Kakiseni Blog

A foot in the Malaysian arts scene!

Hamlet untuk semua

Posted on 22 April 2015

22–26 Apr 2015 : SD: Othello

I first came to Hamlet in high school. We watched the Kenneth Branagh movie, had to analyse the “To be, or not to be” speech. Analyse in the sense of reading it closely and saying something about what Hamlet is really saying. My teenage self was excited with the possibilities of that. I could claim that Hamlet was saying anything I wanted. I merely had to gather the evidence.

I gathered the evidence, like a detective, but the evidence did not support my arguments. Reading used to be an exercise in power, in imposing meaning on the text. I learned that the evidence determined what claims could be made of a character and a text. Reading became a listening exercise.

Shakespeare is challenging to either read or listen to. His vision may be universal, but it requires training to clarify it. We are remote from the action in terms of both time and space. But if we can somehow get at the emotion in his language, we may find that we are not very far away at all.

The Play’s The Thing

Shakespeare Demystified’s Hamlet: A Performance-Lecture was a listening exercise. Key scenes on Hamlet’s journey were performed. In between these scenes, the actors talked about the play. This eased the audience into appreciating it.

One of the ideas that SD tried to communicate was that there are many interpretations to Hamlet. The actors presented views about the play: Why does Gertrude marry Claudius? Is Hamlet mad? Does Hamlet love Ophelia? Why does Hamlet delay? And of course these opinions informed their performances, but we were left to figure out the answers.

Actors brought their own interpretation to the roles and this reinforced the multiple interpretations idea. Anne James, for instance, was asked if she thought Hamlet is mad. She gave two answers: one for the scene she had just performed, another for the play as a whole.

Several actors played Hamlet and each played the character differently. David Lim’s Hamlet was a screwball in the spirit of Jerry Lewis. I thought Salesman Hamlet during Anne James’s turn as the character, selling himself on a course of action. Marina’s Hamlet was unhinged, yearning for his mother.

One may be tempted to compare these performances, but Hamlet sometimes changes drastically from scene to scene. You could say an evil twin kills him and takes his place every time he walks off-stage.

One may be tempted to compare these performances, but Hamlet sometimes changes drastically from scene to scene. You could say an evil twin kills him and takes his place every time he walks off-stage.

A famous example is the change in Hamlet between the 2nd and 3rd soliloquoys. In the 2nd, Hamlet is resolute. He is shocked out of complacency by the player’s speech. He comes up with a plan and he’s excited to execute it. In the 3rd, Hamlet is overwhelmed. He is weary and unable to commit to any course of action. Where did all that energy go? Indeed, the character seems to anticipate our criticism. “And thus the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”

In the lecture-performance, Anne James performed the 2nd soliloquoy and Soon Heng performed the 3rd. James’s Hamlet was salesman-like, as previously stated, called to action by the player’s speech. Soon Heng’s Hamlet is exhausted, his energy spent. He’s being pulled in so many directions, he can barely think.

About, My Brain!

Having an interpretation is one thing. Communicating it to the audience is another. Kien Lee has a strong physical presence, but his accent is distracting. Both Kien Lee and David Lim had memorised their lines, but I struggled to hear and feel them. Intonation was barely used as a vehicle of meaning. They had done a lot of work on the language, that much was clear. But more work needed to be done.

I disagreed with Marina and David’s interpretation of some scenes. But when I looked at the text again, I couldn’t say that theirs were not supported. And I can’t say that they were unsure of how to play their roles. They were faithful to their reading of the scene. I wish they went deeper, but perhaps this is something to look forward to, if the full-length production comes to pass.

All the World’s a Stage

Much ado was made out of the staging, which is minimal. A props table at the back of the stage. Chairs down the wings for the actors. No backdrop. This was a performance-lecture, and its purpose was to inform. But SD weren’t afraid to play a scene to the end, for the sake of emotional intensity.

Minimal staging keeps the budget down, but there’s another reason. We expect productions of Shakespeare to have lavish sets and costumes. But Shakespeare Demystified sticks to a “simple setting,” they told me, “to encourage the public and students to also try performing Shakespeare as part of their exploration of his works.” I like the aesthetic, but I’d need to see if it can work in a full-scale production.

SD clarified some dramatic elements before using them. Before Hamlet’s first soliloquoy, Kien Lee explained what a soliloquoy is: a character speaking directly to the audience, as if they were his or her ally. Sometimes, language was clarified by the staging. Instead of explaining that a bodkin is a kind of dagger, Soon Heng (as Hamlet) pulled out a dagger when he said the word. These were nice touches.

