On first appearance, Ikhmal appears to be your average shy secondary school student. So how, then, did he end up dead?
This is the central mystery at the heart of Kelas Tambahan, a new bilingual play that takes place in what appears to be a regular school. The play captures the fallout of this unexpected death which sent shockwaves through the school community, especially among Ikhmal’s classmates, who were the last people to see him alive.
As investigations take place, it is soon revealed that there is more to Ikhmal’s death than it appears. No one is truly innocent, and the most unexpected parties may have played a role in the tragedy. But who really is at fault?
Young theatre practitioner Haris Hazizan, who wrote and directed the Kelas Tambahan play with Leya Bahri, says this new work is based on collective experiences relating to bullying. This production is set to play at Blackbox, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPac) in Petaling Jaya from March 16-18.
“It’s not really a crime thriller story. We’re exploring issues like bullying and violence in school as well as the importance of a good social support system,” explains Haris, 26.
“The main reason I wanted to write this story is because if you read the newspapers or go through social media, you will see a lot of news on school bullying. It’s gotten to an extreme level. Bullying is very rampant now and this play discusses why bullying happens.”
Kelas Tambahan is produced by KL-based theatre production company Laman Artisan Theatre Group (LATG), which was formed in 2016.
LATG is a theatre group initiative started by Haris, Laila Izyana and Alya Azrin, all of whom were previously from the same theatre club Tronoh Theatre Shop (TTS) while pursuing their degrees at Universiti Teknologi Petronas in Perak.
LATG consists of a young arts collective, mostly in their mid-20s, from various backgrounds of theatre ranging from experimental to musicals. However, what makes them interesting as a group is that none of them have any formal theatre training.
Last May, LATG presented Percayalah. Aku Doktor, a show concerning power and status at DPac, and Sukmah, a work featured at the Festival Teater Kuala Lumpur Dan Selangor.
“We want to use theatre as a way to speak to young people and to help them deal with tough issues in their lives. If we can humanise their experiences for outsiders, it’s already half the battle won,” say Haris.
The Kelas Tambahan play is mostly set in a police interrogation room and a school compound, where the play flashes back to the events leading up to the death of Ikmal (Nabil Musawir).
Much of the plot revolves around an inspector (Aizuddin Rosli) questioning Ikhmal’s classmates. They include Ikhmal’s academic rival Melissa (Christine Liew), popular girl Alisa (Liyana Faisal), charismatic head student Jason (Timmy Ong) and Faizal (Emeir Faez), a troublemaker.
Their teacher, the friendly Cikgu Saleha (Ferlynda Fazleen), is also hauled up.
For a play on bullying, Kelas Tambahan did involve some rather intense rehearsal sessions.
Actor Emeir admits it is draining for him to play a bully. But he is up for the challenge.
“I’m not usually a physical person, if I have a problem with my friends or family, I prefer to talk and solve the problem. Faizal is the total opposite. How can a person bully someone and not feel bad about it?” says Emeir.
Elsewhere, Leya wants the show to raise awareness about bullying, and help viewers to realise there needs to be new ways of tackling this problem.
“Today’s generation, they may need someone to talk to them more A lot of people engage in one way communication nowadays, interacting with their (handphone) screens more than with other people. What’s important is for parents and teachers to talk to kids, find out what’s going on, and explain to them in a relatable way what the consequences of their actions are,” she concludes.