Life after death of grandma

PHOTO: MONOSPECTRUM PHOTOGRAPHY

Half of Lanang draws from the real-life grief of playwright Hafidz Abdul Rahman

Playwright Hafidz Abdul Rahman drew on his own close relationship with his late grandmother for Lanang (Boy), a play that will be staged at the Malay Heritage Centre Auditorium by Hatch Theatrics from April 5 to 8.

Actress Nurijah Sahat plays Ruminah, a woman whose death leaves a devastating hole in the lives of her daughter (played by Dalifah Shahril) and grandson (played by Muhammad Muazzam Amanah or Zam). The relationship between mother and son changes for the worse.

"Half of the play is based on real incidents that happened to me after the demise of my grandmother and half of it is fanciful," says the 30-year-old playwright, whose work is presented as part of Hatch Theatrics' artist residency at the Malay Heritage Centre.

The collective was started in 2012 to redevelop, re-invent and experiment with theatre in Malay.

Producing original work is part of its mission and Lanang has been re-worked from a script Hafidz wrote for the 2014 edition of TheatreWorks' annual 24-Hour Playwriting Competition. It won third place then.

Director Faizal Abdullah, 34, says his interest was first piqued by the close relationship Hafidz had with his late grandmother.

"Then when I read the script, I felt like I wanted to meet his grandmother. Or at least see that character on stage," he adds.

  • BOOK IT /LANANG

  • WHERE: Malay Heritage Centre Auditorium, 85 Sultan Gate

    WHEN: April 8, 3pm. Shows on April 5 to 7 are sold out.

    ADMISSION: $25 from hatchtheatrics.wixsite.com/hatchtheatrics

    INFO: Performed in Malay and Javanese with English surtitles

Major changes to the work include putting in more of the mother-son dynamic - the play was originally written as two monologues.

Hafidz admits that he was originally nervous about outside input, given how close Lanang is to his heart. At the first script read, he says: "I came in with a skeletal script, I was unsure what the actors would bring to the table or whether they would even understand the dynamics of the characters.

"From the get-go, everyone quickly eased into their characters and the questions they asked really helped to shape the piece."

Like Adi, I was overly attached to my own grandmother when she was alive. The process of bereavement in this play parallels my own journey in coming to terms with her death and getting to understand my own mother.

ACTOR MUHAMMAD MUAZZAM AMANAH on his role as grandson Adi in the play Lanang (Boy), which also stars Nurijah Sahat

The cast relates on a personal level to the characters Hafidz writes about. Dalifah, 39, connects with the grief of losing a loved one while Nurijah, 55, says Ruminah reminds her of her own mother.

For Zam, 22, playing the character of the grandson is almost too close to home. He says: "Like Adi, I was overly attached to my own grandmother when she was alive. The process of bereavement in this play parallels my own journey in coming to terms with her death and getting to understand my own mother."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2018, with the headline 'Life after death of grandma'. Print Edition | Subscribe