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Aung San, widely regarded as the father of modern Burma, would have been one hundred on Friday of this week.
His was a rich life cut short. Born into obscurity in Nat Mauk, central Burma, in just 32 years Aung San would grow from student dissident, to communist insurgent, to Burmese army chief. He would finally be known as an independence hero and a martyr, after his assassination in 1947 at the hands of paramilitaries acting at the behest of political rival U Saw.
In what is no small task, one Burmese theatre troupe plan to enact the life of Aung San in the form of a “poetic opera” to be staged on the night of 13 February.
Five actors will play the protagonist. Through mime, they will bring to life a series of poems written about the Burmese hero, including one by Min Ko Naing, a famous contemporary of Aung San’s Nobel Laureate daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi.
Min Ko Naing will narrate each poem, as the colourful performers take the stage.
Comedian Zarganar, famous for his blend of entertainment and political activism, said the play was an exciting experiment. “The term ‘poetic opera’ may sound strange to the audience. Some might ask ‘What is this?’”, he admitted.
“This is a story that everybody knows so well – everyone around the country. We are aiming to present it in a different way, to make it fresh and interesting,” he continued. “This is also an experiment; we’ll only really know whether it is a success when we get it on stage.”
Director Hein Soe too believes that the performance is set to break boundaries. “Performers will act silently, as poems are recited in the background. Mime is a hard skill to master, in theatre and also in film making. The actor must deftly portray and animate each emotion,” he told DVB.
Such a challenge is appealing to the actors involved. For Myo Min Kyaw, who is set to play a youthful incarnation of the general, the pride of representing Burma’s favourite son is enough to overcome any nerves.
“I’m playing the scenes where Aung San was expelled from university, and when he had to live rough in a Pegu dormitory. Acting it out was difficult at first.
“But I am playing the most significant person in our country’s history. So I will pour all my emotions into the performance,” Myo Min Kyaw said.
With only three days to go before Aung San’s 100 year anniversary, excitement and anticipation continue to build. As millions prepare to celebrate their historic hero, these performers will be hoping to channel some of the bravery for which Aung San is hailed.