'Walimatulurus': Langkawi-based Suatukala brings immersive dinner theatre experience to KL

The community outreach initiative has brought teachers and students from the island together through arts activities over the last eight years.

Langkawi residents and students involved in the staging of Walimatulurus last December (All photos: Suatukala)

Once upon a time in Langkawi, preparations were in full swing for a union that would cement the friendship between two giants. Tauke emas Mat Chinchang’s son is all set to wed the daughter of mighty Mat Raya who, in truth, is scared of his wife, the most powerful bomoh in the village.

Secure your seat at Walimatulurus — Malay for “wedding banquet” — brought to Kuala Lumpur by Suatukala (literally, “once upon a time”) from Langkawi, where this Tale of Two Giants played to full houses last year. The audience, who are part of the kenduri guests, will get to see, up close, what happens when the celebration goes awry and pots and pans fly, leading to a catastrophe that results in the formation of Gunung Raya and the Matchinchang range, Langkawi’s highest peaks.

KL comedians Kuah Jen Han, Papi Zak and Razif Hashim headline the show, joined by singer-songwriter Lea Ismail and a supporting cast of Langkawi residents.

Money raised from the immersive theatre experience will go towards Suatukala, a community outreach initiative focused on storytelling in any form, that has brought teachers and students from the island together through arts activities over the last eight years.



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In 2015, writer Karina Bahrin, who had left corporate life in KL to open a small hotel in Langkawi, noticed how people in the smaller towns did not see the importance of having thriving arts and bringing them to the ground. She approached producer Lina Tan, artist Alex Lim and event organiser Liz Tajuddin to form Suatukala and take the arts to the community. The early founders started small, with initiatives in the park such as singing and performing, art on the wall and photography.

In 2019, Tan developed a workshop module, Rekacerita, that encouraged participants to write their own stories based on legends in Langkawi. “Be open and  think differently to make your characters interesting,” Tan told them. The exercise was fun and at the end of the  workshop, one group put together Zombie Mahsuri, who comes back to seek revenge after being wrongly accused of adultery and killed.

In 2020, Suatukala obtained a Yayasan Hasanah grant and went on to stage an all-female Mahsuri play the following year. Performers Taka, Sheena Baharudin and Leaism were brought in from KL to work with the cast, giving them further exposure to theatre and what one can do on the stage. By then, Liz and Lim were no longer involved and Shareen Rahmat, who quit corporate finance to open a series of little homestays in Langkawi, had come in. She helped strengthen Suatukala’s ties with local authorities like the state education department and the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA).


Last year's winning team in KL, where the highlight was a tour of Astro’s studio

In 2022, a Cendana grant enabled the group to engage trainers and hold workshops for students. The finale saw a big show by participants held at LADA’s Panggung Seni Kota Mahsuri. The winning team got to go to KL, where the highlight was a tour of Astro’s studio. This year, 20 teams with more than 100 students were involved in Part 2 of the workshop, with the winners getting to visit Astro as well.

Suatukala’s initiatives, aimed at students aged between 14 and 17, have been drawing interest from residents and students in rural areas, such as Kedawang and Kelibang, with strong support from headmasters and teachers. This falls in line with its aim of reaching those with limited access to the performing arts.

Tan believes the arts is “really important for your soul and to open your mind and make the world more meaningful”. It is heartening to see students blossom after coming from a workshop, and she hopes for to garner support to continue with more Suatukala projects in 2024.

Those who wish to give students a leg-up in the arts but cannot make the KL show dates can still help: Get the tickets for Walimatulurus and donate them back to Suatukala. “We will invite teachers and headmasters from Langkawi to come and see what their students are doing,” Tan says.


'Walimatulurus' will be staged on Dec 15 and 16 at Kompleks Kraf Kuala Lumpur from 6pm to 10pm, inclusive of dinner. See here for details and bookings.


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