Natrah returns to the stage amidst controversies.
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 2u.biz. For show details, browse istanabudaya. gov.my.
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.