Someone once said that isolation kills. Tria Aziz, a theatre actor and singer, knows this feeling all too well. “When I got divorced, I felt alienated by the people around me,” recounts Tria, 46, in a recent interview in KL.
Alif Adzham, a relative newcomer to the theatre scene, quickly agrees. He is not afraid of sharing his own experiences when it comes to isolation and dealing with loneliness.
“I was studying overseas to be a medic. But due to some issues back home, I had to fly back and couldn’t finish the course. When I came back I felt very isolated from my friends who had succeeded in life,” says Alif, 29, before adding that he would often lock himself up in his room back then.
What Tria and Alif did not know is that these painful episodes would one day come to be part of a stage play. Both actors are starring in Orang Asing, a Malay-language production by Asterik Anak Seni Production (Asterik) that is playing now at Petaling Jaya-based theatre space Revolution Stage till Feb 17.
Orang Asing also features TheatreThreeSixty’s founder Christopher Ling, Kirin Muhamad, Najwa Mutalib, Ahmad Ghadafi Meliki, Royzaib Sugian and Haikal Hamdan. Orang Asing, directed by Afendi Shah, offers an insightful story of how hope and acceptance can heal those stuck in hurt and isolation.
“All the characters in the play are isolated from their family or society due to certain events in their personal lives. So each one feels alone and isolated, sometimes to the point of feeling like an outsider in their own families,” explains the 27-year-old Afendi.
Afendi, despite his age, has previously directed Tepuk Amai-Amai (2017) and Asrama-ra (2018), both written by Revolution Stage founder Khairunazwan Rodzy. Asrama-ra grabbed the second spot at last year’s Festival Teater Malaysia at Dewan Tunku Abdul Rahman, MaTiC in Kuala Lumpur.
Orang Asing tells the story of businesswoman Nora (Tria), her second husband Aziz (Alif) and her daughter Nisa from her first marriage. Set in a hospital waiting room, the play begins with Nisa, who is warded at the Intensive Care Unit and wanting to see her real father Rashid, who had been imprisoned for life on a murder charge.
This enrages Nora who blames Rashid for the hardships their family had to endure after his arrest. Nora cannot forgive him.
“So when Nisa makes this request, it bruises Nora’s ego and narcissistic behaviour. She feels threatened by the past,” says Tria, who has appeared in diverse shows like The Edge (2018), You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (2017) and Tragedi Hamlet (2016).
This sticky scenario presents an opportunity for Aziz to gain acceptance. As Nora’s new husband and her children’s stepfather, Aziz has never felt accepted as “family”. To make matters worse, Nora keeps him away from her children.
“He just wants the kids to accept him. Meeting Rashid would mean getting his blessing to take on the responsibility as their new father,” says Alif, a co-founder of Asterik.
Orang Asing is written by playwright Hariry Jalil. He says Orang Asing is a brutally honest account on how Malaysians, specifically those in the arts community, persist in building barriers rather than working together.
“Some arts practitioners consider their fellow brothers and sisters in the field as outsiders … there is this certain pride and ego. I’m concerned at what will happen to the next generation if this toxic behaviour of ‘isolating’ people for personal gains is not reversed,” says Hariry, 39, who has written works like Selamat Hari Natal – Natalie (2013) and Surat Sabariah (2014).
Both Tria and Alif couldn’t agree more.
“People tend to reject and isolate someone or something that is different. That’s a part of life. But life can be a whole lot better if there is more understanding and a willingness to accept others,” says Tria.