Pithy themes draw some blood in Orang Asing

IN a small performing space on the fifth floor of a block of flats in Bandar Utama, the themes of isolation, loss and betrayal are played out for an hour in Asterik Anak Seni Production’s Orang Asing.

It seemed poignant that the pithy humaness of the themes are voiced and emoted, admirably at that, while below sat a thriving mamak restaurant.

The bespoke black box is filled with the smell of disinfectant to give the ambience of a hospital space. The props aptly remind you of a hospital waiting room, and the “stage” is long rather than wide with the actors walking in and out from one end. Kudos to director Afendi Shah and his team as the setting lent focus to the heart of the play which revolved around a chief executive officer called Nora (played by Tria Aziz) and her second husband Aziz (Alif Adzham), and the dynamics of their relationships with family.

Nora is distraught as her daughter Nisa, from her first marriage, is in the Intensive Care Unit. When she discovers Aziz had given her first husband, Rashid, who had been jailed for murder, permission to visit Nisa, Nora’s blood pressure sets the room’s temperature to boiling point.

We also learn that Aziz had not been allowed to get close to his stepchildren. Orang Asing… words that take on different meanings in different contexts.

Tria has made an impact on stage from winning ntv7’s Audition to musical theatre awards and theatrical turns as in Tribute to Sudirman and Tragedi Hamlet.

In that one-hour play, written by Hariry Jalil, she emotes strongly the anguish of a wife and a mother whose husband went to jail for her honour, as I understood it. He killed someone attempting to rape his wife. She asks, was it worth to go the jail, and leave me with the shame, and children to support? She was treated like “orang asing” as a consequence, she adds.

The cast was equally talented and committed to their roles. Kirin Muhamad’s portrayal of the handcuffed murderer, if loving father, Rashid was poignant. When his son Ikhwan (Haikal Hamdan) finally greets him, with palpable love, it drew tears from some audience members.

Haikal, in his role as a mute son, expressed volumes with his expressions and hands and proved a heart-stealer, while Azman Hassan as the kind policeman guarding Rashid the murderer gave a nuanced subtle portrayal with his secondary role.

TheatreThreeSixty’s founder Christopher Ling also delivered his few lines as the doctor attending Nisa with sympathy that could be felt.

Drawbacks, however, was that the play sometimes felt a little like a television drama, a snippet of a soap series. There was also an emphasis on religion, which doesn’t detract from the core of the play in anyway except that it was puzzling. Was it necessary for the play to show that the mute son could sign language the call to prayer? An achievement to say the least. And the ending was also a resignation by Rashid, back in prison, to god’s great plans. Some people do that, while others rail at their lot…

Perhaps for a play of such brevity, closure has to come quickly? Orang Asing was, ultimately, an engrossing watch. The Malay theatre group will present another new play. Visit their Facebook page for details.

** This review appeared in the New Straits Times for most parts! got la some censorship!

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