Offering a voice for the troubled

(From far left) Nur Huwaina Ibrahim, Muhammad Deen Nur Matiin and Zannury Zakarea.
(From far left) Nur Huwaina Ibrahim, Muhammad Deen Nur Matiin and Zannury Zakarea.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Dealing with troubled families as part of her job led social worker Siti Nurfajrina Mohd Noor to create Suara, a dance theatre production about the importance of communication.

"In many low-income families, the cause of many complex problems boils down to communication breakdown between family members," says the 25-year-old, who is also the show's producer.

"I wanted to blend real-life social issues and empower people to speak up when they need help or for the community to speak up to help others in these situations."

Suara, which means voice in Malay, is presented by Malay performing arts company Sriwana. It will be held at the Drama Centre Theatre on Sept 23 at 3 and 8pm.

In the show, a couple find their marriage on the rocks due to a lack of communication on the part of the husband and the wife's unmet expectations. It also talks about the voice or role of the larger community in preventing such situations from happening.

This is the first time the 62- year-old performing arts company is combining theatre and dance for a professional production.

In many low-income families, the cause of many complex problems boils down to communication breakdown between family members. I wanted to blend real-life social issues and empower people to speak up when they need help.

SOCIAL WORKER SITI NURFAJRINA MOHD NOOR on creating Suara. The dance theatre production stars Nur Huwaina Ibrahim, Muhammad Deen Nur Matiin and Zannury Zakarea

For this, it has roped in theatre doyenne Atin Amat from Singapore Malay theatre company Teater Kami to conduct training sessions once a week since April.

  • BOOK IT /SUARA

  • WHERE: Drama Centre Theatre, Level 3 National Library Building, 100 Victoria Street

    WHEN: Sept 23, 3 and 8pm

    ADMISSION: $28. Call Ms Faezah on 9115-7987 or Ms Farhaanah on 9728-1437 for tickets

    INFO: www.sriwana.com

This includes vocal training.

Sriwana dancers Zannury Zakarea, 32, who plays the husband, and Nur Huwaina Ibrahim, 25, who plays the wife, will be delivering lines as part of the show, on top of dancing.

Young dancer Muhammad Deen Nur Matiin, 10, plays their five-year-old son, who shares a close bond with his mother.

Atin, 60, says the journey with the dancers was not smooth in the early days. "In theatre rehearsals, we discuss and sometimes argue a lot - it's part of the process of understanding the play. At first, the dancers were not used to my style and there were some tears," says Atin.

Nurfajrina adds: "There was some anxiety at first and some stage fright because the dancers didn't know how to project their voices, for example."

But both parties say they enjoyed the challenge.

Besides the four cast members, 16 dancers from Sriwana will perform seven dance items which convey the different moods and emotions of the character.

The production melds modern Malay dance with Malay syair and puisi, which are poetic forms, which Sriwana president and artistic director Fauziah Hanom Yusof, 55, hopes to revive as these are "dying".

The poetry is composed and will be recited by Malay-language teacher Khaziah Yem, 49, who also acts as the wife's best friend in the show.

The story makes references to the Malay folk tale of Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup (The Devouring Rock), a tale about filial piety. In the story, a mother seals herself in a cave because of her selfish children.

This cave will be recreated on stage for the production, serving as a metaphorical wall between the husband and wife.

Fauziah says that including all these different elements makes the production unique, while serving the demands of a modern audience.

She adds: "We want to keep up with the competition in the arts scene, which emphasises more on multidisciplinary art forms. These days, dancers have to be multi- talented. They cannot just dance."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2017, with the headline 'Offering a voice for the troubled'. Print Edition | Subscribe