“What price glory”
Reviewer: Christian W. Huber
Performance: 6 April 2017
Hope was first staged simply and humbly 23 years ago at The Substation’s Guinness Theatre, with direction from Kok Heng Leun and performed by then aspiring actors like Hossan Leong and Julius Foo. It now gets a long-awaited second staging and Malay translation – as Harap – as part of The Esplanade’s The Studios 2017 season.
The play is co-produced by Teater Ekamatra and helmed by it artistic director, Mohd Fared Jainal, who successfully adapted a lesser known piece by Haresh Sharma, The Necessary Stage’s resident playwright. Together with his ensemble of actors and his creative team (kudos to aspiring literary translator Zulfadli Rashid), Jainal has created a moving piece that touches on topics such as suicide, homosexuality, drinking alcohol, and making ends meet in a fast modernizing Singapore defined by the “five Cs”.
The simple staging, sound design, multi-media, and use of mud for one of the incapacitated characters to create a fantasy city inside his head are nice highlights. But it is the text and strong performances by the able stable of actors – who peel the layers off their characters to reveal their vulnerability – that truly shines.
Sani Hussin and Siti Hajar Abd Gani give solid performances as the tragic married couple who struggle to deal with loan sharks, and gambling and drinking problems that are draining their finances.
Six-year-old Nur Zakiah Bte Muhd Fared also impresses as the couple’s daughter in her debut theatre performance. She is supposed to be the symbol of hope for a new generation, and it is heartbreaking to see her life decided by a couple that has given up.
Downplaying the homosexual theme in this version, the two friends – played by Fir Rahman and Hirzi Zulkiflie – bring some needed humour, as well as a layer of hope through very subtle word and imagery play. Speaking in the comfortable rhythm of his mother tongue, Rahman makes some amends with this reviewer following his recent performance in Toy Factory Production’s flawed Prism.
It is refreshing to see this versatile script meet the young audience of today’s generation. The time period of the piece is not clear (though it feels it is set when the internet and mobile phones had yet to catch on – i.e. the early 1990s), but its timelessness and relevance captivate many of the secondary school students in the audience.
For those who jumped on the bandwagon of Singapore’s economic growth in the post-independence years but cannot keep pace with its success, demoralization and hopelessness devours. Hope (Harap) holds such a positive title.
But it is anything but.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
HOPE (HARAP) by Teater Ekamatra
6 – 9 April 2017
Esplanade Theatre Studio
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Christian is a C42 Boiler Room 2016 playwright, and enjoys being an audience member to different mediums of the arts. He finds arts invigorating to the soul, and truly believes that the vibrant arts scene has come a long way from its humble beginnings.