Love Journey: Exploring the Conflict Between Love and Faith

04 August 2015

Have you ever been in love?

Not the fairytale sort. But more like Romeo and Juliet, where your family is hell-bent at tearing you and your lover apart. And then add to that an explosive mix of religion, race and status.

As dramatic as this may sound, many of us have endured such heartbreaks before, or at least know of someone who has gone through something similar.

Aisha is one such person. Her profession as a sculptor has not earned her brownie points with her ultra conservative and religious father. The cage is rattled when she announces her intention to marry her college sweetheart, Matt.

Now, Matt is a nice guy, probably the best match for Aisha. But he’s American and not a Muslim. Conversion is not an issue for Matt, but Aisha’s father, a convert himself, thinks poorly of him. Aisha has the almost impossible task of convincing her father about Matt.

Suddenly, love becomes a tricky thing in the domain of faith. How do you define faith when it comes to love and relationships?

This is exactly what director Joanna Bessey’s theatre production Love Journey – A Nation Of Two has set out to do.

Written by Bessey and Na’a Murad, the play, which opens at the Black Box Theatre, Enfiniti Academy in Petaling Jaya in Selangor on July 25, Love Journey features Fatimah Abu Bakar, Datuk Rahim Razali, Na’a Murad, Safia Hanifah, Tim Howe, Sharifah Sofia, Bella Rahim, Alfred Loh, Anitha Hamid, Chacko Vadaketh and Qahar Aqilah.



In her new play Love Journey, director and co-playwright Joanna Bessey says she wanted to explore the conflicts that arise when love and faith collides. Photo: Enfiniti Academy

“The themes of this play have to do with love and faith and when it comes to high emotions such as love, how do we define faith? Everyone will have a different belief system, different sense of thoughts and ideas and how things should and shouldn’t be done,” says Bessey, 39, in a recent interview at Enfiniti Academy.

“I was really interested in exploring those ideas … how do we define different ideas of faith and the conflicts that arise out of those. And you are always hearing about this, especially in Malaysia. This is why I think the themes and subject in the play will resonate well with Malaysians, because everybody would know somebody whose relationship have been completely squashed not because there was a problem with the relationship but because of outside ideas,” she explains.

With a British father and Malay mother, the director herself has a personal view of two different worlds – the East and West dynamic.

Love Journey, Bessey’s first full-length play, follows Aisha in her early, mid and late 20s. The show’s three different timelines will allow the audience to experience the push and pull of family life and to also ponder on the important themes explored.

Datuk Rahim Razali is one of the veteran names to appear in Love Journey – A Nation Of Two, which is Joanna Besseys directorial debut.

Datuk Rahim Razali plays the role of Pak Lang in Love Journey, a wise, compassionate, fatherly figure. His character provides a great deal of humour and warmth to the play. Photo: Filepic

Fatimah, 60, who plays Aisha’s mother, agrees with Bessey. She believes the troubled times in which we are living now makes a play like Love Journey a timely one.

“Everybody is so sensitive now and are seeing phantoms in every corner. It is very important to have a play like this which also does not answer all the questions, because you can’t.

“What is important and what I feel I very healthy is just let people talk in a very unthreatened and healthy way … just talk about the differences. We all know that you may be different but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong,” says Fatimah.

“But do we actually know that? Because if we do, we won’t have all these problems,” the veteran actress points out.

Furthermore, Na’a, who also plays Aisha’s uncle, adds that the play is about points of view which colour every single decision made by the characters.

“Some people in this story had a different upbringing, a different past and all of that come into play when they make their decisions. The question is should those decisions, whether national or religious, define two people in a relationship or should they be free to define their relationship?” asks Na’a.

This, he says, explains the second part of the play’s title, A Nation Of Two. “Sometimes two people have to become a nation of two. You are not American or Malaysian. You are X and Y and that is your nation. Your belief system belongs to the two of you. Your choices, philosophy and ideas belong to the two of you,” asserts the 50-year-old actor.

The play, which was written by Na’a Murad and Joanna Bessey, explores the conflict that arises when love and faith collide. Photos: AZMAN GHANI / The Star

Love Journey‘s co-playwrights Na’a Murad (left) and Joanna Bessey. Photo: The Star/Azman Ghani

Safia Hanifah, who plays the main protagonist Aisha, says she relates best to her character’s younger days with her choice of work and what she decides to pursue.

“The conversation I had with my dad about my wanting to do a degree in musical theatre and becoming a full-time actor is a mirror to Aisha’s conversation with her father about her becoming a sculptor,” explains Safia, 28, who was recently seen in KLPac’s The Taste of Water, Sifu Production’s Fifteen and Nadia Khan’s Kedai DVD Paralel.

Rahim, 76, plays the role of Pak Lang, who is a wise, compassionate, fatherly figure. He is the eldest in the family and is Aisha’s uncle. His character has a distinctly Malay and yet worldly view. He is able to understand and be accepting of an outsiders’ point of view, without feeling the need to change his own.

“The Pak Lang character provides a great deal of humour and warmth to the play,” says Bessey.

Tim Howe, who plays Aisha’s love interest, sees his character as a representation of the Western free-spirit and reckons it is this “whimsical approach to life” that brought the two together. “This can also create a conflict because ultimately, one person is leaving their culture to live in another or one person is looking at religion and its role in their life,” says Howe, 37.

Love Journey is a play that has no intentions of preaching but hopes to ignite conversations and trigger questions. Photo: AZMAN GHANI / The Star

Love Journey‘s ensemble cast, with Na’a Murad (fourth from left) and director Joanna BesseyPhoto: The Star/Azman Ghani

Howe has served as the theatre director and performing arts coordinator at the International School of Kuala Lumpur for the last seven years.

Howe went on to say that many of his friends converted to a different religion to marry and be with their partners, something his character is ready to commit to. “I would hate to pointedly ask at the time was it for love or faith. I think that is a very big question that maybe we can let the audience ponder on,” he says.

Indeed, Love Journey, is a play that has no intentions of preaching. Instead it hopes to ignite conversations and trigger questions in a progressive and pluralistic society like ours.

“It’s a very sweet family play, but beneath the sweetness, you have pertinent questions,” concludes Fatimah.

Supported by the National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN) and Kakiseni, Love Journey – A Nation Of Two will play at the Black Box Theatre, Enfiniti Academy, Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya in Selangor from July 25 to Aug 2. Night shows start 8.30pm. On July 26 and Aug 2, matinee shows at 3pm. Tickets are priced at RM40 and RM20 (floor seats). For more info, email lovejourneytix@gmail.com or contact 017-614 5379. To purchase tickets, visit eventbrite.com

Source: Star2

Originally published: 20 July 2015

Author: Dinesh Kumar Maganathan

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