‘Fault Lines’ — ‘Is It Appropriate To Do This Play Now?’

Published on 15/04/2024

(This blog post is written by Eksentrika. Check out their website here)

CloudJoi Show On Interview Video

Fault Lines by Adriana Nordin Manan, directed by Ghafir Akbar, garnered nine BOH Cameronian Arts Awards nominations for its timely exploration of identity and home. In an interview with CloudJoi, the cast members share why the message of the play is still relevant and important to Malaysians. 

Fault Lines, written in 2021 by Malaysian playwright Adriana Nordin Manan and directed by theatre director Ghafir Akbar, has been nominated for nine categories for the 19th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards 2024.

Adriana’s debut full-length play deals with the Aziz family, who gathered in New York City in 2018 during the Trump administration, with a range of emotional baggages to unpack. The protagonist, Shereen (played by Putrina Rafie), harbours a secret, but it unravels dramatically when her family visits.

Produced by Protagonist Studio with story development by Cocoon Creative Lab, Fault Lines was staged from November 16 to 19, 2023, at Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPAC) and quickly became a talk of the town among the Malaysian performing arts players.

Fault Lines was inspired by the September 11 terrorist attacks but the message of the play is still relevant today

'Fault Lines' actors Fatmah Abu Bakar (left) and Putrina Rafie.

Fatimah Abu Bakar (left) played Habsah while Putrina Rafie played Shereen Rahman in the 2023 staging of ‘Fault Lines’. IMAGE: Azmi Hud

Although the story is inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Adriana felt that the play became even more relevant when it was staged in November 2023, due to the October 7 conflict of the Israeli-Palestine war.

“Those who watched it know that it talked about geopolitical concerns, really living up to the name Fault Lines,” Adriana explained in an interview with CloudJoi, adding that she experienced (the 9/11 attacks) and started thinking about the main themes explored in the play when she was in the US as a student. The important questions were then immortalised in the form of Fault Lines.

“Now that I think back on it, I think it was because it really preoccupied me – the general questions – and I felt that these are always questions that I’d be interested in; differences and how people always choose sides, the appeal to humanity and yet not displaying humanity in one’s behaviour. So when all of these things come together, it becomes very relevant even today.”


How Ghafir Akbar steered the Fault Lines cast to circumnavigate geopolitically-related sensitivities

'Fault Lines' director Ghafir Akbar (centre) with playwright Adriana Nordin Manan. IMAGE: Azmi Hud

‘Fault Lines’ director Ghafir Akbar (centre) with playwright Adriana Nordin Manan (left). IMAGE: Azmi Hud

The rehearsals of the play happened as new geopolitical developments took place in the world which led Ghafir to stop and ask if it was appropriate to continue staging the play.

“We did stop to ask ourselves ‘Is it appropriate to do this play now? Is it too sensitive for us to see these characters and talk about these stories?'” Ghafir revealed to CloudJoi.

“But we felt that perhaps it was kismet, perhaps there was a reason why we just happened to be staging this play now. It just made us a bit more careful about how we approached some topics and helped reframe some of the conversations that the characters were having among each other and how we don’t want to push it too far because the sensitivity and the awareness were already more present, more heightened among the audiences,” he explained.

Putrina admitted to feeling nervous after realising the play’s resonance with current times.

“We all had read the script way beforehand and at that time we felt the conversation needed to be out there. But then, when the news (of conflicts) started to gain momentum just as we were supposed to be staging the piece, I got nervous,” she said, adding that she was grateful for Ghafir and Adriana’s reassurance.

“I think it was nice that Ghafir and Adriana reassured us that, it’s okay, we can work this out, we would just be mindful as much as possible. (We would be) occasionally tongue in cheek, hitting hard points just so that it’s enough for people to sit and roam with.”

Sabrina Hassan shared that Ghafir had also begun prepping the cast at the start of rehearsals through personalised messages for Adriana and her, which kept the Fault Lines team on the same page as they dealt with the multitude of important questions laden with sensitivities.

“And he said, knowing what is going on in the world today, we are going to be respectful of each other and we are going to treat the whole thing with respect. And I think that was very important to set the tone of our rehearsals and the whole process moving forward.


Fault Lines explores the concept of home, space and identity  

'Fault Lines' actors Sabrina Hassan and Putrina Rafie.

‘Fault Lines’ actors Sabrina Hassan (left) and Putrina Rafie. IMAGE: Azmi Hud

Meanwhile, living in the United Kingdom, Catherine Leyow said she grew up feeling like she was never welcome.

“I didn’t feel at home in the UK because of the racism and I think that gave me a superpower because it meant I was used to that feeling of not fitting in. So I could go anywhere in the world and feel comfortable. I was used to it,” Catherine said.

“My character doesn’t feel at home where she lives but has this promise of home, this place where she’ll be safe and accepted and they’ll all be like her,” she added.

It led Catherine to think about how much one would compromise their values and skew their moral compass to have somewhere that felt like home.

'Fault Lines' actor Catherine Leyow.

Catherine Leyow played Miriam in the 2023 staging of ‘Fault Lines’. IMAGE: Azmi Hud

Putrina said the play deals with the relationship between space and identity and what the concept of home carries or encompasses.

“When you have the opportunity to come outside of the home you know, what really happens is you expand your perspective on identity in general,” she said.

She added that her experience with Fault Lines led her to understand that there’s a line, a relationship, with identity and space that can reach an unhealthy point.

“And that is the point of codependency. I feel when you step out of your space, that’s when you’re only allowed to see that (the relationship between identity and space),” she said, adding that her perspective would differ if she had everything taken away from her.

Fault Lines is nominated for the following categories; Best Actor in Leading Role (Putrina Rafie), Best Actor in Supporting Role (Reza Zainal Abidin and Sabrina Hassan), Best Director (Ghafir Akbar), Best Original Script (Adriana Nordin Manan), Best Lighting Design (Ee Chee Wei), Best Set And/ Or Visual Design and Best Costume Design, Styling & Make-up (Raja Malek), and Best Of Nominees.

The Boh Cameronian Arts Awards (BCAA), held since 2002, honours Malaysian performing arts practitioners. Organised by Kakiseni and Boh Plantations, the awards span 37 sub-categories. This year, 74 productions were nominated at PJPAC, 1 Utama. The award ceremony is scheduled for May 5 and the full list of the nominations can be viewed here.

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