It’s Friday morning, and the hour of six encroaches. For IJam, a reformed death-row convict, time is running out as his sentence draws near. So much has changed for him in his two-year imprisonment. Now, visited by his mother in his final hour, the two try to resolve their differences and confront the impending loss as the inevitable draws nearer. Who is more helpless, we begin to question – IJam or his mother? Where would your sympathy lie?
Staged by Teater Kami, Jumaat 6 Pagi is a riveting play exploring the human psyche in the wake of death through the eyes of the protagonist.
Teater Kami was assembled in 1989 by a group of impassioned theatre practitioners, in the belief that theatre, as an art form, is an effective tool for education and social awareness. The result of which is a solid consistency to producing quality and socially charged productions.
Juma’at 6 Pagi, an Esplanade Presents production by Teater Kami, tells the story of a mother spending an hour of prison visitation with her only child, Ijam. During this period is where the two characters attempt to face up to each others’ demands and expectations of each other where it has fallen short, which has resulted in the situation facing them today.
A sold out performance for both 14 and 15 July for all the time slots, this was definitely a performance not to be missed and I was lucky to be able to get hold of a ticket at the eleventh hour.
Attending the performance, I wasn’t sure of what to expect as this would only be the second time I’m watching Dalifah Shahril, playing the mom perform (the first was when we worked together on the set for Gentarasa, Titisan Cacamerba in 2007), and this would be the first time I’m watching Izzat Mohd Yusoff perform.
Entering the performance space in Esplanade’s Theatre Studio, I was immediately captured by the set which showed a clear distinction between two separate world for each character separated by a glass panel in the center. On my left was Ijam, seated in white prison top with matching prison blue shorts whilst the other was the mom in a matching top and bottom white seated at a table directly opposite Ijam. Both characters were facing opposing directions as the audience were made to face across each other, thus giving the audience the opportunity to view the entire performance space from a side view angle.
At this juncture, I noticed something uncanny about the situation. It was the fact that Ijam, a prisoner on death row had a full crown of hair. I felt that perhaps should his hair had been shaven bald, it would have given a more realistic appeal to the prison cell look.
It took quite a while for the show to begin as Ijam was reading verses from the Quran right till the very end. The atmosphere of where it should have felt eerie for that sense of repentance, if intended, didn’t quite pull through as much of the audience weren’t showing much respect to the fact that the show had actually began. But this could also be because the wait for the reading of the verses was just, too long.
Even whilst waiting for the reading of the verses to end, the mom had already began to weep tears and emotions of sorrow. This set the stage for the whole performance – EMOTIONAL DRAMA.
When the show began proper, I was impressed with the use of minimal lighting on the choice of just 4 colours – Amber, Blue, Red and White. Throughout the entire show, most of the colours used were only Red and White with a tinge of Blue to emote the different feelings.
Dalifah began the show on a high emotional drama and I was absolutely impressed by this. It is not easy for anyone to get to that high emotional level in the beginning without any lines to begin with. I know this because I did an emotional performance myself back in 2009 with DownStage Left and even so, it took me right till my last performance before I managed to dig that emotion that I was seeking for (failure, I know! but it’s been easier since then).
Dalifah had plenty of scenes for her to cry and each time she cried, I cringed and wondered, when will I cry? Simply because, some of the audiences around me had already started tearing! Ijam on the other hand, was the cool gangster who showed no fear for death or the situation he was in for most of the time and for him to not cry throughout the show, he did managed to show that he was the cool one even in facing death. BUT, I felt that perhaps he should have teared at the end, giving way to his huge ego since he was really going to die and would never again see his only family member.
Nevertheless, the concept of the show is one that is simple enough to understand. The characters alternate between their physical self and their emotional/mental state whereby their deepest thoughts and feelings were expressed in much hatred and anger in comparison to their physical self – cool and composed.
Surtitles were down for about half the time of the show and though I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be as such or not, I felt that it was good because it kept the situation tense and away from distractions although it didn’t work well for the non-Malay speaking audience who were there.
The emotional play, inspired by real life characters through the eyes of the playwright, Nur-Akmar Almahdi who worked in the Prisons Department previously was well-potrayed and well-depicted. It managed to send out the message of what prison life for someone on death row could be like and the relationship one would have with the only family member in the outside world. The predicament of the Ustaz and Prison Officers were also highlighted through Ijam’s lines when he mentioned that none of them could describe how the walk and the eventual sentencing would be like.
For those of you who are going to miss this play, I hope this play gets a re-run because this is a very reflective piece of performance as it highlights issues of the community at large as well – the one’s we like to call ‘people’ whom we never know who and whom we can never put our finger to. If you’re intending to catch this show, I strongly suggest you go catch this play with your family members.
It’s been more than 4 hours since the show ended and my eyes still feel sore from crying.