We forced a theatre newbie to watch Malay Macbeth. Here’s her review

HI! I’m Ka Vei, currently 23 years old, and just started my postgraduate masters a few months back. Unlike my studies, I know next to nothing about theatre. I have only ever been to two plays, first one was Lo Mio and Chu Liet a few years ago, and ‘The Bee’ a few months back. 

I made sure both shows were in English because I’m a banana and cant pick up Chinese well, but I also stammer a lot trying to speak in Malay. One time I went to the bank to pick up my SISWA card, and I told the clerk ‘saya nak kutip card’, and the guy just stared at me, trying not to laugh. He later told his colleague and they both had a good laugh anyway.

I’m not telling you this to highlight my banana-ness, but because I got asked to review a play called Dato Seri. I was a little worried about not understanding it because :

  1. Dato Seri is a Malay adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, performed in Malay – I know absolutely nothing about Macbeth aside from the fact that it was a famous Shakespeare play.
  2. The editor didn’t allow me to research it beforehand (sadist), so I spent the past week wondering if Macbeth was a guy or a girl.
  3. My friend had watched Dato’ Seri a day before me and told me to expect Bahasa Istana*gulp*

But after watching it, I frankly quite enjoyed myself. So here’s my review:

The Poster and the Title

The poster was straightforward – a male and a female character whom I assume are the main characters in the play (Dato’ and Datin Seri?). The red keris in the middle reaffirmed the traditional malay setting of the show.

The Show Itself

The play follows a war hero named Dato’ DiKajang, who encounters three witches with a prophecy that he will one day be King of the land, Pertiwi.

When he returns home, he’s promoted to the title of ‘Dato’ Seri’ by the King, who decrees that the crown prince would be the next Prime Minister. The greed for power soon consumes DiKajang and his wife, and they both plot to kill the King and frame the guards.

Once he becomes king, it all goes downhill…. He becomes a tyrant, suspicious of betrayal by his subordinates, pillaging and burning villages, killing families, and all that tyrant-y stuff.

At the same time, his wife grows demented; suffering agonizing guilt over killing the king. In the end… well, no spoilers from me but let’s just say that many people following the country’s political developments may see some parallels. 

Highlight(s) of the Show

For me, the highlight of the show was definitely watching the three witches (I think they were called the Fates) play their role in the story.

I felt that the actors who played the witches did an amazing job. I was creeped out but still enjoyed the way they spoke and cackled. They really seemed like something out of this world. They actually reminded me a lot of the Fates in Disney’s Hercules; you know those three witches in black cloaks who share one singular eye… yea that one.

Also, this play might give you high school nostalgia. Because nearing the end of the play, DiKajang recites Shakespeare’s Life Brief Candle: ‘Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…’ but in BM. In my head, I was like ‘oooohhhh, so that’s where the poem came from…’

General Thoughts and Observations

The storyline was not difficult to follow, it really grabs your attention with good actors who really know how to set the mood. I was mostly thankful for the English subtitles that were provided on a small screen above the set (but sit on the right side of the audience seats if you plan to rely heavily on the subtitles like me).

For an intense play about murder and power grabbing, Dato’ Seri also sneaks in some humour although there were times where the audiences would be laughing at something someone says, and I would sit there wondering what they were laughing about. What I’m trying to say is that the play is definitely worth watching, but you would definitely enjoy it much more if you could keep up with the Malay instead of relying on the English subtitles.

Overall Rating

I’d give this play a 9 out of 10. I really really liked the play, and I would recommend anyone to go for it when they have a chance.

How to get tickets

Unfortunately, tickets for Dato’ Seri running from 10th May to 13th May 2018 were sold out. And by the time you read this, the play would have ended it’s way-too-short run.

But don’t fret! You can check KLPAC’s website for other shows. Alternatively, call the Klpac Box Office at +603-4047 9000 to ask what else is currently showing.



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