A woman’s will is put to the test when hit by the double whammy of divorce and death.
First written by Hafidz Rahman for Theatreworks’ 24-Hour Playwriting Competition in 2014, in Lanang, Habsah (Dalifah Shahril) is a mother of three going through a divorce. Facing flak and gossip from the rest of her siblings, the only person she has left to rely on is her mother (Nurijah Sahat), choosing to lead a simple life with her and her sons while shutting the rest of her family out. But when her sole pillar of support passes, she begins to crack, falling into paranoia and delusion, and it’s all her eldest son Adi (Muhammad Muazzam ‘Zam’ Amanah) can do to try and bring her back to reality.
Dalifah’s portrayal keeps Habsah almost constantly on edge, anger and stress in her eyes and movements to the point that even a friendly massage becomes a source of intense pain, and watching her voice quaver and show signs of fear after the death of her mother is enough to leave us feeling her immense sense of loss, particularly in the relief she expresses when she begins to experience hallucinations of her dead mother coming to visit once more. The way Hafidz has written Habsah with such sincerity and brutal realism leaves us raw with her grief, and has fleshed her out as a fully realised human being.
Dalifah is well supported by her co-stars Nurijah Sahat and Zam. Utterly charming and likeable, Nurijah is perhaps the dictionary definition of a typical grandmother, simultaneously naggy and loving in the way she chides both Habsah and Adi while also always ready with some spare money to give, allowing us to find relatability in her character and making her death feel all the more devastating. Although new to the scene, Zam infuses Adi with a distinct personality, balancing nomophobic millennial with filial son, and for anyone who shares a strong bond with their mothers, a completely familiar position. There’s a constant, keen sense of respect for each other and the sense that for all their flaws, there’s something that binds the three of them intensely together as a trinity, and when they come together and indulge in their shared love of Bollywood films, it’s impossible not to see the genuine joy that emanates from the three of them and their familial bond.
Lanang may be simple in plot but incredibly rich in emotions, able to connect to audience members on a fundamentally human level in its unnerving and often all-too-real reactions to grief. Hatch Theatrics has come a long way with their residency, showcasing strong growth and ending it on a high note with a timeless, universal play that broke our hearts and cemented in us the true value of family.
Photo Credit: Hatch Theatrics
Performance attended 6/4/18