The late Datuk Syed Alwi Syed Hassan (1930-2008) was no ordinary man. He was a giant in his own right.
The National Laureate (Sasterawan Negara) was a prolific writer, playwright, actor and director with a provocative and progressive vision in the local theatre scene.
“Syed Alwi left an immense and lasting legacy in the arts scene. He raised up Malay theatre, shifting its foundations from its ‘purbawara’ aristocratic leanings and guiding it towards a more contemporary approach,” says Dr Rosdeen Suboh, a director and scriptwriter.
Rosdeen has handpicked three works from the Taiping, Perak-born Syed Alwi to be staged in a mini tribute showcase called Teater Yeop: Tribute To Datuk Syed Alwi . “Yeop“ is a Perakian term of endearment as a nod to Syed Alwi’s home state.
Teater Yeop: Tribute To Datuk Syed Alwi will play at KLPac from Dec 27-30.
It also coincides with the 10th anniversary of his death this month.
Syed Alwi’s most famous and endearing works such as Alang Rentak Seribu (1973), Tok Perak (1974) and Going North (1980) will be revisited and reinvented in this production, co-presented by Tampakdara Enterprise and The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat.
“Alang Rentak Seribu demonstrates the great versatility of the Malay character. Going North shows the intellectual revolution of the Malay mind while Tok Perak portrays the authenticity of the Malay identity,” says Rosdeen.
The cast includes Dr Norzizi Zulkifli, Amar Asyraf, Yusmar Yusof, Nadia Aqilah, Naque Ariffin and Taiyuddin Bakar.
Tampakdara Enterprise, founded by Rosdeen in 2010, is actively involved in the field of stage management and organising theatre productions, festivals, carnivals, workshops and concerts.
Alang Rentak Seribu tells the story of Alang who is appointed to be the assistant director of a documentary on life in a Malay village. However, numerous problems crop up during the shoot.
Going North, on the other hand, is set in 1949, during the Malayan Emergency and the communist revolt. In this production, a graduate student waits for the train to journey back to his hometown when he encounters an old man and soon, a clash of generations ensues when the duo engage in conversation.
Tok Perak features a street medicine seller who returns after being missing for 34 years. He goes from street to street around the country to sell his medicine and along the way, he is accosted by those who are against his trade.
What’s interesting about the staging of Teater Yeop: Tribute To Datuk Syed Alwi is that Rosdeen will be employing the “forum theatre technique” to blur the lines between audience and performers, putting them on an equal footing.
Forum theatre is a technique pioneered by Brazilian drama theorist and theatre radical Augusto Boal.
In this style of interactive theatre, a scene, usually indicating some kind of oppression, is shown twice. During the replay, any member of the audience is allowed to shout “stop!”, step forward and take the place of one of the oppressed characters, showing how they can change the situation to enable a different outcome.
“Viewers will be totally immersed in the performance because besides watching a show, they will participate by acting, joining the discussions, giving their opinions, supporting roles, voting, playing theatre games, and so on,” says Rosdeen, whose directorial repertoire includes Tun Fatimah (2006), Sri Mersing (2010) and Semerah Padi (2015).
“It enables participants to try out (different) courses of action which can be applicable to their everyday lives.”
Teater Yeop: Tribute To Datuk Syed Alwi plays at Pentas 2, KLPac Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah in Kuala Lumpur from Dec 27-30. Showtimes: Dec 27-29 (8.30pm) and Dec 30 (3pm). Tickets: RM60 (regular) and RM50 (concession). More details: www.klpac.org.