What is a nation without its narratives? Drama, comedy or tragedy - every story is worth telling. Many Malaysian stories have been told through film, theatre, and also poetry. There has been NADRAH, BUKIT KEPONG, LT. ADNAN, HATI MALAYA, and coming soon is TANDA PUTRA. But what about the stories about the common man?

Last week, I saw two interesting plays. The first was CULIK (Stor, Dewan Bahasa), staged by students of the Faculty of Film, Theatre & Animation, UiTM. A clever piece of storytelling of a kidnapping gone awry done in one act about two young men, deep in debt to an Ah Long and the PTPT… er, something or other. They kidnap a young girl and call her father for RM500,000. But the father isn’t interested and tells them to keep her for free! Ah, so Malaysia’s youths and their families are not living in Paradise after all! (contrary to what’s being spun in the mainstream papers, hee, hee!). Not bad, young students making a comment about the things that are wrong in the country. There’s still hope then, so I’ll postpone my migration to Mongolia.

Even more exciting was BENG HOCK (KLPAC). The show was packed. Ah Jib Gor would have been pleased. It was a crowd of Malaysians of all races and walks of life. Truly 1Malaysia! Directed by Hariry Jalil (one of my former students from Akademi Seni Kebangsaan), it was based on the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the Teoh Beng Hock case who was alleged to have killed himself by jumping out of a window. The one-act play that was staged was about the interrogation of Beng Hock by the MACC (no, not Mack the Knife but close). Beng Hock was only a witness and was to be interviewed but they interrogated him like he was a criminal! Hey, don’t beat the red lights or you’re going to be next!

And, yes, the organizers were harassed by you-know-who, but the play was finally staged. Strange! They can put the story of NADRAH on stage (a non-citizen) but not one on Beng Hock, a Malaysian citizen (who had not committed a crime). Very strange, indeed! But anyway, what we saw was a comedy. No, no, not that it was funny. We really could feel the tensions coming through. The comedy was actually in the way the officers behaved and acted - a classic case of the inhumanity of man.

The play begins and ends with a woman coming upon a youth sitting morosely in a park. He had just lost his job – and to him, it was the end of the world. At the end of the play, the audience realizes that what Beng Hock had lost was more. He had lost his life – and left behind a fiancĂ© and an unborn child. What would be the future, both mental and physical, of the child after it grows up? We realize that the story of Beng Hock is one of the narratives of the nation that needs to be told and retold for all time so that all Malaysians may remember the futile loss of a life that had been full of promise.

BENG HOCK will be staged at Penang PAC from the 13th to the 14th.July. News is, the tickets are all sold out. Never mind, we’ll wait for the next guy to ‘jump out of the window’ and a play about it!

by: Hassan Abd. Muthalib

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