uplifting and thought-provoking, and a wonderful evening of entertainment for all ages. Part drama, part comedy, part musical, with a puppet as Little Violet, it’s easy to sit back and suspend reality and enter into a wonderful world of make-believe.

Learning to be an angel is no easy task, especially when you’ve only recently been angel-ed and haven’t quite learned the ropes up in heaven. Young Gabriel hasn’t even learnt to play his harp yet when “His Shiningness”, the Archangel Gabriel, tells him he is to be the guardian angel of a baby girl abandoned on the doorstep on Vlad and Ana-Maria.

Gabriel, who doesn’t really remember who he is or how he got there, enjoys floating through the clouds and all the fun things up in heaven, but soon learns that there is work to be done, responsibility to be shouldered, and that he’s not spared the pain of a good old-fashioned cold, which is no excuse for not doing his job.

Interwoven with Gabriel’s trials and tribulations in heaven, is the sad story on Earth of Vlad and Ana-Maria, who have to come to terms with the loss of a much-loved son. While Vlad reaches out for love, Ana-Maria is still locked in the bitterness of loss.

Richard Harding Gardner, who directed Philip Osment’s play, says: “It’s such a fascinating play because it has so many levels. It’s hard to decide whether to direct it for five-year-olds or to concentrate on the more adult nuances.”

He has managed to strike just the right balance. The night I was there, the whole audience, ranging in age from those in their 60s to young children, responded and participated whole-heartedly, shouting out answers to Gabriel’s questions and laughing at his bewilderment, and unconsciously saying “Ah” when their hearts were touched.

This is largely due to Syed Zalihafe’s sterling performance as Gabriel. Syed was last seen on stage in The Actors Studio production of Rashomon at Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur, and appeared in Afdlin Shauki’s hit move Buli. From his first entrance, Gabriel reaches out to the audience, asking us to help this rather confused new angel with a tiny pair of wings, who aspires to gain huge wings like the Archangel Gabriel’s, played with tongue-in cheek humour and a voice of rolling thunder by Mano Maniam.

Patrick Jonathan – who appeared as a little boy with ringlets in the Oscar-winning film Fiddler on the Roof, composed the music and wrote the songs for Little Violet – is the kind and gentle Vlad. The arrival of the baby is a chance for him to love a child again and though Little Violet is a puppet, he forms a real bond with her, as he tries to persuade Ana-Maria to accept her into their lives.

Sandra Sodhy gives a moving performance as Ana-Maria, who has winter in her soul and won’t let the spring in.

Though she doesn’t want to love Violet, as time goes by we can see the ice slowly melting as she tries to keep Little Violet out of her heart, yet succumbs to her charm.

While all this is going on down below, His Shiningness up above is learning a few lessons himself, and in the end we learn how easy it is to misjudge people, how important it is to be honest, but above all, that it is never too late for love.

Osment’s play, and Gardner’s directing of it, bring these messages home with a light, entertaining touch.

I can hardly thing of a better way to spend an evening with the family. I went home and hugged mine.