The stage play Nadirah directed by Jo Kukathas and Asmalan Doraisingam and written Alfian Saat is currently playing at KLPAC. The play has been getting some positive reviews.
The Sun carried two articles on the stage plays. Both has been interesting interviews. The first article appears Aug 31 where I interview the director of play Jo Kukathas.
The second article appears Nov 1 where I interview the lead cast Patrick Teoh and Neo Swee Lin. In both of the articles the cast have said something very interesting. I have posted both of the articles here.
Jo Kukathas from the Instant Cafe Theatre Company (ICT) has directed compelling theatre productions such as Air Con and Parah in the past. Her latest play, Nadirah, to be staged at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) from Nov 1 to 11, will be another eye-opener for theatre fans.
The story takes place in Singapore and centres on university student Nadirah who is a product of a mixed marriage. Her father is a Malaysian Malay and her mother, a Singaporean Chinese who had converted to Islam.
After her parents’ divorce, she lives with her mother, Sahirah, in Singapore. Both mother and daughter share a close bond.
But then, the relationship hits a rough patch when Nadirah finds out, to her dismay, that her mother is considering getting married to a Doctor Robert, who is a non-Muslim.
In Singapore, a Muslim can get married to a non-Muslim under civil law, with each spouse maintaining his or her own religion.
Will religion cause friction between mother and daughter? Will love or faith prevail?
Written by Alfian Saat from Singapore, the cast comprises Neo Swee Lin (as Sahirah), Ani Juliana Ibrahim (Nadirah), Patrick Teoh (Robert), Redza Minhat (Farouk) and Farah Rani (Maznah).
Having watched a rehearsal of the play, it is quite clear to this writer that Nadirah will touch the hearts of the audience and even stimulate their minds into having interesting discussions. This play is another winner that can be added to Jo Kukathas’ belt.
* What attracted you to direct Nadirah?
“The story draws inspiration from the Maria Hertogh case (which took place in Singapore during the 1950s). Maria’s Dutch parents were involved in a custody battle with her adoptive Malay mother.
“There was a public outcry over the case, not out of love for Maria but out of moral righteousness, and there was tension in the country.
“In Malaysia, we have our fair share of such stories and our hearts go out to those whose lives are suddenly turned upside down simply because they dare to love.
“Nadirah tells how the love between a mother and her child is tested by their different beliefs and the beliefs of those around them. So, the dilemma faced here is whether we follow the path of love or the path of religious conviction.
“Nadirah is part of a trilogy written by Alfian as a tribute to (the late) Yasmin Ahmad. Nadirah pays tribute to Yasmin’s film Muallaf in a very essential way.
“The tag line for that film was “It is in forgiving that we are forgiven’. I think now in Malaysia more than ever, we have to return to compassion, forgiveness, love and humour. If not, we are lost.”
* What is your favourite scene in Nadirah?
“It’s the scene between Robert, who is the doctor Nadirah’s mum meets and falls in love with, and Farouk, who’s Nadirah’s classmate and love interest.
“These two men meet to talk over some very difficult and personal issues of love and faith. But they also end up talking enthusiastically about football.
“And through this very human and warm interaction about that ‘beautiful game’ they love, the audience get to see their common humanity.”
* What are some of the biggest challenges you faced in directing this play?
“It’s a sad fact that my company and other theatre companies are unable to find funding to do even one play a year. I’m forced to work in Singapore and it’s out of necessity.
“I would really love to direct more plays in Malaysia but I believe there is still a lack of political will to support the local performing arts. If indeed there’s funding from the government or other agencies, it’s not clear where it is going to.
“The lack of funding is one of the reasons the performing arts scene in Malaysia is not developing. We have lagged far behind our Singaporean, Thai, Indonesian and Cambodian
neighbours. You can say our arts scene is in financial doldrums.”
* How do you overcome this?
“Our funds have always come from individuals who felt a strong link to our work as a different artistic point of view and also a much needed voice for urban Malaysians.
“Our previous production Parah is a prime example of the deep personal relationship we have with the audience.
“The conservative corporations and government bodies felt Parah was not a great fit for them to support financially.