And throughout, effort was spent in preserving the surprises for the audience. In one scene, the king, Claudius, is praying. Hamlet is going to kill him, but decides not to. If Claudius was praying when he died, his soul would go to heaven. Hamlet doesn’t want that. But Claudius isn’t praying at all. And Hamlet misses his chance. If SD hadn’t explained the significance of prayer, and the meaning of Claudius’s final lines, the point of the scene would have been lost.

The Rest is Silence

When I reviewed SD’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor last year, I said that the explanation takes some of the responsibility away from the scene. There’s no pressure to get the scene right, because they can explain it afterwards. Perhaps that was unfair.

SD told me, “Many people, epecially in Malaysia, may have to study Shakespeare at school without a chance of seeing his plays performed live.” I never saw a live performance of Hamlet when I studied the play in school. And I found the Kenneth Branagh movie incomprehensible. I once attended a production of Henry V at Akademi Seni Kebangsaan’s Experimental Theatre. Performed by an all-male, English cast, in a World War II setting, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. My dad still has the show poster in his office.

Live performance is memorable. The opportunity to see it gives students a chance to form a living connection with long-dead playwrights.

Any way you slice it though, more Shakespeare is better than less.*

Hamlet was performed in April 2014. Shakespeare Demystified returns this year with a new performance doing what they do best: demystifying Othello, by Shakespeare. The curtains go up today for Othello, and will run until the 26th. For more info, click here.

Diari Wanita…Episod Kak Ani & Nyonya

Posted on 9 April 2015

Listing : Kakiseni.com

Listing : AirAsia RedTix

Diari Wanita

Diari Wanita…Episod Kak Ani & Nyonya is a production that deals in doubles. Presented in February at Istana Budaya, it tells the stories of two women from two different countries told in tandem, as guided by the vision of one director, Rosminah Tahir. One story illustrates the journey of YB Dato’ Rohani Abdul Karim, our Minister of Women, Family and Community Development (the ministry supported this production), with anecdotes from her childhood, teen years and young adulthood presented through monologues. The other is a comedy by Indonesian writer Wisran Hadi, staged for the seventh time – our very own  Madea! – telling the story of Nyonya, a young matriarch trying to protect her wealth from both a wily antique dealer and the determined grandchildren of her sick husband.

Producer Siti Rohayah Attan had said that they were restaging Nyonya due to what she saw as a lack of new ideas that could stand up to the production’s established merits, but that the inclusion of the Kak Ani story would reinvigorate the delivery and storytelling. It would have been delightful had this been the case, but unfortunately the two stories were so tonally and thematically at odds with each other that Diari Wanita was, for this reviewer at least, a rather confusing and dissatisfying experience.

Let’s start with the more “senior” of the two stories. Nyonya opens with the title character (Sherry Alhadad) and Tuan (Shahrul Mizad) bickering, flirting and haggling over the price of the marble outside of Nyonya’s lavish home. This world is completely removed from the world before it, from language to time period to atmosphere. Nyonya is a sensuous and cheeky woman who speaks in innuendos and riddles, giving as good as she gets in every interaction, able to go from stern and forbidding to coy and wheedling in a second.

She’s also surrounded by other wacky characters, played expertly by a cast of experienced entertainers such as Amy Mastura, Misha Omar and Juhara Ayob. The three play Keponakan Anggun, Cantik, and Beautiful, grandchildren to Nyonya’s elderly husband determined to claim their inheritance, which they insist is in Nyonya’s hands. They employ all manner of tricks to achieve their goal, from emotional blackmail to legal threats to straight up pulling knives from their dainty purses — each one bigger than the last with Misha Omar eventually wielding a cleaver.

Every time Nyonya is done dealing with them, she’s again besieged by Tuan, forever in pursuit of her belongings and then Nyonya herself, growing steadily bolder and sleazier as he moves from buying her sofa to buying her bed. Tuan himself is pursued by his wife (played by Dina Nadzir) calling after him with coquettish meows that grow increasingly irritated as she becomes more and more jealous of his work and the other woman pulling him away from her and their children.

“Sherry Alhadad in the lead role is a delight to watch, effortlessly engaging and creative in her physicality — playing with both her body language on stage as well as her voice and vocal delivery.”

Nyonya is a classic soap opera played for laughs, and the audience (myself included) responded accordingly. It isn’t anything groundbreaking (despite the fact that Amy Mastura beatboxed at one point), but as far as slapstick goes, it’s well-executed, and Sherry Alhadad in the lead role is a delight to watch, effortlessly engaging and creative in her physicality — playing with both her body language on stage as well as her voice and vocal delivery. All the actors have great chemistry together, and the three actors playing the Keponakan especially have wonderful little moments of improvisation between them that keep their scenes light and enjoyable. These factors enlivened the sometimes static scenes and thin storyline.

