How do you describe Selipar Jepun as performance?
Selipar Jepun is a textual theatre performance. It is my first full tex performance. In the past I used poems and songs as text the rest would be dance and movement.
Is it a play? Drama?
Yes, it is, but it is more of a theatre with monologues, singing and movement.
What is so special about it?
It is my new interpretation of modern Mak Yong concept. Speaking mostly in Kelantan dialect with few monologues in Malay and broken English.
Why you said Mak Yong?
First, it is in Kelantan dialect, second I have some forms of mengadap, but not the rebab, it’s mengadap audience as this is the 21st century performance where audience is important, customer is king, they are the one that make up the population, without them it won’t be popular, so it is a popular form.
So this is a popular form?
Mak Yong was popular during it’s glory time. Yes, I am incorporating popular forms including pop song, but they are not popular now as they were popular in the 1970s. Dikir Barat is a folk form, it is popular among the kampong folk in Kelantan during certain period. Now it is not that popular.
Why are you mixing the forms?
Only we know that we are mixing them, people outside Malaysia wouldn’t know about this. To them this is just a production of performance with some forms of traditional elements. I know I am not making it for the foreigners, but they are welcome to watch the performance. This is my interest, choosing certain things from certain type of performances esp. from traditional forms from Kelantan, because I am from Kelantan. Not because I am promoting Kelantan, but because those are the performances that I know and grow up with, so I am more familiar with. Now the form like Dikir Barat is being taught in school in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. Mak Yong is also being taught outside Kelantan. In fact, the two main players in the production are not Kelantanese. But they have learnt Mak Yong and Wayang Kulit.
So why are you using Kelantan dialect?
That’s my first language I speak. I am most comfortable speaking with Kelantan dialect. Second it is the language that is being used in Wayang Kulit, Mak Yong, Main Peteri and if I am Kelantanese why can’t I use my language. English and American too have to learn Italian, French and German if they singing the opera. So why can’t we accept that Kelantan dialect as important language to be learnt in theatre and performance in Malaysia. Especially when Mak Yong is now World Cultural Heritage.
What is Selipar Jepun about?
It is about a journey of an elder lady and a lady-man in Kota Bharu-Singapore express bus and the characters that they encountered in Singapore – Kamilah and Che Hassan. Both Kamilah and Che Hassan had bad experience in World War II. Che Hassan was taken by Japanese Army to be part of the railway labour while Kamilah’s (Kam Ai Loh) parents were killed by the Japanese Army during the war.
What’s the journey about?
The journey from Kota Bharu to Singapore was just a reason for the two characters to meet when they shared the secrets. Life’s secret.
How many characters in Selipar Jepun?
Many - Yee, Che Kenanga, Kamilah, Che Hassan, Ustaz, Pelayan Bar, Pekerja Rumah Batu, Muallaf, Pengunjung Bar, Penyanyi Kelab Malam, Pengantin-pengantin. But only 4 speaking characters.
Who’s playing the main characters?
Ijat and Lenny. Mohd Shahrul Mizad(seen in Namron’s Lembu Monologue) and Marlenny(Namron’s Laut Lebih Indah Dari Bulan Monologue).
Why are they chosen for the characters?
Both are strong and serious actors and both have done/ learnt dialogues in Kelantan dialect – Mak Yong and Wayang Kulit. They are not Kelantanese but they can speak the dialect.
What’s the motivation behind this?
What I am trying to say is that they are not Kelantanese but they are able to speak, so others can also learn to understand the dialect too, even better, to speak the dialect as it is the language of Malaysian’s World Cultural Heritage performance, Mak Yong. This language will be the language for world audience too. So Malaysian better get used to the language.
What driven you to write Selipar Jepun?
It is all started with two friends of mine, David Bogart at Kyoto Seika University and Prof.Michiko Nakahara from Waseda University Tokyo, who were researching on Death Railway Workers. I remember my mother told me the story about her cousin, so I told them both. They then produce a big amount of works on Death Railway based on their research works. I told Prof.David that I am so inpired to write a play based on their research work. Later he told me that a professor in a college in USA also wrote and directed a play based on the story written by Lomax and a Japanese army. He has adapted the story into the Japanese Noh Theatre style. That was year 2000. I only wrote the story in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur. Both my parents were not well, so I spend a lot of time in Kota Bharu with them. We talked a lot about a lot of things, especially with my mother. She passed away in Nov 2006. I blended the story about the World War II, told by my mother with other issues like Islam and Transexuality, which are becoming topical issues in Malaysia. World War II also becoming a favourite subject as we approaching Independence Day celebration in August and this year, we are celebrating 50th Anniversary of Merdeka.
Why issue on transgender and transexuality?
It is an issue here but we never discussed it openly. So I am bringing the issue into this performance so we could discuss.
Do you always discuss issues in your production?Always, I feel that I should not make theatre of I don’t have any issues. In the past I have discussed lost of a kingdom that was being ignored by us – Langkasuka in Tanah Serendah, Corruption, Abortion etc in Aku Binatang Jalang, 19142004 about the murder of 1000 muslim in South Thailand, just across the river and also Indonesian immigration problems. So