Inspired by Yasmin Ahmad’s final film, ‘Talentime’, as well as Abdullah Hussain’s novel, ‘Interlok’, Parah is a timely exploration of how identities are contested in a young, pluralistic nation. Funny, provocative and moving, Parah asks urgent questions about love, home and belonging.
One would expect a certain threshold for sensitivity especially as it involves elements from Talentime and the Interlok issue, however, the script-writing, directing and acting by the brilliant team has managed to somewhat blend it all into something much closer to home, something we often tend to miss when we’re too focused on the problem at hand.
As with Talentime, the play focuses on Malaysia’s three largest race population – the Malay, the Chinese and the Indians. Quoting from the “Interlok” book, which looks to be the main focus of the play, the audience are forced to face a question that most would not like to ponder: “Who are the indigenes and who are the immigrants? “
When you’re a minority, what do you do? Revel in the light of being unique? Or do you prefer to look for acceptance when others abhor you, or look down on you? Is there a grain of truth in even the most repellent stereotype? Finally, what creates stereotypes – do the traits come in born, or are they created, taught and become accepted as a permanent part of life?
This play takes you on a twisted journey to discover one of the many reasons why, as we grow older, we often tend to feel disunited with evergrowing mistrust, and most of all – always misunderstood.
Forbidden love? Maybe. Perhaps more than that, what happens when you are challenged by the fact that slowly, but surely, the traditions and culture, the language that your ancestors once had, disappears as you grow older and even more so when you have a family of your own?
And now couple that with the fact that you’ll always be recognized by your race, at least here in Malaysia – will Malaysians be able to survive losing their original identity, yet constantly facing huge machineries who exists to make sure the races are separated, never to be united under one nation?
When will you ever be able to call Malaysia your home, regardless of any race you belong to, without someone saying that you do not belong there? In fact, what power does a word have to shape the reality of your circumstances?
The refusal to be involved in problems where you yourself is not affected seems to be prevalent to Malaysians. People complaining about peaceful assemblies, saying they cause roadblocks and being inconsiderate, when they are actually fighting for their rights on behalf of those who complain, is one example. Why is this so? Why is there a need to protect oneself so strongly, that you forget the plight of others?
Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves should be about, why are “they” acting the way they are – is there a very deep underlying reasoning behind one’s action which is so deep, so hurtful, so resentful that calls for this sort of behaviour? This play forces you to think about this thoroughly, using powerful emotional performances by the casts, who will move even the most steady of you.
I left the room shaking, trembling, allowing myself to soak the gist of Parah, what it meant, for me and for others. Tears definitely dropped, more than once. Peals of laughter were present too. Within what seem to be a short length of time, I felt like I’ve taken a ride on an emotional rollercoaster, with a powerful message meant for me waiting at the end. Coming from a background that is bent of nation building and development of youths, this is what I had to ask myself:
Is civic nationalism possible in any society obsessed with race?
Alas, it is a question I have no answer to yet. However, I do feel rejuvenated, refreshed, especially after the casts described their ultimate goals to me (one of which is to be the the first female Malaysian National Laureate!) – it certainly has given me renewed conviction to prove that there MUST be a solution out there, and I’m not alone in looking for it 🙂
Please go and watch the play, there’s tickets left only for tonight and tomorrow! Details as per below:
Presenter: Instant Café Theatre Company
Genre: Stage Play
Date & Time: 1st, 2nd , 3rd SOLD OUT!!, 4th , 5th, 6th February 2012 @ 8:30pm
4th & 5th February 2012 @ 3pm
Venue: Pentas 2, Ground Floor, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre
Wednesday: RM38 flat-rate
Thursday – Sunday: RM48
CONCESSION PRICING RM38 (limited to 4 rows of seats = 76 seats)
*Concession price includes Student, Disabled, Senior Citizen and seats are allocated at the top row or ground row.
(all ticket prices are inclusive of Rm3 ticket handling fee)
The Instant Café Theatre presents
PARAH: a showcase performance
WRITTEN BY Alfian Sa’at
DIRECTED BY Jo Kukathas
Iedil Putra Alaudin (@iedilputra)
Melur is a Form 5 student studying in Kuala Lumpur. When she hangs out with her friends, Hafiz, Mahesh and Kahoe, they look like the poster children of 1Malaysia, a slogan celebrating multiracialism and nationhood.
One day, Melur discovers that a page from a novel that was lying around in her room has been torn out. The trouble is that the novel belongs to her schoolteacher mother, who uses it as a literature text. Investigating further, Melur realizes that the page that has been torn out contains the word ‘pariah’, deemed controversial by the Indian community.
The only suspects are the three boys, who had visited Melur’s house during the school holidays. As they begin to read it, however, the four students start to question so
me of the histories presented in the book, histories that they are supposed to claim as their own.
Alfian Saʼat, PlaywrightMulti award winning playwright, Alfian Saʼat is a Resident Playwright with theacclaimed Singapore theatre company WILD RICE. His published worksinclude two collections of poetry, ʻOne Fierce Hourʼ and ʻHistory of Amnesiaʼ, acollection of short stories, ʻCorridorʼ, as well as two collections of plays.Alfian has been nominated six times for Best Script at the Life! Theatre Awardsin Singapore, winning in 2005 for his play, ʻLandmarksʼ, and later in 2010 for hisplay, ʻNadirahʼ, directed by Jo Kukathas.His plays have been translated into German and Swedish and have been readand performed in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, London, Zurich, Hamburg, Berlinand Stockholm.
Jo Kukathas (@jokukathas), Director
Artistic Director of The Instant Cafe Theatre Company and of CHAI, Jo Kukathas is an award winning actor, writer anddirector.Directing highlights include: Midsummer Night’s Dream,Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, Hero, Air Con, M! TheOpera, and the famous ICT reviews: The Bolehwood Awards,Mass Hysteria, Kurang Manis, 1Sex1Money1Scandal. Herinternational directorial work includes Pulau Antara (Tokyo, KL),Hotel Grand Asia (Tokyo), Break-ing/Silence Please (KL, Tokyo,Singapore), co-director of Nadirah (Singapore), and PARiAH(Singapore).In 2004 Jo established FIRSTWoRKS, a writing program todevelop and direct new Malaysian plays with a differentgeneration of young writers. This program created the awardwinning plays Flies and Foreigners by Ridzwan Othman, AirCon by Shanon Shah and Hero by Arun Subramaniam – whichwent on to win New Zealand’s top New Writing prize.Her diverse work in theatre has taken her around the world andshe has performed and conducted workshops in Japan,Germany, Korea, India, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Philippines,Indonesia, Australia and the USA.