Rumah Dayak

by Nessa Anwar
Rupa co.lab
Malay Heritage Centre, Singapore

This is the inaugural production of newly formed theatre collective Rupa co.lab. Co-founded by Nessa Anwar, Nabilah Said, and Hazwan Norly, the group seeks to reshape conversations through the lens of the Malay person and judging from this fine show, they are off to a terrific start.  

Written by Nessa, whose debut play Riders Know When It’s Going to Rain received a staged reading as part of the Singapore Writers Festival 2015 before premiering at the Singapore Theatre Festival the following year, it explores a couple running a safe house for troubled Malay youths. As they fight to keep the place up and running, things are thrown into disarray by both internal and external threats.

Photo Credit: Rupa co.lab

Nessa, who also directs, has an incredible ear for dialogue and catches the musicality of the coarse, casual street lingo amongst these kids, a downtrodden minority within a minority who are simply trying to find a way back to acceptance. Her script seamlessly blends comedy with emotional heft and gives us a rich glimpse into the lives of these characters such as the boisterous Shah (Uddyn J), suave Dash (Yamin Yusof), feisty Ella (Rusydina Afiqah) and earnest Boy (Wan Ahmad)

While the production takes a bit of time to warm up and scene transitions could have been executed more smoothly, Rumah Dayak proves a richly rewarding experience and a tale one would very much wish to encounter again. 

I discuss this production in further detail in this month's Arts Equator theatre podcast together with writer, editor and producer Kathy Rowland and theatre educator Matthew Lyon. 

The Crystalwords score: 4/5


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