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Hawa

April 30, 2015
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HatchHawa1(Photo courtesy of Hatch Theatrics)

Event: “Hawa” by Hatch Theatrics
Venue: The Substation Theatre
Run: 24th & 25th Apr 2015

Beneath the Veil

This is Hatch’s first production of 2015, after the psycho-thriller play called “Lockdown” last December at the same venue.

And while the last play depicted an exhilarating lockdown scenario between a teacher and three students in a secondary school counselling room, “Hawa” takes on a slower, heavier and much more sombre tone, touching on the subject of religion and death.

Siti (played by Isabella Chiam) is a recent Muslim convert, and attempts to hold a lone funeral service for her close female friend Sarah.

Not much is known about this “close friend” of hers, and an Ahmad (played by Saiful Amri) who runs a funeral service called Zoom Zoom Funeral Services promptly arrives on the scene to offer his services.

It is apparent that Siti is still largely unfamiliar with the procedures of a proper Muslim funeral, and Ahmad spends considerable time and effort trying to teach Siti the proper rites to perform.

What makes things even more difficult to manage is the fact that there seems to be only Siti present at the funeral, and none of the deceased’s family members are around to assist in the proceedings.

Soon, a young religious man named Zaki (played by Al-Matin Yatim) arrives on the scene on the pretext of offering prayers to the deceased, but we quickly learn that he has an interest in getting to know Siti better.

The main crux of the play soon emerges, and that is the fact that neither Ahmad nor Zaki, being males, is able to bathe Sarah’s body, and the task is placed squarely on the shoulders of Siti, being the only female present at the funeral.

What makes things worse is that Siti refuses to perform the rite despite the short time frame she has to work with, and we later learn that Siti was once in a forbidden relationship with Sarah, who was a Muslim girl, and the relationship resulted in Sarah being estranged with her family, who cut her off on religious and moral grounds.

Eventually, after much persuasion and soul searching, Siti agrees to learn the bathing procedure by watching Ahmad demonstrate the entire rite using Zaki as a dummy.

Where “Hawa” shines is in the performances of the actors, and Al-Matin Yatim in particular exudes a certain charisma and stage presence which makes his character both very believable and enjoyable to watch.

Saiful Amri too plays the role of the business-minded funeral director very well, being extremely pragmatic but yet possessing a sense of humanity about him in wanting to ensure the entire funeral is carried out in a manner which is honourable to the deceased.

Isabella Chiam is believable as the recently-converted and attractive-looking Siti, although perhaps lacking somewhat in range as compared to her counterparts, and one would have preferred if she could slow down her speaking every now and then, and vary the pace a little bit.

Playwright Johnny Jon Jon attempts to ask many difficult questions about religion and sexuality in this play, although it felt to me like the play tried to cover too much ground at one go, and stretched on for much longer than I would have liked.

For example, the scene depicting the backstory of Zaki, while insightful, felt superfluous as it didn’t exactly contribute to the main thrust of the play, which was the exploration of Siti’s journey into Islam and her past relationship with Sarah.

Also, the scene where Ahmad demonstrated the full bathing rite for the dead body felt too lengthy, and one wonders if it was really necessary to enact the entire procedure from start to finish and if it could have been condensed slightly.

However, Johnny Jon Jon demonstrates sharp wit in his dialogue, which is often crisp and filled with a keen sense of humour, and manages to make the audience laugh out loud on numerous occasions, even in a play as intense as this.

“Hawa” is a deep and sombre journey into the issue of faith and how it relates to, or in this case reconciles with, both the idea of sexual relationships as well as family relationships.

Though lengthy, it poses many very tough questions which are seldom discussed nor portrayed on stage, and one walks away from it with a deeper sense of perspective on religion, on love and on life in general.

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