In between the slapstick, Diari Wanita asks its audience to switch back and forth from the comedy to the more serious monologues of the Kak Ani story, which does not share Nyonya’s large cast of characters or elaborate set, depending solely on the actors playing YB (Dayang Kartini) and the Secretary (Nad Zainal).

The Kak Ani story is supposed to highlight the humble beginnings of YB Dato’ Rohani as the child of a cleaner and cook — what can now be taken as inspiration considering all she’s achieved and how far she’s come. The stories have the potential to be entertaining — quaint tales of hiking to Gunung Ledang, hitchhiking to the city, losing a football in a graveyard — but this potential is undermined by the choice of delivery. The monologues not only strain the audience’s attention but it put us at a distance, making it hard to relate to the stories or make sense of them as a complete narrative when they were presented as disconnected chunks (almost like ad breaks in the Nyonya story).

The disconnect increased with the odd choice to have the Secretary present almost all of YB’s childhood stories, having apparently heard them so frequently that she can tell them from memory. Nad Zainal truly did her best with what she’s been given, throwing herself fully into re-enacting the stories, embodying different voices, ages, and moods. For one scene, she proves herself truly game for anything by playing imaginary football on stage against an imaginary army of children by herself, all while clad in slacks and kitten heels.

“…I must call a spade a spade – this was the pre-packaged speech of a government official with something to sell, and the audience politely sat through it because we had somehow paid to do so.”

YB appears on her own in a single scene, where she’s been invited to speak in front of an audience of single mothers. She delivers a speech on how we should not shun single mothers, the importance of mothers in society, how lucky she is to have had the support of both her parents. She finds the space also to mention the “10-second family hug” programme, which is apparently something the Ministry is doing to encourage affection in families. Dayang Kartini embodies the YB role with grace and presence, working to humanise a public figure, but at this point I must call a spade a spade — this was the pre-packaged speech of a government official with something to sell, and the audience politely sat through it because we had somehow paid to do so.

The promotional aspect of the Kak Ani story is set up from the very start with the Secretary empathetically telling us what life is like having to manage every detail of her boss’s life, mimicking the voices and mannerisms of those that pester her about YB’s schedule, moods, and temperature. Don’t they know YB is busy attending to the recent East Coast floods? she asks. An image of said relief efforts is projected onto the screen behind her, followed by…an actual PowerPoint slide outlining the objectives of the YB’s office. The Secretary sheepishly asks the audience to read through the points, because it’d be too long for her to read out herself.

The intention to present educational information and messaging about motherhood, parenting, and the importance of familial relationships is a noble one that was sold short by the decision to do it in such a ham-fisted and shoehorned manner, and this above all made the Kak Ani story hard to connect with. I’m sure the production team and their supporters had a vision of success for this double pairing, but Kak Ani and Nyonya are unfortunately no peanut butter and jelly. The inclusion of a secondary story alongside Nyonya also increased the running time to two and a half hours, which disrupted Nyonya’s snappy pacing — so this arrangement didn’t seem to do any favours for anybody. Should Nyonya return for an eighth staging, one can only hope they stick to the original flavour (already proven to be quite popular), or find another taste that shares even one complementary note with it to create something with a little more zest.

#FILEMGIG: The White Balloon at Rumah Titi by Kelab Filem Bangsar (and friends)

Posted on 10 February 2015

Facebook : Kelab Filem Bangsar

Twitter : @k_filembangsar

Facebook : Rumah Titi

Facebook : Dapur Jalanan KL

The casual layout in Rumah Titi (Pic courtesy of Frinjan)

The casual layout in Rumah Titi (Pic by Nadia Alipah)

Jafar Panahi is maybe best known as the Iranian filmmaker who smuggled an illegally recorded film out of his home country in a USB drive hidden inside a cake. This Is Not a Film was shown at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and won many awards but the story of his career started out a little more simply and involved no baked goods that we know of, with his first feature The White Balloon released in 1995.

I showed up to Kelab Filem Bangsar’s screening of the movie knowing only the title and that they’d be serving food. Rumah Titi’s front drive was turned into a makeshift wayang pacak with some very simple ingredients: a digital projector, a laptop and a white sheet hanging from some branches. We sat on mats, cushions, and plastic stools, some of which were piled high with packets of Kacang Cap Tangan and Mamee Monster. To the side of the screen was a small barbeque pit, emitting smoke and smells of charred chicken throughout the screening. It kept the mosquitoes away, and it smelled delicious. They played parts of a superhero blockbuster as we waited for more people to arrive, like our very own previews. Children played shadow puppets with the projector. The DIY, scuffed-around-the-edges feel fit nicely with the screening of this small and meandering little Iranian film, Panahi’s short film turned full-length debut.

