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Nadirah

August 21, 2011
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Event: “Nadirah” by Alfian Sa’at (as part of the Man Singapore Theatre Festival)
Run: 17-21 Aug 2011
Venue: Drama Centre Black Box
Directed by: Zizi Azah Abdul Majid
Starring: Neo Swee Lin, Siti Khalijah Zainal, Hatta Said, Shida Mahadi, Tony Quek

Nadirah brings across a myriad of issues, some very real issues. Cross-racial and even more strongly, a cross-religion marriage.

Unexpectedly (to me), it started off with such humour that had me laughing at the amusing dialogue and habits we could relate to played out. I could hear some the Malay audience agreeing and laughing too, e.g. having photo albums in living room and common proverbs and sayings used on children to nag at them. The cast had good rapport/chemistry together keeping us engaged.

But, inevitably, it moved on to more serious ground when the mother (a Muslim convert and divorcee) announced her decision to marry a Christian in a civil marriage where he doesn’t need to convert. This brings tension and struggles with the daughter (Nadirah) who’s a devout Muslim. The daughter is torn between love for her mother and love for her God.

Personally, I kind of sympathised with the mother. Firstly, she wouldn’t have become a Muslim if it weren’t for her ex-husband, who divorced her to marry someone else. I believe she must have had to give up her own family in one way or another. Then in the custody battle, she had to prove she’s a good Muslim because of her daughter so that they can be sure that her daughter will be brought up as a proper Muslim. Finally, after all these years, she finds love and comfort in someone who “saved” her from depression. Someone who dared to love, beating conventions. I was actually surprised (though it sounded quite ridiculously funny) when Nadirah’s senior, Farouk, even thought that because her mother has become a Muslim, she is now Malay and no longer (Peranakan) Chinese. It’s mixing up race and religion. Nadirah and Maznah (her best friend) had to throw up their hands at that too. But I agree with Nadirah that one should choose their faith based on their love of God, not because they fall in love with someone.
And wise words from Maznah, the slightly “renegade” friend who reminded her of the truth “how are you going to love God if you can’t love another human being?” I think Maznah is actually very smart and articulate, and can present pretty good arguments.

Ah, it’s all very complex, this conflict and personal struggles that set us thinking. It’s not something that can be easily resolved. Just as how it ended. I felt that it the issue never really got resolved and the family is still dealing with it, trying to find that balance and compromise.

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