Na­trah re­turns

Na­trah re­turns to the stage amidst con­tro­ver­sies.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By AZHARIAH KAMIN

WHEN Na­trah was first staged at Is­tana Bu­daya in Kuala Lumpur last De­cem­ber, it stirred up con­tro­ver­sies when award-win­ning di­rec­tor Erma Fatima and writer Datin Seri Fa­tini Yaa­cob traded barbs on how the for­mer in­ter­preted the his­tor­i­cal story on stage.

De­spite that, Na­trah gar­nered 18,000 view­ers dur­ing its two-week run and be­came the best-sell­ing non-mu­si­cal play ever staged at the venue. Ear­lier this month, fans re­joiced when Is­tana Bu­daya an­nounced the re­turn of Na­trah due to pop­u­lar de­mand and that Erma will be back to helm the show.

But soon af­ter, Fa­tini, who wrote the his­tor­i­cal ac­count of Na­trah in a book of the same name, told the me­dia that she was against Erma’s style of di­rect­ing and some high­lights of the play when it was staged last year.

On Nov 9, Erma, 42, an­nounced that she was call­ing it quits from the project but it was re­jected by Is­tana Bu­daya.

But af­ter three days of con­sid­er­a­tion, Erma changed her mind and agreed to take charge again.

“I re­alised that I had let Is­tana Bu­daya and my cast down with my ear­lier de­ci­sion. The ac­tors have been re­hears­ing with­out me for the past few days. I have changed my mind and I am back. Fa­tini is en­ti­tled to her own opin­ion and I’m (en­ti­tled) to mine,” said Erma.

Now fans can be as­sured of a spe­cial treat as Erma had promised them a few sur­prises, in­clud­ing some changes to the play and more songs.

Na­trah tells the true story of a Dutch girl, Maria Her­togh, who was adopted by Che Ami­nah in Jo­hor af­ter her fa­ther Sergeant Adri­anus Petrus Her­togh was ab­ducted by the Ja­panese. Maria be­came a Mus­lim and went by the name Na­trah Maarof.

When Adri­anus Petrus was re­leased af­ter the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in Ja­pan by the Amer­i­cans, he re­turned to look for his daugh­ter but Che Ami­nah re­fused to give her up.

Che Ami­nah won the dis­pute in court and mar­ried the 13-year-old Na­trah off to a teacher, Man­sor Ad­abi, who was nine years older.

Adri­anus Petrus claimed that ac­cord­ing to Dutch law, a child be­low the age of 16 can­not be mar­ried off and must have the con­sent of the fa­ther. Sub­se­quently, the court ruled that Na­trah must re­turn to her Dutch fam­ily. The rul­ing sparked a riot in Singapore (where Che Ami­nah’s fam­ily had set­tled) in 1950, which killed scores of peo­ple.

“With the many con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the show I have de­cided to tweak it a bit so that ev­ery­one will be pleased. Na­trah is not mine, it be­longs to ev­ery­one – the pro­duc­tion crew and the view­ers too,” said Erma, adding that she changed 30% of the pre­vi­ous script.

The orig­i­nal cast is back in the play: Maya Karin plays the teenage Na­trah, Sofea Jane as the adult Na­trah, Remy Ishak as Na­trah’s hus­band Man­sor and Datin Paduka Umie Aida plays Che Ami­nah.

The other cast mem­bers are Liyana Jas­may, Nabila Huda, Aaron Aziz, Ziela Jalil, Su­san Lankester, Fizz Fairuz, Fahrin Ah­mad and Datuk Rahim Razali.

”I in­cluded more big names in this year’s Na­trah be­cause when­ever I work on a project, in my mind, it may be my last chance to give my best.

“But I also re­alise that big names do not guar­an­tee suc­cess un­less each one plays his role well.

“And these big names are not mak­ing cameo ap­pear­ances; their char­ac­ters have equal im­por­tance in telling the story of Na­trah,” said Erma.

“Ac­tu­ally, I was a bit re­luc­tant to re-stage Na­trah. Then I de­cided to give it an­other go as this is an op­por­tu­nity to make it bet­ter. Last year, I fo­cused on too many is­sues but I will try to con­cen­trate on just one this time.

“I’m a di­rec­tor and my job is to en­gage the au­di­ence,” said Erma, who is noted for her award-win­ning works in movies ( Perem­puan Me­layu Ter­akhir and Embun) and tele­movies ( Ter­sasar Di Jalan Mu, Jan­gan and Daerah Syafikah). n Na­trah will be staged from to­day till Dec 5 at 8.30pm at Is­tana Bu­daya in Kuala Lumpur. Tick­ets priced at RM30, RM50, RM70, RM100 and RM150 can be pur­chased by call­ing the box of­fice (% 03-4026 5558) or log­ging in to ticket For show de­tails, browse is­tanabu­daya.

Na­trah (Maya Karin) and her fos­ter mother

Che Ami­nah (Datin Paduka Umie Aida) in

an emo­tional scene from the play Na­trah.

True story: Remy Ishak plays Na­trah’s hus­band Man­sor Ad­abi, op­po­site Maya.

‘ Na­trah is not mine, it be­longs to ev­ery­one – the pro­duc­tion crew and the view­ers too,’ says Erma Fatima.

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