'Walimatulurus — The Wedding Banquet' retells the legend of how the highest peaks of Langkawi got their names

The dinner theatre is hosted by Langkawi-based community initiative Suatukala in collaboration with Wayang Kitchen.

Razif rehershing with the young talent from Langkawi (All photos: Suatukala)

"Everything starts from a story,” says Lina Tan, co-founder of Suatukala, a Langkawi-based community initiative. “The stories you tell are so important. That’s why storytelling is the cornerstone. It’s the very basis of what Suatukala is all about. We try to use that to open minds, to look beyond and to bridge boundaries between different cultural barriers.”

Founded in 2015, Suatukala’s aim has been to expand the arts scene in the Jewel of Kedah through numerous programmes and workshops for the youth. “The objective is always to bring people from Kuala Lumpur who are arts practitioners to the schools, and the kids go, ‘Wow, this is a visual artist, this is a performing artiste, these people actually make a living painting, acting or producing a TV show.’ They get inspired and see that there is a life they can aspire to besides just the standard fare,” says Tan.

Rekacerita, the module that the non-governmental organisation has been teaching this year at four schools in Langkawi, culminated in a big show where the students were given the opportunity to create their own stories and perform them.

Students from this workshop will be part of the initiative’s latest show happening on Dec 9 and 10. Supported by Arts for All Seasons (ArtsFAS) under the purview of Yayasan Hasanah, Suatukala is collaborating with Wayang Kitchen, which specialises in dinner theatre, on Walimatulurus — The Wedding Banquet. This production is a fresh retelling of the legend of how the highest peaks of Langkawi got their names.

“And because of this training they’ve received, we managed to get a pool of people that we could use to work on this production, too. I think in terms of progression, it’s really great for the kids to see them go from learning how to do theatre to working behind the scenes at the interschool level. And now, we select the best ones to work with professionals,” says Tan.


Razif (left) and Welch

When the founders of Wayang Kitchen, Hester Welch and Razif Hashim, were asked to be a part of this show, they were excited as it fit perfectly with their identity. “Wayang Kitchen fuses food and performance. We create immersive events and we’ve often collaborated with restaurants or chefs as well as theatre practitioners, actors and designers. So, when we were approached by Suatukala about Walimatulurus, it was perfect because food is already a natural element of the story … It’s nourishing not only in the food aspect, but also with the community coming together in the arts to be exciting and engaging and lifting spirits,” explains Welch, who is co-director.

Razif — who is co-director, writer and narrator — notes that while the main story is known to many and can be read online, Walimatulurus will have a modern twist as well as their own interpretation when it comes to smaller details. “Legend has it that once upon a time, Mat Chinchang and Mat Raya were giants. They were friends and wanted to marry off their children to each other. At the wedding, there was some sort of drama and a fight broke out. The fight caused a massive ruckus that began destroying the whole island as they were giants. Suddenly, they were struck by lightning and became petrified, so now we have them as Gunung Raya and Gunung Machinchang,” he explains. The story will be peppered with comedy, and although it has a tragic ending, there will be an impactful message as well.

While some students from the Rekacerita workshop are part of the show, a few well-known names from the comedy scene have also been cast.

Originally, as the two main characters are giants, it was suggested that the actors be put on stilts. “I was, like, oh no, my actors are going to have to learn how to walk on stilts and if they fall, the insurance will be a nightmare. Then I thought, how about we just get big guys, because ‘giant’ can be figurative speech, right?” muses Tan, the producer. She suggested stand-up comedians Papi Zak and Kuah Jenhan to the directors who reacted with an
instant yes.


Rehearsals with Kuah Jenhan (left) and Papi Zak

“In the story, they’re giants but also main figures. They command that kind of importance within their community. [Papi Zak and Kuah Jenhan] have such big personalities and great stage presence. They’re really brilliant to work with and it will be very engaging to watch [them] on stage as well,” adds Welch.

As Walimatulurus is an immersive dinner theatre, guests can expect to enjoy a meal while being part of the story. “It is basically a typical Malay kenduri kahwin because we wanted to create the atmosphere and the smell of a wedding. There will be nasi minyak, nasi kuning — which represents luck — standard stuff like rendang and ayam masak merah, and so on. And wajik (sticky rice cake with palm sugar), which is something sweet at the end, very typical of these events. We are also adding a very special dish called daging gulai batang pisang, which is specific to weddings in Kedah. All these dishes add meaning to the story and because of their distinct flavours. We hope they will also add to the emotional experience of the theatre,” explains Razif.

This immersive experience does not end with food. Audience members will actually be part of the action, stepping in place of the guests from either the bride or groom’s side at the wedding. This gives variety to each person’s perspective of the show, especially as the audience will also have tasks to complete. It will essentially be like a real marriage ceremony with theatrical elements. Razif adds that the curated experience will include the idea and spirit of gotong royong.

The challenges involved in immersive theatre are not unfamiliar to Wayang Kitchen, but as the venue is not a typical theatre or event space, there are additional hurdles to overcome. With the help of Langkawi Development Authority (Lada), Suatukala managed to secure Laman Padi as the location for Walimatulurus. An open complex surrounded by rice fields, this fitting “wedding” space is located near Pantai Cenang.


One of the areas at Laman Padi

“The challenge when you’re doing immersive theatre in this kind of space is that you have to do it all — the lighting, sound — by yourself and tailor it specifically to that show. So, when you meet certain characters, where a certain action happens, it is all inspired by the space. That’s what also makes it really special because if you do it at another venue, it will be different,” explains Welch.

Laman Padi can accommodate 100 guests. While an ambitious number for this kind of theatre, the directors feel it will help create an authentic wedding atmosphere.

Tan encourages KLites who cannot make it to Langkawi for the show to nevertheless purchase tickets so she can persuade Langkawians to attend. “A lot of people are asking, ‘Why Langkawi?’ or saying, ‘We can’t come’. We tell them to just buy the tickets so we can get more people on the island to watch it: teachers, students, people who are involved with the local district, and those whom we think should watch [the show]. This is so it will be like last year, when we invited schools and the teachers who were like, ‘Oh my, I want my school to be involved. I want my kids to do it too’,” she says.

This will generate more awareness of Suatukala’s workshops and cultivate a stronger arts culture in the community.


This article first appeared on Nov 28, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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