Theatre classic 'Uda Dan Dara' gets a paddy field restaging in downtown KL

Muzika Uda Dan Dara will see KL's Padang Merbok transformed into a paddy field, complete with scarecrows and torches. Photo: Shamsudin Othman

Eleven trailers worth of rice straw - 88,000kg - from Pasir Panjang, Sekinchan, Selangor have been unloaded at Padang Merbok in Kuala Lumpur.

Did we mention there will also be scarecrows and torches as part of this outdoor performance?

The staging of Muzika Uda Dan Dara, a canonical Malay theatre piece, at Padang Merbok's open field is all set to roll on Oct 25 and 26.

This upcoming production of the late National Laureate Datuk Usman Awang’s Uda Dan Dara (think of it as the Malaysian version of Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet) at Padang Merbok (known for rugby tournaments) transports you straight to the paddy field where the play was originally set.

There’s no better person to helm a project of this scale and nature than local theatre veteran Shamsudin Othman, better known as Dinsman.

The 70-year-old director/playwright/poet was a trailblazer in his own right during the 1970s for being at the forefront of experimental and absurdist Malay theatre. So you know the staging of Muzika Uda Dan Dara, which opens tomorrow, is in safe hands.

Muzika Uda Dan Dara will see KL's Padang Merbok transformed into a paddy field, complete with scarecrows and torches. Photo: Shamsudin Othman

“This will definitely be a very different and unique experience for audiences. To sit on rice straw under the night sky and being able to smell it with scarecrows and torches lining the field is not something you get every day,” says Dinsman.

The two-hour long musical's cast features Aiman Nazmi, Amirah Razak, Ayudez Zuraina, Hafidz Haikal, Nadhilah Suhaimi and Roydy Rokidy, with guest appearances by Datuk Rahim Razali and Ruzaidi Abd Rahman.

Most of the actors, musicians and crew (which totals up to 150 people) are students and lecturers from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Perak.

Dinsman says staging the musical in a 'paddy field' in KL brings the message of the oppression of the rich on the poor close to home. Photo: Shamsudin Othman

Uda Dan Dara was first staged in 1972 at Universiti Malaya’s Experimental Theatre with original music by Dr Basil Jayatilaka.

It was directed by Rahim, who returns as the character Utih in this staging, and produced by the late Datuk Krishen Jit.

Uda Dan Dara is a tragic love story between two young people who come from different backgrounds. Uda (Aiman), from the village’s poorer strata, falls for the wealthy Dara (Amirah), a character which was popularised by Malaysian theatre’s first lady, Datuk Faridah Merican.

Nearly 88,000kg worth of rice straw has filled up Padang Merbok. Photo: Shamsudin Othman

In this story, the Johor-born author Usman used farmers and an agricultural setting to explore issues of status, wealth and class discrimination in the country.

“This is not merely a love story between Uda and Dara. There is more to the play. It is ultimately about the struggles of the farmers and their opposition towards their oppressors.

I intentionally made a ‘paddy field’ as the stage to drive home this message,” says Dinsman, adding that this staging in KL is in conjunction with the 2019 National Farmers, Livestock Breeders and Fishermen Day, which will take place on Nov 28.

This paddy field staging was first done in 2017 at Sabak Bernam in Selangor, where more than 2,000 people attended the show over the course of two days.

For the shows at Padang Merbok, Dinsman advises the audience to bring along mats, raincoats and umbrellas.

Muzika Uda Dan Dara is on at Padang Merbok, Jalan Parlimen in KL on Oct 25 and 26. Showtime: 8.30pm. Free admission. More details:

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