The play Home Together aims to convey important messages through the stories of residents at an old folks home.
THE Confucian value of filial piety is about respect and devotion to one’s parents and the elderly, central to most traditional Chinese families where children are taught to uphold this virtue.
But is it eroding in the face of modernisation and the busy lives we lead? Possibly, when you consider that Chinese New Year happens to be the only time when some families gather and reunite over dinner.
In this context, theatrical production Home Together aims to drive home the essence of filial piety and the importance of cherishing your loved ones and family while they are still alive.
Presented by the Bekas Journal Production Team, it will be a bilingual play in Mandarin and Hokkien (with English subtitles), and staged in Klang where Hokkien is predominantly spoken among the Chinese community.
The play opens with a scriptwriter going on a journey to research his new project, and finding inspiration from the stories of four residents in an old folks home who narrate their life stories to him over the course of the 90-minute production.
Material for the script was gathered from the company’s own visits to such homes for the elderly, as well as interviews with their own parents.
Director Noah Yap, who also doubles as art director, says he often grapples with the sad truth of how much his parents have aged whenever he returns home to see them.
“It’s saddening when we only go back during festive occasions; we don’t know what might happen (to our parents) tomorrow,” says Yap, 22. This view forms the primary basis of the first story – that people are so busy carving out their own careers, they hardly have time to think about going home.
Two other stories are drawn from Yap’s observations of his own family’s dynamics. One revolves around a hardcore gambler and wife-beater, who becomes comatose after an accident.
Upon waking, he realises that his family has left without a trace, and so he is forced to live in a home, his heart heavily laden with regret.
Yap candidly says the situation mirrors that of his own father, who gambled heavily in the past; however, his story has a happier ending as the family rallied to his father’s side and he changed for the better.
Another story touches on the relationship between a woman and her daughter-in-law, partly inspired by conversations Yap had with his mother, behind his sister-in-law’s back!
The final story focuses on courtship during the 1970s, when there were no mobile phones or social media to stay connected, and how lovers back then survived the trials and tribulations of romance.
Producer Robin Khor says the company aims to reach out and share the underlying message of Home Together with as many people as possible rather than try to cultivate artistic appreciation in a city that hasn’t had too much exposure to theatre and the performing arts.
This is why they kept the ticket prices affordable in order to entice the masses, who should find the stories relevant and relatable.
“We even went down to coffeeshops and wet markets with banners and leaflets to promote and sell our tickets, so this marketing campaign is slightly different that way,” says Khor, 21.
He also plays one of the supporting roles in the third story, as the son who is caught between his traditional mother with her own beliefs and a modern wife who detests the conventional customs that a woman must bear children.
“It is a very real situation and dilemma to relate to. In the end, not knowing who to choose, my ‘mother’ decides to check in at the old folks home alone because she no longer feels needed,” says Khor.
“When we think about it, it makes me wonder how parents can raise all their children yet none can care for their parents in their old age.”
One of the play’s main cast members, Mike Chuah, says he is still working on getting his expressions and emotions right for a live audience as this is his theatrical debut.
Previously, he worked on commercials, TV dramas and films, which he reckons are quite different from what theatre requires of the performer.
For Home Together, Chuah portrays two aspects of one character – the gambling addict and the remorseful individual he becomes several decades later. He will also be singing a little, when his character reminisces about the music of his younger days.
What has his experience been like, collaborating with the younger generation? Chuah finds it tremendously satisfying, and is happy to support and see the young having dreams and such mature ideas.
“It’s touching and some of us even cried while rehearsing our roles. That’s how it spoke to us,” he adds.
The production will also include live singing of classic songs from the 1960s to the modern era, replete with authentic costumes to suit each time period covered in the play.
> There will be two shows of Home Together on Jan 18, at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets are priced at RM15 each. It will be staged at the Hokkien Association Klang, Jln Batu Tiga Lama , Klang, Selangor. For enquiries, call 011-1122-6422 (Sing Ying).