GEORGE TOWN: There was complete silence when the theatre went pitch black and all attention was drawn to the white cloth screen where a wayang kulit (shadow puppet play) was set to mesmerise the audience.
A large cut-out leave symbolising the forest flashed on the screen and the shadow of a boy took centre stage just when the narrator started his story for the play titled The Boy and The Forest.
The storyline may seem to be simple but many would be surprised to learn that the actors are disabled children who were mainly moving the puppets while on their wheelchairs.
Directed by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) School of Arts' Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin and lecturer Dr Mumtaz Begum Becker, the 50-minute play took place at the university's Pelenggang Cahaya theatre yesterday.
The play, involving 17 children and 22 teachers from the Cerebral Palsy (Spastic) Children's Association of Penang (SCAP), would be repeated at the same venue at 11.30am today.
A collaboration between USM School of Arts, the university's Neuro-Medical Department and SCAP tells the story of a boy who disobeyed his parents' advice not to venture into the forest.
Dr Mohamed Ghouse said the play is about filial relationships, of respect and of a child's and his parents' love.
“It is also about the environment, reminding us of the need to preserve the environment (forest) and to share it with God's other creatures.
“But man himself is destructive and greedy, always destroying for his own selfish needs (reflected by the ogre in the play).
“However, in the end, goodness will prevail over evil,” he said.
During the play, two children from the association played the traditional musical instruments of kromong and saron while Dr Mohamed Ghouse played the gendang and rebab.
“We took six months to practise and it's truly a labour of love. It requires a lot of patience and through the performance, the children forgot that they are disabled,” he said, adding that the play was aimed at getting the children to be more involved through play therapy.
Ng Yong Nian, 15, who played the character of the boy said he enjoyed the play and had no difficulty memorising the script.
“I was a bit nervous but I was more excited to be able to have so much fun with my friends!” he enthused.
The play was also performed in memory of Rabiatul Ahbab Akbar Ali, 10, who was originally part of the cast, but who passed away late last year due to septicaemia.