So, the thing about The White Balloon is that it’s not about a balloon at all — it’s about a fish. Specifically a fat goldfish seven-year-old Razieh wants more than anything in the world, to celebrate the Iranian New Year. Her mother tells her that they have perfectly serviceable goldfish in their pond, that there’s no money for a new one, that she’s being unreasonable. Razieh is unconvinced and, with the help of her brother Ali, wheedles last bit of money they have for the New Year, a 500-toman banknote, from her mother. She tears through town with it, losing it pretty much immediately — twice. Two snake charmers steal it from her as a “donation”, when she gets to the shop she finds the fish seller has hiked up the price, and the worst of it all, she finds out that in her excitement she’s dropped the banknote through a grill into the basement of a locked shop.

Razieh’s face vacillates from lip-quivering brow-furrowing worry to a restrained, slowly blooming joy as she interacts with multiple characters from town who seep in from the edges to try and help her. An Armenian woman helps her retrace her steps to find the dropped note, a young soldier sits with her as she waits for her brother to call the owner of the locked store. The world in the background of Razieh’s story is a very busy one, layered with small moments and characters that recur as their paths cross with each other and the little girl.

We see the crowd around the snake charmers as Razieh walks home, quiet and vibrating with her desire for a fish, and again as she passes back through them with her 500-toman note in a small fishbowl. A redheaded neighbour boy asks to get some fish from their pond — too skinny for Razieh — and reappears in the middle of her haggling with the goldfish seller, to sell him some fish. The most important recurring character is the balloon seller, who we see at the very beginning of the film moving through the market with multiple balloons tethered to a long wooden stick. It’s this stick, and the Afghan boy holding it (and a little chewing gum) that ultimately save Razieh, Ali, and their family’s plans for the New Year.

By the first 10 minutes of The White Balloon, I couldn’t stand it. I was consumed by my irritation with Razieh, with her incessant whining to her harried, put-upon mother for something that I, at my wise age of 20-something, could see was a total scam. I could barely enjoy the film even after she got the money, because immediately my irritation was joined by worry that this excited, not-so-sensible little girl wasn’t going to get her stupid fish due to naïveté and carelessness (and I was right!). I was being a bit of a Grinch about it. My feelings lasted all the way to the credits and I was secretly hoping that someone in the post-film discussion would say they didn’t like it too and take one for the haters.


The two moderators talked through the themes they could pick out from the film: the strength of love between siblings, the strong focus on material things, elements of patriarchy in the male characters’ behaviour (read: condescension) towards Razieh and how she as well as her mother are treated and perceived throughout. They shared articulate and wonderfully perceptive readings, especially wonderful because it was all in Malay, a language I don’t often hear used for film criticism and philosophical musings. Then suddenly I was being called on to explain my uncharitable, aggressive dislike of a fictional young child. I managed, just.

Thankfully I wasn’t so much of a killjoy that the moderators and the audience at the front couldn’t continue and share more thoughts on the determination and creativity of young children in pursuing small desires (which even my Grinch heart saw as a valid point). I was swayed, or at least a little less of a hater. The discussion was halting as the moderators and audience members who spoke up were hard to hear from anywhere past the first few rows, with one person called on to speak calling back, “Aku hisap rokok, aku tak perasan!”

The schoolboy cheek was at least a little endearing, even if it perhaps cut short any further discussion. #FILEMGIG certainly had the ambience and the chill vibes, but it was unfortunate that the cakap-cakap got overshadowed by the lepak-lepak. Perhaps with a microphone/loudspeaker and more structured moderation, Kelab Filem Bangsar can nail the balance with their next outing.

Or maybe we were all distracted by the smell of Dapur Jalanan Kuala Lumpur’s spread.

(Picture courtesy of Frinjan)

(Picture by Nadia Alipah)

The night wound down with shared eats (they even had toasted marshmallows) and a small acoustic music set of covers. This was Kelab Filem Bangsar’s second #FILEMGIG screening after starting up in November 2014. They plan to have themed screenings in different locations throughout the year, so follow them on Facebook and Twitter to catch the next one.

The Injustice of Lena Hendry’s Case

Posted on 10 February 2015

GOVERNMENT policing affecting freedom of expression in the arts is not new. Comedy group Instant Café Theatre was banned by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) for a period, over a decade ago. This was after the actors defied a government directive to remove “all references to government policies, government agencies and mention of any person dead or alive.” The Seksualiti Merdeka festival was banned by the police in 2011. In 2013, police questioned artist Anurendra Jegadeva for an art piece expressing solidarity with Muslim Iraqis, after a report was lodged alleging the artist was insulting Islam.

