You're invited to the fabled Langkawi wedding that led to an island shake-up

In the upcoming 'Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet' show in Kuala Lumpur, Papi Zak (left) reprises the Mat Raya role and Kuah Jenhan sizes up the Mat Chincang character again. Photo: Suatukala

According to local folklore, Mat Chincang and Mat Raya were two legendary giants living on Langkawi island in Kedah.

They were good friends and soon-to-be in-laws, with Mat Raya’s daughter set to be engaged to Mat Chincang’s son. However, the engagement party turned into an argument when Mat Chincang’s son was said to have a relationship with another woman.

Legend has it that Mat Chincang and Mat Raya then had an epic fight, and the ensuing chaos literally reshaped the landscape of Langkawi. (Today, the island is famous for its two mountains: Gunung Mat Chincang and Gunung Raya.)

Next week, theatre fans can experience a fresh re-telling of this classic Langkawi tale with Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet, an immersive dinner theatre production by Langkawi community arts outfit Suatukala, and co-directed and scripted by Wayang Kitchen’s Razif Hashim and Tarrant Kwok.

The show will be served up at Kompleks Kraf in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 15 and 16. It is supported by Arts for All Seasons (ArtsFAS), an annual grant programme by Yayasan Hasanah and the Finance Ministry.

Headlining the Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet production are three of KL’s mainstays in theatre and comedy – Razif Hashim, Papi Zak and Kuah Jenhan. They will be joined by versatile singer-songwriter Leaism, who will add a soulful sparkle to the show’s soundtrack.

An ensemble cast and crew of Langkawi-based talent, including local students and schoolteachers, will also be under the spotlight. The KL performance follows the show’s sell-out debut staged in Langkawi last December, with a couple of familiar faces back on stage.

Papi Zak (right) as Mat Raya and Shareen Rahmat, who plays his wife, the powerful bomoh. Photo: SuatukalaPapi Zak (right) as Mat Raya and Shareen Rahmat, who plays his wife, the powerful bomoh. Photo: Suatukala

Razif is back as the show’s storyteller/narrator to draw the audience in, while Papi Zak reprises the Mat Raya role; Kuah Jenhan sizes up the Mat Chincang character.

Comedians taking the spotlight in a stage production is also a refreshing twist as to how more crossovers can be initiated between theatre and entertainment circles in Malaysia.

"Technically this is my second time (doing theatre). The first time was when I did the first run of Walimatulurus in Langkawi. Compared to stand-up... theatre-acting is quite intimidating. I can’t afford to mess up my lines where as if I mess up in stand up I can cover it up and make it funny on purpose," says Papi Zak.

Going beyond one-liners, Kuah Jenhan is also relishing the theatre challenge with Walimatulurus, given his past experience in the performing arts scene.

"Actually, contrary to popular belief, I started in theatre first! My first show was Rose, Rose, I Love You the musical back in 2007. I’ve done many theatre shows and even co-wrote the best selling Lat Kampung Boy: Sebuah Muzikal. Which is why as a stand-up comedian I often explore a lot more theatricality in my shows," he says.

Where city and island meet

In a recent interview, Lina Tan, Suatukala’s co-founder and Walimatulurus’ co-producer points out that the show is not only intended to highlight the well-known legend of Langkawi’s two mountains but to also introduce community heritage, including the familial duties and preparations behind a traditional Malay wedding banquet.

“With Walimatulurus, we are not only trying to revive the creation myth of Langkawi’s most significant geographical features, but to also create a truly unforgettable, immersive theatre experience,” says Tan, a leading producer in film, TV and theatre circles.

Getting the show on the road (from left) Karina, Tan and Shareen, the producers and co-founders of Suatukala. Photo: SuatukalaGetting the show on the road (from left) Karina, Tan and Shareen, the producers and co-founders of Suatukala. Photo: Suatukala

Suatukala, formed in 2015, is a community initiative based in Langkawi with the primary goal of promoting storytelling in all its forms. Its productions usually include school children and young artists living in Langkawi.

However, producing and touring Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet did come with a set of challenges. It also Suatukala’s first show outside Langkawi.

Staging Walimatulurus in KL is a big step up for the Langkawi team, both in terms of the exposure it will provide them and also as proof of the island community’s ability to hold their own on a big city stage.

With the cast split between KL and Langkawi, back and forth travelling was to be expected, and managing their time was important in order for them to have the necessary chemistry for the show.

