Consequences of growing up without a father explored in new play


  • Arts
  • Wednesday, 11 Mar 2020

Acad (Anwar Hadi) gives his best friend Haikal (Shah Shaha) shares a few pointers on how to get on with life in the bilingual theatre show '24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun'. Photo: Izzwan Hafizi

To spend 24 hours with someone may seem like a long time. But what if those 24 hours were spread out over the course of a lifetime?

That’s the scenario faced by Haikal, the main character of the original new play 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun. His parents have a fractured relationship, and he rarely gets any time to see his father. If you add all the time they spent together, it would barely make a day. As Haikal goes through the milestones of life: university, relationships, and familial drama, he questions his place in the world, and whether it is necessary to have a father figure.

It’s a very personal story for writer Khairi Anwar. Most of this play is based on his life, growing up without a father.

“When writing my other plays, I would do a lot of research. I’d read books or interview people, so I’d have a lot of material to work with. But I couldn’t do it here. This was my own life. Writing this script was painful, it was so lonely. It’s the loneliest script I’ve ever done, ” reveals Khairi, 28, who also manages theatre outfit Anomalist Production.

“The first draft of the play really mimicked my actual life. It was so hard to write, I couldn’t continue it. I had to switch things... like the character changed names from Khairi to Haikal. I had to change a few things to create a bit of distance.”

Presented by Theatrethreesixty, 24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun is directed by Christopher Ling, and features Shah Shaha (who plays Haikal), Anissa Azis and Anwar Hadi (who both play all the other characters in Haikal’s life). The play is in Bahasa Malaysia and English, with the soundtrack composed by Kirthana Kuhendran. Singer-songwriter and producer Takahara Suiko (of indie band The Venopian Solitude) also contributes a new song called 24 Kata.

The cast of '24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun' (from left) Anwar, Shah and Anissa. Photo: Haziq Azhar The cast of '24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun' (from left) Anwar, Shah and Anissa. Photo: Haziq Azhar

24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun is a personal, heartfelt tale, and the strength of the script, according to director Ling, is relatable to many people.

“Everyone longs to love and be loved. Everyone longs for community. It’s virtually impossible for anyone to walk in and watch this without feeling something. The play is not just about father and son, it’s all about connections. I hope it makes people question and evaluate their relationships with their loved ones, ” says Ling, 46.

One thing Ling made sure to do was not base the character of Haikal on the real life Khairi. He wanted to make sure Haikal was not just a recreation, but a compelling character who could stand on his own.

While the show looks at 37 years in Haikal’s life, Khairi is only 28.

According to Khairi, the parts after that were “guesses” of what happens next.

It would be interesting, Ling mentions, to restage this play in the future to see if anything came true.

Actor Shah describes Haikal as “very confused but inquisitive”.

“He’s also very sensitive. He’s innocent in the way that he thinks. He doesn’t know any other reality other than what he’s experienced in his life. His moral stand is formed from what he has gone through, ” says Shah, 29.

The character Haikal serves also as a “narrator” for the play, telling the story of his life from beginning to end.

To Shah, this is a very emotionally draining role, considering all the situations his character goes through.

In this play, Anissa plays six characters (including Haikal’s mother, grandmother, and girlfriend) while Anwar plays four characters (including Haikal’s father, teacher and childhood friend).

Anissa, 29, calls the show a “rollercoaster of emotions”, and remembers how the cast were all in tears after their first script reading.

“For this one, every time we do a full run, the emotions would always come. They are always there, you don’t need to force anything. There’s always a slice of your life in it, ” concludes Anissa.

24 Jam Dalam 37 Tahun is showing at Lot’ng Arts Space, 32-2, Jalan USJ 10/1E, Subang Jaya from March 12-15. Showtimes: 8.45pm on March 12-14 and 3pm on March 15. Tickets are RM48 (regular) and RM38 (students and senior citizens). The show contains mature content. Tickets: 24dalam37.peatix.com.

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