From live performances to festivals to art pieces, the government is now demonstrating their interest in policing the showing of films. The latest government action impacting the arts is the charging of Lena Hendry, programme coordinator at Komas. On 19 Sep 2013, she was charged under the Film Censorship Act 2002 for screening a film that had not been approved by the Film Censorship Board (the Board). The film was a documentary on the Sri Lankan conflict entitled No Fire Zone, the Killing Fields of Sri Lanka. Lena’s case has been fixed for mention in the Magistrates Court on 22 Jul 2014.

How is the case against Lena Hendry an injustice and how does it affect everyone’s freedom of expression?

Incredible law

The law under which Lena Hendry is being charged, is unspeakably broad. Lena Hendry has been charged under section 6(1)(b) which prohibits the circulation, distribution, display, production, sale or hire of any non-approved film. Section 6(1)(a) is even broader – no one can even have in their possession or custody any such film. And film is defined as any record “of a sequence of visual images…capable of being used as a means of showing that sequence as a moving picture.” Under that definition – home videos, cartoons, Hollywood movies, even moving gif images – all constitute films under the Act.

The penalty for being found guilty of having such non-approved films in one’s possession is serious. Anyone who contravenes this law can be fined between RM5,000 to RM30,000 and/or be imprisoned for up to three years.

In an era where anyone with a smartphone can produce a video and instantly share it with hundreds, if not thousands, over social media – this law seems archaic at best, and ridiculous, at worst. Besides blatantly breaching international standards on freedom of expression, it is also unenforceable. The number of people who have broken this law would far outnumber the government’s capacity to monitor and prosecute even 10% of them.

Censorship vs Freedom of Expression

And yet, the law remains on our books. An application by Lena Hendry to set aside the charge on the basis of the law being unconstitutional was rejected by the High Court on 11 Apr 2014. The judge indicated it was necessary for an “independent body like the Board” to “monitor the contents of a film.”

Granted, many jurisdictions in the world do require films to be classified before they can be shown publicly, sold or rented. Such classifications are intended for various reasons such as protecting minors from harmful or disturbing material, or allowing people to choose the level of sexual or violent material they are exposed to.

To ensure however that people’s freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to receive information, is not unduly restricted, there are usually broad exemptions to classification. Australian legislation, for instance, has a long list of exempted categories of films which do not need classification. This includes films on current affairs, sporting events, family activities, musical presentations and educational videos. This ensures that postings of wedding or school sports days’ videos on Facebook don’t break the law, which would not be the case in Malaysia.

No such protections exist in Malaysia. Exemptions in Malaysia are available entirely at the government’s discretion. First, an exemption must be granted by the government minister in charge of the Film Censorship Board. Second, the only category specifically mentioned for exemption are films sponsored by the federal government. Third, the minister may impose any conditions when granting the exemption. And fourth, the minister must be satisfied that the exemption would not be against public or national interest.

Censorship vs Copyright

There is also a difference between censoring a film and protecting a film’s copyright. In the UK for instance, a license is required before a film can be screened publicly, but this is to protect the copyright owners of the film, who invested in its making. Such licences are easily obtainable upon the payment of an affordable fee, and different classes of licenses are available to differentiate between commercial ventures such as cinemas, and non-commercial ones such as film clubs. Public screening licences are also obtainable in Malaysia through the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation.

If permission has been obtained from the film’s copyright owners to screen the film publicly, or the film has entered the public domain, then such licensing requirements may possibly be waived.

Censorship and control

Malaysia’s laws however go far beyond protecting copyright and arbitrarily restricts freedom of expression. Ultimately, section 6 of the Film Censorship Act is all about the government retaining control over what is shown to people publicly. It may not have the capacity or the will to prosecute every citizen that posts videos online or screen films publicly, but it would like to cast the net broadly enough to take action if they think such videos threaten their position.

Hence, the ban in 2011 on the Undilah video released online, encouraging Malaysians to register to vote. In banning the video, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Communication cited the lack of approval from the Board as its reason for disallowing the video on the internet.

Such selective application of the law, culminating in the charge against Lena Hendry, is arbitrary and unjust. Malaysians have no certainty over when or how this law will be applied to them. Such restrictions are surely unconstitutional, as our Federal Court has ruled that any restriction on our fundamental rights must be necessary and proportionate to the aim it intends to achieve. Any restrictions must also be directly linked to the protection of national security, public order or public morality, and cannot be applied willy-nilly to any film produced by any citizen. This is all in line with international standards on what constitute legitimate restrictions to freedom of expression.