“But thanks to great individuals who stepped forward (such as Instant Cafe Theatre Angels) and independently helped to raise funds for the production, we were able to stage Parah and get a wide section of urban Malaysians to watch it. We had a completely sold-out production.
“If you believe in plays such as Parah and want us to bring more good theatre to the stage, then sign up to be an Instant Cafe Theatre Angel.
“You can be a Bronze Angel for RM500 or a Blue Sapphire Angel for RM9,999 and above. Every ringgit counts.
“If you want to support us and be an angel, email to admin@ instantcafetheatre.com for details.”
THE SECOND ARTICLE IN THE SUN NOV 1
Suggested Headline : Love Story 2012
By Bissme S
A Singaporean Muslim convert and divorcee, Shahirah, and a Christian widower, Robert, fall in love and plan to get married. In Singapore, a Muslim can marry a non-Muslim under civil law, with each spouse maintaining his or her own religion.
But Shahirah’s university-going daughter Nadirah disapproves of her mother’s relationship with a non Muslim. Can this love story have a happy ending?
This interesting plot is being tackled in a theatre production entitled Nadirah. Written by Alfian Sa’at and directed by Jo Kukathas and Amsalan Doraisingam, this play will be staged at klpac (Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre) from Nov 1 to 11.
Playing the forbidden lovers are 49-year-old Singaporean award-winning actress Neo Swee-lin and 65-year-old Malaysian actor and former radio personality Patrick Teoh. Others in the play include Redza Minhat, Farah Rani and Ani Juliana Ibrahim.
In this exclusive interview, Neo and Teoh share their views on the play and how they fell about working in Malaysia and Singapore.
* What attracted you two to the roles in Nadirah?
Neo: “This is my first role playing a Muslim. The gift of theatre is that you can lead other lives that you will never be able to discover otherwise. What I like best is when my character fell in love with a man of a different faith, she believes it is possible that they can be together and still hold on to their different faith.
“It is so cute and touching to see this middle-aged couple, who are close to their 50s and who have already lived lives and had relationships with other people, falling in love and behaving like teenagers. What makes us think falling in love is only for the young?
“The play doesn’t provide solutions but it does ask questions. In theory, it will be great if everybody has one religion. But we do not. We are a plural society and we should celebrate the diversity of it.”
Teoh: “I am not a method actor. I play a doctor here but you will not see me in a doctor’s office to find out what goes on there. I depend very much on the director and the words and situation the writer gives me. I strongly believe an actor is only as good as the material that he has to work with.
“When I do theatre, which is not very often, I only work with people I know. It will take a lot from me to accept a role with a director I’ve never worked with before. When you work with strangers, you have to deal with egos.
“Nadirah is a timely play for us in Malaysia. We are living through inter-religious and inter-racial tensions every day of our lives. This play is very relevant to what’s going on here.”
* How will you react if you were in the character’s shoe in real life?
Neo: “I cannot speak as a Muslim because I’m not a Muslim. But as a Catholic, I married a man who was a free thinker. Suddenly, after 15 years of marriage, he wanted to convert to Catholicism. I did not force him, neither did my family. Even my mum told my husband that he should do it for himself, not because he’s married to me.”
Teoh: “I’m one of those people who will jump into the relationship if I was attracted to a woman of a different faith. I will fight whatever problems I might face in the future. Religion has always been manipulated to divide people.”
* You two have worked in both the Malaysian and Singapore entertainment scene. What is the biggest difference and challenge you find?
Neo: “People in Singapore are very much into goals. I do not feel very stressed when I was in Malaysia for my theatre rehearsals. They do not fine you or lock the doors if you are five minutes late. Discipline is important but once you start going crazy over it, you are creating a negative environment. I guess I like the organised chaos here.
“The only thing that is not so nice here is that you can only rehearse in the evenings because most of the actors are not full time. In Singapore, that is not the case but the problem there is that the actors take on too many jobs and by the time they come for rehearsal, they are drained.”
Teoh: “In Singapore, I have only worked for television shows. Everything is orderly. Everything starts on time. In Malaysian television productions, you are eating all the time. Personally, I like the relaxed atmosphere here. But it must not affect the work we are doing.”