There is also a change in setting for this year’s production, with a shift from the outdoor space of Langkawi’s Laman Padi to the indoor Kompleks Kraf in KL.

“We chose Laman Wau at Kompleks Kraf because we wanted a traditional setting which it has, with the kerawang and decorations, yet it still has a modern feel to it,“ says Tan.

Besides being staged indoors this time, the theatre space will also include LED screens to further enhance the experience.

Getting ready for a wedding

As the legend states, the argument between the two giants is pivotal to the storyline, and you can almost hear the clanging of pots and pans being thrown at each other. The spot where a broken pot fell became known as the village of Belanga Pecah (broken pot), and the location where the gravy fell, became the town of Kuah (gravy).

The students from Langkawi in a dancing scene featured in 'Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet'. Photo: Suatukala The students from Langkawi in a dancing scene featured in 'Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet'. Photo: Suatukala

The place where hot water was splashed is now Air Hangat (hot water), where the present-day hot springs in Langkawi are. Finally, the spot where the wedding ring fell is known as Tanjung Cincin (Cape Ring).

This is the the backdrop of Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet as audiences will also learn the history behind the names of the villages in Langkawi. The food element of the show is also a highlight.

Tan is eager to roll out the bona fide experience of a traditional Malay village wedding with a modern pop twist.

“It’s a show that combines performance art with food and tactile elements that require guests to interact with the cast,” says Tan.

The audience will not only be treated to a theatrical performance complete with song and dance, but they will also get a chance to enjoy a traditional Kedahan wedding dinner.

“Walimatulurus is more than your standard theatre fare. It’s a lot of fun, just the way weddings should be! There will be drama of course, but also dancing, lots of laughs and even a chance for audience members to be part of the wedding. Come in your best wedding attire and join in the festivities,” she adds.

Sharing Langkawi’s heritage

Being a tourist island, accessibility to the performing arts has not been easy for people living in Langkawi.

Even acquiring books and theatre material posed a challenge.

Venues in Langkawi largely focus on commercial shows, and there is little room to be different.

Shureeza Faris Abdul Shukor (left) and Kuah Jenhan as Mat Chinchang and wife. Photo: Suatukala Shureeza Faris Abdul Shukor (left) and Kuah Jenhan as Mat Chinchang and wife. Photo: Suatukala

Since its inception, Suatukala’s mission is to inspire self-expression, foster critical thinking, and nurture artistic talent within these communities.

Community theatre and storytelling events, involving local residents and school children in Langkawi, have increased with Suatukala’s initiatives through the years. It also actively engages arts practitioners from KL to share their expertise, collaborate on new projects with local communities, and extend the reach of Suatukala’s work beyond the shores of Langkawi.

Karina Bahrin, Suatukala’s other co-founder and author, sees the importance of grassroots initiatives, notably in creating a creative community that will explore Langkawi’s heritage through theatre and beyond.

The outfit has persisted with these types of shows in order to promote storytelling in all forms among the people of Langkawi, particularly the youth.

“It also gives a platform for students to tap into their hidden talents. Not only that, their teachers also benefit from the exposure and fun of performing in a theatre show,” says Karina.

Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet might have its headlining names, but there have been some unsung heroes who have kept the show’s momentum going, through rehearsals and workshop readings. “It is the two teachers from SMK Kedawang, Cikgu Shureeza (Faris), who plays the wife of Mat Cincang and Cikgu Hanan who plays the bride, that have been incredible,” says Karina, who mentions that 24 members of the cast hail from Langkawi.

“They have been instrumental in ensuring the students are participating in this production and other workshops in Langkawi. I think it’s very rare to find teachers in a production alongside their students.

“And with the input from experienced performers from KL, we can see how well they have bonded in the culmination of this production,” she says.

Kuah Jenhan is also looking forward to work again with the young and talented cast from Langkawi next weekend.

"It has been nothing but wonderful and inspiring. The students really bring their passion to every rehearsal. Those who are returning as chorus members have all grown so much in confidence (and much taller!). The teachers in the show are also a real joy to work with. I’m so excited for them to perform in KL!" concludes Kuah Jenhan.

Proceeds from Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet will go towards funding Suatuakala’s on-going initiatives in Langkawi, including its annual Rekacerita competition which sees students across the island competing to stage their original plays in front of a live audience and judged by theatre and film professionals.

Walimaturus – The Wedding Banquet is set to play a Kompleks Kraf, Jalan Raja Chulan in Kuala Lumpur on Dec 15 and 16. Tickets are priced at RM150, inclusive of dinner. More info here.

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