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National laureate Syed Alwi found dead

SUNGAI BULOH, 1 DEC 2008: Theatre activist and national laureate Datuk Syed Alwi Syed Hassan died at his house in Sungai Serai, Kuang, near here, last night.

Selangor CID chief SAC II Hasnan Hassan said the body of the 78-year-old was found in the kitchen of his bungalow by his son, Norsham, 27, at about 8.30pm.

“His body was found with scratch marks and bruises. He was believed to have died about 48 hours earlier,” he told reporters last night at the scene.

He said there were no signs of forced entry into the bungalow but an overturned table and scattered medicines were found inside.

However, police did not dismiss the possibility of Syed Alwi being killed in a robbery, or that he had fallen and died.

“We are still investigating,” said Hasnan, who added that the body had been sent to Sungai Buloh Hospital.

Syed Alwi’s ex-wife, Norhayati Hashim, 56, said the deceased who had been staying with Norsham since 1994, had two other children by his former first wife.

She added that the bungalow had been broken into before.

Syed Alwi, who was born on 29 March 1930 had his early education at the Pondok Tanjung Malay School and then studied at Clifford School in Kuala Kangsar.

He later pursued further studies in theatre and journalism at the University of Minnesota in the US, the first Malay to study the field in a foreign university.

Syed Alwi received the John D Rockefeller III scholarship for theatre and film studies in the US from April to June 1980.

He was among the theatre activists of two eras – the colonisation and post-Merdeka days – and produced works which touched on Malay issues.

Syed Alwi was considered instrumental in lifting local theatre productions from that of the bangsawan (costume) and purbawara (period) into plays with more contemporary flair.

Among his award-winning stage productions were Alang Retak Seribu (1973), Tok Perak (1974), and two efforts in the English language, I Remember The Rest House (1992) and Member of the Club (1994).

He was behind the setting up of the Malayan Art Theatre Group which later became the Malaysian Art Theatre Group.

He directed and acted in several theatre productions including Midsummer Nights (Starveling), Androcles and the Lion (Slave) and Henry V (Duke of Bedford) until 1953.

Syed Alwi had stints with RTM, TV3 and NTV7 apart from serving Filem Negara, Panggung Negara, the National Arts Academy, Universiti Malaya and the United Nations Information Service.

In 1999, he acted in a Hollywood movie, Anna and The King as the prime minister.

He received the nation’s top arts award, the Anugerah Seni Negara on 23 Oct 2002 in recognition of his contributions in the field. — Bernama


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