Almost two decades after its well-received debut in 1996 by Teatre Kami and subsequent tour to Cairo in 1997, ...Dan Tiga Dara Terbang Ke Bulan (…Three Virgins Fly to the Moon) is taking to the stage once again, thanks to Panggung Arts. And audiences will be able to experience it just as it was performed back then, as few changes have been made to the original script apart from the casting, with Siti Khalijah, Shida Mahadi and Nur Khairiyah in the starring roles.
The play’s story is simple but intimate, following an encounter between three Malay friends – one in a troubled marriage, another a plane crash casualty and the last a coma patient – who meet by chance in an otherworldly space to celebrate Hari Raya together. They end up re-analysing what it means to be women, to be Malay and to be friends.
‘I didn’t want to update the script for 2013 firstly because I wanted to keep the ladies’ kampung recollections for the audience, [especially since] I grew up in one in Sembawang,’ says the play’s co-writer and director Alin Mosbit, 39. ‘I remember running into people’s houses to play, then my grandmother would come out of our house with a plate of lunch. She’d feed me a mouthful and I’d run out again with food still in my mouth to play some more. It’s a glimpse of life that many people don’t have the opportunity to see.’
And despite the 17 years since writing the script, Mosbit comments: ‘many issues that Malay women experience haven’t changed. For many, marriage is still an exit from parental control, but they might not marry the right guy or at the right age. The same goes for the issue of our ambition: I feel that as much as we want to fly far and dream big, we still have strong roots of filial piety, family and homeland. We spread our wings but can’t let go.’
However, you’ll be surprised to learn that the play was created almost by accident – Mosbit reveals that she didn’t deliberately set out to write it, but rather was mainly trying to fulfil Teatre Kami’s grant quota for the year (the group was the first Malay theatre company to be supported by the National Arts Council). ‘In 1996, TK [had a] grant quota of four shows a year, but had pretty much used up their funds after three big ones. So I said never mind, let’s do a devised play,’ recalls Mosbit, who served as the company’s education officer and created the piece together with then artistic director Atin Amat and actress Junainah Yusoff. ‘They asked, who will act? And I said, the three of us can, lah!’
As for the title, she continues: ‘They said it would be another Three Fat Virgins [the 1992 comedy by local playwright Ovidia Yu], and so we made the title Three Virgins Fly to the Moon.’ She adds with a wide grin: ‘We didn’t say fat though – why state the obvious!’ ‘It’s really exciting coming back to it,’ she concludes. ‘The lines in it are ones that anyone who has friends or BFFs will understand. It says that people don’t live forever and friends will go their separate ways, but having had that friendship is what’s truly magical and important.’ Jo Tan
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio