Turning 30? 'Saturn Return' theatre play tells you what you need to know

  • Arts
  • Sunday, 11 Jun 2023

The all-female cast of 'Saturn Return' (clockwise, standing left): Sharifah, Lim, Leaism, Sharanya, Mia and Tharwa. Photo: Siaw Boon Kiat

Step into the cosmic realm of self-discovery and reflection with Saturn Return, a theatre play that delves deep into the profound effects of the Saturn return phenomena – the astrological transit that occurs once roughly every 29.5 years, where the planet Saturn “returns” to the zodiac sign, degree and house of your birth.

This astrological event holds deep significance to many, as it is believed to mark a period of personal and spiritual growth. It is often described as a time of transformation and a catalyst for making important life decisions that can shape your future.

With the first Saturn return, a person leaves youth behind and enters adulthood. It is this period in one’s life, warts and all, that is the focus of this play.

In the director’s chair

Mia Sabrina Mahadir, the director-actor of Theatresauce’s Saturn Return, nurtured her interest in astrology during the pandemic, learning how to read tarot cards and her star chart during this time.

“A few months before I turned 29 in July last year, I found out about the Saturn return phenomena. It just made sense to me, as it gives me a cosmic perspective as to why turning 30 can be so scary for many people. And lo and behold, the six months after my 29th birthday was a whirlwind of trials and tribulations, forcing me to really think about who I am, what I want and how I need to stop doing things the same way after this,” says Mia, who recently appeared in the Mixtape For Maz theatre show, which transported viewers back to teenage life in small town Malaysia in the 1990s.

She has also appeared on television and in films, and starred in the Malaysia International Film Festival’s award-winning Samudera (2018) and the Sundance-selected Benevolent Ba (2019), as well as Cho We Jun’s Taiping Adagio (2016).

Saturn Return is a completely different project as Mia takes on the directorial role, giving her focus in a thought-provoking show, where she explores the idea of growth, womanhood, spirituality, love, sexuality and death.

Mia, director-actor of 'Saturn Return', tapped into her interest in astrology to develop this production. Photo: TheatresauceMia, director-actor of 'Saturn Return', tapped into her interest in astrology to develop this production. Photo: Theatresauce

“In our devising process it clicked to me that growth only happens when we become aware of our past and our present, so that has become the prompts for our pieces. What lessons had the past taught us? What can we appreciate or step away from at this moment? And how can we use all this information to move forward into the future?” says Mia.

All-women cast

Mia is also the only female director in Theatresauce’s 2023 season, with Saturn Return featuring an all-women cast and crew.

The ensemble is made up of Leaism, Sharifah Aleysha, Lim Sheng Hui, Sharanya Radhakrishnan and Tharwa Karina, who have been collaborating with Mia since February to devise the show, which offers insights on how our past and present continuously shape the way we anchor the future.

“In my 20s, I dealt with obstacles, failures and loss with so much rage and guilt. Now, I turn to hope. At the end of the day, you have yourself. You have the power to turn things around in your own hands. Everyone and everything else is just temporary pieces to the bricks of your life path, it’s up to you to build them towards where you want to go,” says Mia, who has trained with Christopher Ling, Qahar Aqilah and Nicole Ann Thomas.

Sharanya (in white) seen in a rehearsal for 'Saturn Return', Theatresauce’s third production of 2023. Photo: Abdul Sami Shahid Sharanya (in white) seen in a rehearsal for 'Saturn Return', Theatresauce’s third production of 2023. Photo: Abdul Sami Shahid

This original play also highlights the idea of female camaraderie and a more mature perspective on relationships and life, than that of a young person.

“Something the cast and I discussed at length is how we grew up with the idea that we all have to compete with each other, and how now at 30, we have ‘calmed down’ and realised that it was never supposed to be that way.

"Patriarchy gave us that illusion, that we have to fight each other for the limited spots. But there is space for all of us. We help each other, we make space for each other,” she adds.

Running for 120 minutes (with a 15 minute intermission), Saturn Return is her first full length direction and she believes that the themes are relatable to all.

“Even if you don’t believe in astrology, change is inevitable in everyone’s life. And the agent of change is pain. Everybody goes through pain and is changed because of it, so I think the pain in the stories will be the strongest attraction for the audience. Likewise, you don’t have to be ageing to get this pain, because the pain we explore in Saturn Return – the pain of loss, death, love, loneliness, childbirth and trauma – can happen to anyone at any time,” says Mia.

Saturn Return will play at Rooftop Theatre, Sunway College in Selangor from June 14-18. Performances are 8.30pm daily, with additional weekend matinees at 3pm. Tickets are RM55. For mature audiences only. More info here.

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