17 December 2009 – 19 December 2009 @ The Substation


Anyone growing up in Singapore will be familiar with her story - that of a Dutch girl who was raised by a Javanese Muslim foster mother, and whose Catholic biological parents petitioned the Singapore courts to claim her back. The ensuing custody battle, set against a backdrop of increasing anti-colonial sentiments in 1950, resulted in one of the worst riots in Singapore's history. The girl had two names: Maria Hertogh, as well as Nadra bte Ma'arof. 

In Singapore, it has been drummed into our psyche that both 'race' and 'religion' are 'sensitive' topics. The usual line is that unless the state controls how we talk about race and religion, then the inevitable consequence of such talk is violence. There are uncritical assumptions being made about primordial passions and tribal loyalties. There are hornet's nests that are not meant to be stirred. But what are those hornets doing there in the first place?

In July, Yasmin Ahmad, a Malaysian filmmaker, passed away suddenly. While grieving the loss of a friend, teacher and one of the leading lights of multicultural understanding in this region, I decided that I would write a play dedicated to her, called Nadirah.

As we started rehearsing, the play gathered other sources of inspiration. I am so blessed to work with some of the finest actors working in Singapore, who have brought along a wealth of experiences - from English, Malay and well as Peranakan theatre. Having Zizi and Jo, two remarkable artists, as co-directors also meant a deepening of the cross-straits conversations initiated in the play. I would also like to thank Zulfikar Shariff for his invaluable insights and advice for the play, especially in the various segments on Islam... and soccer. 

Yasmin Ahmad passed away at age 51 on the 25th July this year. A few weeks before her passing, on the 8th of July, Maria Huberdina Hertogh passed away as well, in Holland, at age 72, of leukemia. Two months before her death, Nadra was interviewed by a Singaporean production house for a documentary. She said:

"I cannot come to your place. That's the reason why I talk from here. I'm glad you learn about my life. Thus, I hope you (show) respect to everybody, to religions and to God."

While writing Nadirah, I often imagined Kak Min's voice speaking to me, from beyond. I would not have been surprised if she had uttered Nadra's words above.

– Alfian Sa'at 

Playwright: Alfian Sa'at 
Directors: Zizi Azah Abdul Majid, Jo Kukathas

Lights Designer: Toby Papazoglou 
Sound Designer: Anaiz Abdul Majid 
Set Designer: Izmir Ickbal
Costume Designer: Fezhah Maznan
Makeup and Hair: Habibah Mohckeram 

Cast: Neo Swee Lin, Siti Khalijah Zainal, Tony Quek, Shida Mahadi, Hatta Said

Production & Stage Manager: Norisham Osman
Technical Manager: Rosdi Subdi 

Stagehands: Ali Al-Mahir Hamzah, Sazali Hussain
Surtitlist: Khalid Supandi

Marketing: Nur Adila Mohckeram 
FOH Manager: Jon Jon
Visual Design: Izmir Ickbal
Photographer: Irfan Kasban 

(Source: Teater Ekamatra Programme)

other stagings


Alfian Sa'at
Jo Kukathas
Toby Papazoglou
Lighting Designer
Izmir Ickbal
Set Designer, Visual Designer
Fezhah Maznan
Costume Designer
Habibah Mohckeram
Makeup Designer, Hair Designer


Nadirah (2009), Programme
Programme for Nadirah (2009).
Teater Ekamatra
Recorded: 17 December 2009
Nadirah (2009), Poster
Poster for Nadirah (2009).
Teater Ekamatra
Recorded: 17 December 2009