penangpac has taken on the worthy and admirable mission of bringing English translations of successful Malay-language plays to Penang. The thought behind it is to try to attract a wide audience of theatre lovers from every background to join together and experience the same plays together, and to open up the cultural richness of Malay dramatic writing to a bigger Malaysian and foreign audience. 

Second is this series of translated Malay plays will be the “Story of Tolol” (“Tolol” means “fool” in Malay.) This tragi-comedy tells the story of Raju, a coconut tree climber who seems to go crazy after falling from a jackfruit tree twice. Already feared for his rants and rages in the village. The villagers, including his wife, Priya suspect Raju to be mentally ill.  Priya and her neighbour Mak Som take Raju to hospital and also visit a bomoh (Malay shaman and traditional medicine practitioner) in case he has been possessed by a ghost. The play revolves around the mystery of whether Raju is actually crazy, is a reincarnated ghost or has a hidden story unsuspected by anyone? 

The play “Kontradiksi Tolol” (A Fool’s Contradiction), which has become “Story of Tolol” in English, was written by local playwright Rusaidi Ramli , and has been staged successfully in Kuala Lumpur in Malay.  Rusaidi Ramli works at Istana Budaya (The National Theatre) as the Head of Publishing Unit and also the Editor of Majalah Pentas, a cultural magazine published by Istana Budaya. Rusaidi has written and directed over ten scripts and is one of the most prominent local playwrights. He has won for Best Director and Best Theatre awards. The English production in Penang is a family affair; it has been translated into English by his daughter Ilya Rusaidi and is directed by his son-in-law Wazir Bakri, a well-known figure in the Penang theatre world. Some changes from the original script have also been made in the characters’ ethnicity in order to reinforce this message of unity.

There will be 5 performances of “Story of Tolol”: beginning on Thursday 10th October at 11am, then Friday and Saturday at 8.30pm, and 3pm matinées on Saturday and Sunday.  The ticket price is RM 40 for adults; RM 35 for students, senior citizens above 60, OKU and TAS card holders. Tickets can be purchased from the penangpac box office or online here. A portion of the proceeds of the ticket sales from this production will be donated to the Rumah Permata Kasih, an orphanage in Permatang Pauh, Penang.