The Trial of Hang Tuah the Great, a prize-winning play, uses an ancient story of the Malay hero, Hang Tuah, to re-examine of some of the issues connected with identity prevailing in Malaysian society over the past fifty years or so since the independence of Malaya and the establishment of Malaysia. It is an imaginative retelling of the story of Hang Tuah, associated with the Melaka Sultanate of the fifteenth century who, myth and legend maintains, never died, while historians, time and again questioning Hang Tuah’s very existence, have recently declared that such a figure never actually existed.
The Trial of Hang Tuah the Great takes both these theories into consideration and through them, examines the traditional idea of a hero in the Malay psyche, linking him symbolically to certain individuals, such as Maharaja Lela, and a spectrum of events, mythical, legendary and historical, based on the hypothetical question of who Hang Tuah would have been if he had lived beyond 15th century Melaka right up to our own times and even beyond the present until the year 2020.
The play’s text is a powerful and stunning confrontation of myth in the manner of Grotowski (Poor Theatre). In terms of staging, as envisioned by its author, The Trial of Hang Tuah the Great is based upon modern western theories and techniques, such as those of Bertolt Brecht (Epic Theatre) and Antonin Artaud (Theatre of Cruelty). In both senses, The Trial of Hang Tuah the Great is a groundbreaking Malaysian play.