Macbeth goes local with Dato Dikajang

There’s a play at the KL Performing Arts Centre right now which is very interesting.

IT’s a first for Shakespeare’s The Trajedy of Macbeth: to be translated into Bahasa Malaysia and adapted into a localised version called Dato DiKajang.



Set in the early 1960s, in a reimagined Malaya, or Pertiwi, the play follows the struggle of Dato DiKajang as he deals with the choices he makes in the pursuit of fame, fortune and power, and the consequences that follow. Ultimately, his own sanity is abandoned.

Billed Dato’ Seri, an ubiquitous title if anything else, the script is co-adapted by father and son team, Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim and Omar Ali.

Macbeth! We have to do Macbeth”, said Muhammad Ali, 69, vividly reminiscing his days of reading the play as a student of English Literature, sitting for his Cambridge School Certificate examinations at the Muar High School in 1963.

“I want to start a conversation with this play. It is geared to the younger generation,” says Muhammad, 69, who made his mark in the Malaysian landscape with economics, starting with Bank Negara, and later as the chief executive officer of Johor Corporation (JCorp) for 28 years.

This is the first artistic collaboration of the duo, and is Omar’s directing debut in staging a play in Bahasa Malaysia.

Omar, 33, trained as a graphic designer and copywriter, is currently a resident director at KLpac. He came into theatre by accident, liked it, and decided to stay. In 2013, Omar was awarded the Short+Sweet Festival Director’s Award.

Muhammad says he started translating Macbeth religiously in July.

Adds Omar: “It’s a challenge to translate and get the iambic meter. The trochaic tetrameter is easier. That’s the witches part, and it’s more compatible with the Malay language. Da da dum. It does flow quite nicely in Malay. There are parts which are in normal language and others heightened.

We did our best to honour the original story, being careful to avoid making unnecessary changes – as tempting as they were – while we worked on the very necessary contextualisation of the translated text.

“We hope that our adaptation would succeed in conveying the story, and the sense of this classic piece of theatre, in our mother tongue.

“Our aim is to honour Shakespeare.”

The play ends June 5, 2016. Visit or call KLpac Box Office (03-4047 9000).

All pix by Ridzuan Rashid, courtesy of KLpac.


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