A Rose by any other Name

A Rose by any other Name

15th March 2016 Off By Justin Chew
The ensemble cast joining in the play's closing number.

The cast ensemble joining in the play’s closing number.

Mawar, which means ‘rose’ in the Malay language, is a musical play which was staged at Northumbria University’s Student Union, the Domain on March 13.

It was produced as part of Malaysian Night 2016, which was a collaboration between the universities of Durham, Newcastle, and Northumbria in order to promote and celebrate Malaysian culture.

Mawar is about a secondary school student named Farhan who, due to a tragic incident in his life, has lost faith in himself and the world around him. Though he appears docile and to some extent jovial at times, he carries a darker more pessimistic self which he hides away.

Things start to shake up when he meets Mawar, an outgoing and lively girl in Farhan’s school, at their school’s Talent Competition audition.

At first they don’t get along, but as time, circumstance, and the pull of the heart entwines, they become close and Farhan learns to awaken to and accept his gift and talent.

Throughout the story, the audience was treated to wonderful performances by the many talented students under the guise of the play’s talent competition.

The singing was good and the play’s main leads that played Farhan and Mawar certainly did well on the mic. Another good point of the play is the attention and detail given to the props and costumes. Which would not have been an easy feat to acquire, being so far away from the homeland.

However, the play is also riddled with a lot of questionable choices in its creative decisions. Not the least of which was choosing to call the play a musical. To be frank, Mawar is not a musical. It can be better described as a drama with some singing segments, or even better as a student showcase with a story built around it.

The evidence of this comes in the form of there being only five songs actually performed in the play, with a sixth as its closing number; but that was only after the story had ended. It was also practically a half-hour in before we heard the first song.

This could have worked. However, the sheer number and overall quality of the other performances overshadowed the play.

It makes one wonder why not label it as a student performance showcase from the start? There needn’t have been a story at all, if performances became the main attraction of the night.

Mawar is really a comedy by any other name, with bits of dramatic tension put in between a bombardment of jokes. Going into this play, one really has to be open to the idea that the play doesn’t take itself too seriously. There were even moments where the play interacted directly with the audience, much to everyone’s delight.

The play clearly knew who its audience was, and catered to them faithfully. Hammy acting and dry humour be dashed! The audience couldn’t have appreciated it more, with the hall filled with intense laughter and gleeful cheers.

Overall, Mawar was an enjoyable experience. It was good showcase of the diversity and flavour of Malaysian culture, presented in an entertaining and nostalgic way. And to that end, the play was certainly a success.