More awareness on the arbitrariness of section 6 of the Film Censorship Act and its chilling effect on freedom of expression is certainly needed. The government’s charging of Lena Hendry has certainly served to highlight this, but at personal cost to Lena and all those whom the government has sought to control for expressing a view they do not agree with.

Lena Hendry’s legal team has filed a new application in the High Court to declare the censorship law unconstitutional. There is a stay of proceedings on her current case in the Magistrates Court, pending the outcome of the application.

In memory of a Sudden Death.

Posted on 22 September 2014

High-res version
Sudden Death

This is the flyer for Sudden Death, a participatory performance in memory of Teoh Beng Hock.

The Instructions:

1. Light a candle for Teoh Beng Hock.

2. Lie on the ground, on your right side.

3. Position left leg 90 degrees away from torso. Right leg should be pointed 45 degrees from your left leg.

4. Position both arms 45 degrees from hip.

5. Don’t cry. Don’t emo. Don’t ‘improvise’. Just stay still until candle burns out, and pay respect.

Sudden Death was directed by Mark Teh, and performed numerous times in 2009, the year of political aide Teoh Beng Hock’s death. It was first performed in Findars, 6 Aug 2009, as part of the final Improv Lab @ Findars’ Space. It was also performed at Pekan Frinjan 5.0, organised by Frinjan, in Dataran Shah Alam in 7 Nov 2009 — not too far away from the MACC building.

Following that, Sudden Death was included as one of the 7-part theatre piece DELUSIONS 惑 KHAYALAN: The Year In A Word 今年一字 Setahun Dalam Kata, produced by Pentas Project,  which took place in Annexe Central Market, 17–20 December 2009. The Annexe performance also included a projection of Teoh Beng Hock’s silhouette by Bryan Chang, which the participants could lie down beside.

Sudden Death

From the Sudden Death performance at Annexe, Central Market (picture courtesy of Mark Teh)

In this performance, Mark Teh was highlighting his concern over the deaths of many individuals in custody from 2003–2009, and noted that through the politicking and media spin, Teoh had become an abstract concept to Malaysians. Teoh was not the first to die in police custody, although as the first ‘political death’, he became a symbol of the power abuse all Malaysians could be subject to from the authorities.

In January 2011, a coroner’s inquest will rule that Teoh’s death was neither homicide or suicide. In July 2011, the Royal Commission of Inquiry then officially attributed the death to suicide, though many doubts lingered over the case.

Recently, on 5 September 2014, the Court of Appeal set aside the coroner’s open verdict in the inquest, and unanimously ruled the death was caused by multiple injuries from the fall, a result accelerated by an unlawful act or acts of persons unknown — inclusive of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officers who were involved in his arrest and investigation. [Click for more info]

The flyer in this picture above was taken from the Annexe performance. Mark Teh is (to gloriously simplify) a part of arts collective Five Arts Centre. You can follow his personal updates on Twitter at @whoismarkteh.

On 5 Oct, those in Johor will be able to enjoy Five Arts Centre’s production of Gostan Forward (performed by Marion D’Cruz and directed by Mark Teh) in JB Arts Festival.

#Fast, Cooler Lumpur Festival of Ideas

Posted on 20 June 2014

Website : Website listings


Southeast Asia’s first festival of ideas, the Cooler Lumpur Festival, returns to Publika this weekend with the theme #Fast. Established in 2013, the festival aims to provide audience members with great discussions and dialogue. If you believe in the power of a good idea, this is the festival for you.

This is our selection of events from the festival for you, dear reader:

Friday, 20 June

#Fast Talks: Opening Keynote – F**** Censorship! by Miguel Syjuco, 830-930pm

This years #Fast Talks Lecture series at the Cooler Lumpur Festival will be opened by distinguished Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco who represents the bright future of Asian literary talent. Beginning a series of lectures by distinguished guests, with the ever present and timely topic of censorship and its constraints.

Saturday, 21 June

The Modern Malay Tongue, 12:30–1:30pm

How has Bahasa Malaysia in its written form changed over the years? From the rigid, strict, sanctioned, to the slang filled, rojak-ed hybrid we experience today, this panel will explore the evolution of the Malay language into the 21st century. It will ask whether or not in there is still room for an institutionalised tongue in this modern age?

