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OzAsia Festival Review: Parah

Starting as almost a teenage comedy of four inter-racial friends, ‘Parah’ becomes an exploration of the censorship, racial discrimination and prejudice still prevalent in Malaysian society today.


OzAsia-Parah
Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre and The Instant Cafe Theatre Company
Reviewed 20 September 2013

A pariah (or in Malaysian: Parah) is defined as an outcast, any person or animal that is despised or avoided, or a member of a low caste in southern India and Burma. Malaysian playwright, Alfian Sa’at, puts these definitions to excellent use in his play Parah.

Set in Malaysia and starting off as almost a teenage comedy of four inter-racial friends – two Malaysians, one Chinese and one of Indian descent – Parah then becomes somewhat of a mystery when it is discovered that a page from the school text book “Interlok” has been torn out. It is about halfway in, however, that one discovers that the play is really an exploration of censorship and, in particular, racial discrimination and prejudice still prevalent in Malaysian society today.

Jo Kukathas directs the production with a simplicity that is mirrored by the youthfulness, humour and honesty of her young cast of four; Iedil Putra (Hafiz), Farah Rani (Melur), Gregory Sze (Kahoe) and Branavan Aruljothi (Mahesh). Kukathas also presents the audience with a clever and unusual curtain call involving Badminton.

Melissa Teoh’s set is as simple but is almost unnecessary: this story could be told on an almost bare stage. There are times when wall units are moved around the stage needlessly by crew – this adds nothing to the story and in fact helps distract from the emotions established in previous scenes.

The four actors are wonderful, highly energetic and totally believable. They all handle the emotional changes required with the greatest of ease.

This production of Parah is an excellent example of what the OzAsia Festival is all about.

Reviewed by Brian Godfrey

Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre 58 Grote Street, Adelaide
Season: 20-23 September 2013
Duration: 1 hour 30 min (no interval)

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