THANKS to his time with Anomalist Production, actor Clarence Kuna learned about the term menganjing.
His return to full-length Malay theatre since Supermokh — which placed him on stage with Maya Karin, Awie and Phoon Chi Ho — has been an eye-opening experience, thanks to the diverse team making up upcoming stage play Home.
Actress and radio presenter Hana Nadira meanwhile heard about the concept of “sahsiah rupa diri” thanks to rehearsals at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM).
Aside from her frequent stage collaborations with acting coach Qahar Aqilah, she has also been in productions at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA) and Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC).
When asked to describe the script in as few words as possible, Clarence chose “love, betrayal and reconciliation”. Hana on the other hand opted for “twisted dark fantasy”, before realising she was naming a Kanye West album.
“It’s really quite dark,” Hana tells us, “but it’s also quite drama Melayu. I know some people say drama Melayu like there’s stigma attached to the term, but there’s also good drama Melayu when written well.”
The pair play fictional couple Abdul Razak and Zara in the new, original play by Khairi Anwar and Nell Hanan.
Though promotional material has depicted the story as revolving around a student’s choice to study abroad or stick around the motherland, a chat with some of its cast members reveal a diverse set of characters and multiple story arcs.
Asked to summarise the overall story, Universiti Malaya drama student Felix Agustus simply states “that’s life”.
The Sarawakian engineer identifies strongly with his character Razak Ariffin, claiming to be the perfect fit.
“The first time I got the script,” Felix recalls, “I felt that Razak was myself. He embodies what I feel and want to say to the world.”
“I feel that most Malaysians who go abroad tak balik because of all the things Razak Ariffin has been through. But people tend to change over time. Maybe he’s meant to be away, because if he got home earlier, he won’t be accepted in his own country.”
Refusing to divulge too much about his character’s struggle like the rest of the cast — Anomalist has chosen to keep much of the story secret for now — Felix makes his stage debut in Home.
Boasting an ensemble led by stage newcomers Iskandar Al-Haziq and Tunku “Oxygen” Norhabibah, the play delves into relationships and other aspects of the human condition for a fresh take on contemporary Malaysian society.
It’s Anomalist’s third play outside their own campus, following Skrip Untuk Ali and Bangsa. It’s also their biggest to date, and marks their most daring venture into the local theatre scene’s talent pool as evident from its line-up of actors.
Audition calls utilising the Malaysian flag as key imagery initially led us to surmise that Anomalist wants theatre-goers to thoughtfully continue addressing the nation in the black box. If Bangsa brought race to the forefront, Home seems to bring nationalism… well, home.
But Hana reminds us that these sort of sentiments has always had a place on the local stage, more so than we had previously imagined.
“I’ve been in quite a bit of them,” reminisces Hana, “for example, What Does It Mean To Be Malaysian in 2008; I wrote a poem about Malaysia in it. Even in the recent restaging of Uda Dan Dara, Faridah [Merican] tried to do something different by making the protagonist a Chinese guy.”
“Some do it very well — my favourite is maybe Alfian Sa’at‘s Parah and productions by the Instant Cafe Theatre Company.”
Also in the cast is Chrisy Wu, who used to work with radio station Hitz FM, and was in charge of events for a number of others including Mix FM and Lite FM. As a result of that lifestyle, she went through days decked in “t-shirt, jeans and a bitchface”.
She now enjoys performing stand-up comedy, every so often taking on crowds in Crackhouse Comedy Club and PJ Live Arts. In these regular haunts, she notices the strong presence of political material.
“I wouldn’t say this play is in your face with its message; it does bring up agendas and issues we’re dealing it right now, but it does so subtly thanks to good writing,” she states.
“In stand-up comedy, we have comedians more focused on making political jokes. Whether or not they make the crowd laugh, I do think it’s important that they’re doing it.”
When asked to describe Home, Chrisy mulls for a moment, and gives us “growing pains” and “#life”.
This prompts Home‘s co-director and co-writer Nell Hanan to exclaim brightly, “Everyone’s definition of Home is different!”
Present by chance at our meeting with these four cast members, Hanan also managed to provide a bit of exclusive information on the script.
Before finishing the writing process, she had the opportunity to talk to Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna as part of her day job.
“I asked her what makes her think of home,” Hanan tells us. “Dia kata macam mana pun dia akan check social media, toll naik pun tahu, banjir pun tahu. Setiap kali dia pergi ke AS dia tahu yang bila dia balik, dia akan bawa something untuk Malaysia.”
This brings us back to our interview with Khairi Anwar from earlier in the month. In explaining Home‘s take on national pride, the young man arrived at an interesting conclusion.
“I guess it doesn’t matter whether you’re in or out of the country,” he stated back then, “as long as you’re doing something for your own nation.”
Fair enough Khairi, that’s a pretty decent point.
But if you still want to know more, then you’ll have to come down to Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) next weekend!
Now that we’ve dropped enough names to catch your attention, make sure to catch Anomalist Production’s Home, taking place at Black Box DPAC from 18 – 20 March! Tickets are priced at RM35 (general) and RM28 (students), and can be obtained via DPAC. For further information, check out Facebook!