KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — For the Malay community, a wedding is rarely a personal affair between the couple and their immediate families.
In return for being feted as a king and queen for the day, a married couple often opens their lives to those who have come to celebrate them.
In a traditional wedding held at a family’s home, guests not only get to enjoy the communal feast and gawk at the dowry and gifts, but would be shown the couple’s bedroom — an inner sanctum on any other day, but on this day decorated to offer a glimpse into marital bliss.
Kenduri Kendara (Malay for “feast”), a debut theatrical performance by The Keepers Studio opening this week, aims to replicate this experience by inviting the audience to peek into the wedding, and subsequently see how it changes the life of one Malay-Muslim couple.
In the first part titled “Samar” (“fuzzy” or “vague”), Boh Cameronian Arts Awards winner Nadia Aqilah and actor Surnia Fizul play a couple thrust into marriage as they are expecting a child.
“You have a couple and they’re met with pregnancy, and then almost unspoken or naturally, marriage is the choice, which is reflective of the Malay-Muslim society.
“It’s looking at how or what marriage does to people,” said director Azzad Mahdzir, who is one half of Keepers. His partner Tan Hui Woon is currently based in Vietnam.
Together with assistant director Ariff Kamil, Azzad crafted “Samar” to be a series of nine vignettes. It is an extension of Pasang, a short play commissioned last year by women’s group Sisters in Islam (SIS) who also serve as a collaborator for this show.
In the interactive second part “Gerobok” (“wardrobe”), assistant directors Qistina Ruslan and Amanda Nell Eu invite the audience to pick out a tudung or headscarf and try it on, and examine the social impact of the piece of cloth on local women.
Thirdly in “Suap” (“feed”), assistant director Arshad Adam gets the audience to sit together and feed each other using their hands as an exploration of taboo and comfort zones.
“Basically, the flavour is a bit voyeuristic, inspecting things in a microscopic way. The recurring theme is ‘choice’, hence our tagline.
“It is akin to being a Malay host. We offer, but people can always say ‘no’,” Azzad said.
Published short story writer Zed Adam Idris makes his debut as a playwright for Kenduri Kendara, where he said writing in the Malay language has infused greater eloquence and life into his composition.
“In Malay, I can be more poetic,” Zed said in a statement released to the press.
“This is necessary especially because the story is set in a universal domestic premise, therefore the relationship between the man and woman has to be poetic instead of being direct, just as the life of marriage is a series of waves, sometimes calm and sometimes overwhelming.”
Azzad had taught English for four years before deciding to freelance in stage and screen performance in 2010.
He said Keepers Studio is inspired by the courage and bravery in local social activism, that chooses its medium — from theatre to videos to visual arts — according to the narrative it wishes to deliver.
“The country needs it, not just form but strong content. Bold, relevant, edgy,” said Azzad, who admitted he got a jolt from a SIS workshop.
“We are in need of flavours and themes, maybe activism in the form of arts. This is my vocation and language. Being a teacher has rubbed off me a bit.”
The performance is supported by INXO Arts Fund and Kakiseni, and will run from September 14 to 17 and September 21 to 24 at Makespace, Quill City Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
Entry is RM45 per head, and RM25 for senior citizens, the disabled and students. Tickets are available at the door or online here.