To celebrate the end of their two year Artist Residency with the Malay Heritage Centre, Hatch Theatrics is staging their 9th production Lanang. The collective, founded in 2012, serves as an incubation platform for young theatre makers to promote creativity and the pursuit of original works. Lanang is no exception from this philosophy.

Written by Hatch member Hafidz Rahman, the play is about single mother Habsah who recently went through a divorce before having to deal with a family member’s death. The hour and a half performance is a glimpse into her growing loneliness and paranoia from the lack of support around her. Through this, we look into her relationship with her children and the eldest son, Adi as they try to work out the turbulence of grief and love within their family.

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The script itself is cleverly structured to deliver a clear message, while retaining a sense of suspense. Delivered in Malay with English surtitles, it is easy to follow the storyline and take part in the humour regardless of language. I particularly enjoy the use of repetition to capture the daily routines of this family and implicitly hint at what is to come. Its balance of suggestion and mystery keeps the audience engaged while giving space for individual imaginations to flourish. 

The cast definitely also play a part in bringing the script to life – each staying true to their distinct character traits and not breaking character despite a difficult audience. Dalifah Shahril is commanding as Habsah, which is a lovely contrast to the softness of Nurijah Sahat’s Mama (grandmother). Muhammad Muazzam Amanah, also known as Zam, stole the show with his subtlety and the gradual build of emotion which results in an outburst – serving as the climax of the performance as he comes out of his reserved self to truly communicate his thoughts and feelings.

That particular scene of mother and son is particularly poignant as it is the first time both of them communicate and connect with each other. No distractions, no defensiveness and no expectations. Just listening and letting everything else fade into the background for those minutes.

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Taking in the entire performance, the set that resembles a naturalistic HDB flat journeys with the family as well. As the space gets messier and less organised, the audience members catch on to the fact that Habsah may not be as well as she used to be. Though this use of the set may be overused across many productions, it serves its purpose and adds a slight dynamism beyond the human bodies on stage.

However, I am puzzled by anGie seah, sound collaborator, being in her own cardboard refuge by the side of the auditorium. Occasionally providing live sound and her own vocabulary of movements, I find it hard to grasp the purpose of her physical presence especially when Habsah acknowledges and reacts to her in one scene. After a while, the sounds may become distractions and difficult to place within the storyline itself.

As a whole, Lanang is a sincere telling of familial relationships through artistic collaborations – what Hatch Theatrics has always aspired to do.

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