Panelists: A. Samad Said, Uthaya Sankar SB, Nadia Khan
Moderated by Ahmad Fuad Rahmat

We’re all Beige: New Ideas in Cultural Identity, 5–6pm

We are cultural consumers. We are exposed to a glut of popular content that isn’t bound by geography, or language, or ideology. We adapt and adopt these ideas freely. So much so that our new cultural identity is something of a mishmash of global proportions. What does this mean for our notions of self? What does it mean for conventional notions of nationality?

Panelists: Miguel Syjuco, Adam Foulds, Eka Kurniawan
Moderated by Marion D’Cruz

#FAST Films: Early Indies 2 (Page 2), 8:30–9:30pm

A selection of Malaysian shorts from 2000-2005, the pathbreaking years of local independent digital filmmaking. Curated by Imri Nasution. Join us for a walk down memory lane, through the beginnings of a new century in Malaysia, when a wave of young filmmakers & alternative stories emerged. These films, all made before the age of YouTube, capture how #FAST the urban Malaysian landscape has changed.


  1. ‘Me, My Mother & Mosquito’ by Shan (2001 / 7 mins).
  2. ‘Classrooms’ by Ho Yuhang (2003 / 6 mins).
  3. ‘Flower’ by Liew Seng Tat (2005 / 19 mins).
  4. ‘Ada Bola’ by JImmy Choong (2004 / 8 mins).
  5. ‘Majidee’, by Azharr Rudin (2005 / 15 mins).

Total running time: 55 mins.

Bump in the Night, 11:59pm

Once upon a midnight dreary…Bump in the Night is back to spook and excite audiences at The Cooler Lumpur Festival. Come join us at midnight and be scared silly by a series of horror stories performed by some of the best voices Malaysia has to offer.

Note: Persons under 18 are not recommended to attend.
Storytellers: Kamini Ramachandran, Susan Lankester, Patrick Teoh

Sunday, 22 June

Lost and Found in Translation, 11am-12pm

How important is translation in broadening our horizons, in opening our minds to other lives and other worlds? Join the panel as they discuss whether translation can be the key to unity in the multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-coloured, multi-everything societies we live in. Will it help us better understand ourselves and those around us?

Panelists: Dr Sarah Meisch, Zhang Su Li, Pauline Fan
Moderated by Eddin Khoo

Nay Phone Latt in conversation with Sharaad Kuttan, 4:30–5:30pm

Sharaad Kuttan, radio producer and presenter with BFM89.9 will host Nay Phone Latt the Burmese blogger and activist who was a recipient of PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award in 2010. From 2008 to 2012, he was detained at Hpa-An Prison due to his alleged involvement in spreading news during 2007 Burmese anti-government protests using his blogs. He was also listed as a political prisoner by Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma. Join us as he talks about his fascinating story.

Reimagining Malaysian Cinema, 6–7pm

We’re making and releasing more movies than ever before. But are they any good? We’re setting ourselves up to be the Vancouver of South East Asia. But do we have the chops? An open and honest, down and dirty discussion on the future of Malaysian cinema.

Panelists: Hassan Abd Muthalib, Low Ngai Yuen, Tengku Iesta Tengku Alaudin
Moderated by Johanan Sen

The events listed are available for free, so no tickets are required. Enjoy, and we hope you find inspiration for your next great idea from this festival.

Disclaimer: Panellist for Reimagining Malaysian Cinema, Low Ngai Yuen, is the head of our parent company Kakiseni

PJ Laugh Fest

Posted on 15 May 2014

Website : PJ Live Arts

Twitter : @PJLiveArts


The PJ Laugh Fest is Asia’s biggest annual comedy festival, and it officially kicks off today with an eclectic range of comedy shows for the next fortnight. These are the shows we recommend:


Faulty Towers — The Dining Experience

14 May–1 June, 7:30PM (and additional 12:30pm show on weekends); RM185 (Dinner), RM165 (Lunch).


Fans of the beloved British comedy series Fawlty Towers will get the best of its gags and a wonderful 3-course meal, served by the neurotic Basil, domineering Sybil and language-challenged Manuel (characters made famous by John Cleese, Prunella Scales and Andrew Sachs). Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong — so make sure you come for the food, stay for the laughs, and let Faulty Towers serve you the best of both. If they can.

Shear Madness

28 May–14 June, 8:30PM; RM50, RM65, RM80


This is the Malaysian adaptation of the world’s longest-running comedy play, and takes the form of a mystery murder in a unisex hair salon. Isabel Fernandez, landlady and former world-famous pianist, is murdered with a set of beautician shears — and everyone is a suspect! Can you guess whodunit?

Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones

24–26 May, 2PM; RM40, RM125 (4 Tickets),


The most family-friendly of all your options, Jeff Achtem is a contemporary light and shadow puppetry artist. This award-winning, wordless, shadow puppet comedy transforms household junk into surreal shadow puppets featuring flying chickens, brain transplants and sneaky ninjas! Very clever, and delightful for all-ages.


Awek Chuck Taylor

24–25 May, 3pm & 8:30PM; RM30 & RM40


Those who did not manage to catch the workshop performance earlier this year should definitely get their tickets early for this. Based on Nami Cob Nobbler’s best-seller novel, a romantic comedy about dating, flirting and love. Mature audiences recommended. Note: Show is performed in Malay without subtitles.

Making S#it Up Comedy

21–22 May, 8:30PM; RM68 (VIP), RM58 (Premium), RM43 (Economy)


It’s an all-star, all-male, standup comedy line-up as Harith Iskander takes to the stage with Jit Murad, Phoon Chi Ho, Douglas Lim, Kuah Jenhan and more. Expect comedy sketches, improv and laughter aplenty.

For full listings of shows, click here. Discounts are available for LIVE Cardholders.

KL International Jazz & Arts Festival 2014

Posted on 2 May 2014

KL Intl Jazz : Website

Date : 17–18 May 2014

YouTube : select 2013 performances

Venue : University of Malaya

The KL International Jazz & Arts Festival returns this year with yet another noteworthy lineup — expect performances by acclaimed international jazz stars and the best local talents.

The highlight of the festival will be pianist/vocalist Diane Schuur, a longtime disciple of Dinah Washington and other legendary jazz singers of the ’40s and ’50s. Schuur has racked up two Grammy awards and three Grammy nominations in a recording career spanning nearly three decades.

Also of note amongst the international artists are critically-acclaimed jazz pianist Keiko Matsui, and Grammy-nominated recording artist John Beasley.

Malaysian artists performing include Jordan Rivers Band, Rachel Guerzo and Bassment Syndicate.

festivalflyer1 festivalflyer1b


Posted on 16 April 2014

THE SEA IS OURS is an anthology of Southeast Asian steampunk. We are looking for steampunk stories that are set in Southeast Asia, or secondary worlds that evoke Southeast Asia, with Southeast Asian protagonists, in any of the countries that make up the region: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. We are looking historically and technologically-innovative stories.

Steampunk, for the purposes of this anthology, is defined as an aesthetic that combines technofantasy, anachronism, retro-futurism, an alternate history / world, and the evocation of an incipient industrial revolution. How does the steampunk aesthetic look, feel, sound, smell, or taste like in these regions? What kind of technologies would grow in resource-rich SEAsia?

What do our historical figures, our Parameswaras, Trung sisters, Lapu-Lapus, do in such a world? Submissions are encouraged to explore various levels and kinds of technologies, not just steam technology. Locals myths can also find their way into these stories; what does the mix of technology and fantasy look like in such worlds? Explore all kinds of stories: from the extraordinary to the everyday. What changes does accelerated technology create for the local landscape and societies? Choose historical events and give them a steampunk twist: how do their outcomes change, or stay the same?

Formatting Guidelines:

  • Send all submissions and queries to sea.steampunk@gmail.com in RTF, DOC, or DOCX.
  • Submissions should have SEA-STEAM: [story title] in the subject line.
  • Please do not attach a cover letter; cover letters are the text of your email.
  • Wordcount: between 2,500 – 9000 words long.
  • Fonts: size 12; Courier or Times New Roman.
  • No cover page; name, email address and wordcount on the first page; name/story title/page in headers. Please see Standard Manuscript Formatting.
  • Submissions close June 30, 2014.
  • We will contact all submitters within four weeks of submissions closing.

General guidelines:

  • Stories should have a visible development arc, even if they are somewhat experimental.
  • Stories should be in English, but we take a broad view of English, which includes dialect, accents, local slang, and non-English words that express nuances that standard English can’t.
  • Characters should be embedded in their settings. we should not be able to transplant the specifics of their story easily, even if they are based on common science fiction / fantasy archetypes.
  • Local takes on actual historical events are highly encouraged, although not necessary in alternate world settings. If we don’t know the event you’re writing about, we’ll Wiki or you can tell us all about it in your submission email.
  • Stories featuring queer characters, characters with disabilities, non-normative relationships and other such non-mainstream narratives are welcome.


How much are you paying?

5c/word for an original story; 1/c for a reprint.

Do these stories HAVE to be in SEAsia?

No. Secondary worlds evoking SEAsia are cool and exciting.

Can I write a story about SEAsians in other countries?

Yes, but we may not be as interested in a story about a SEAsian in, say, Britain, featuring Eurocentric steampunk technofantasy that we can find elsewhere. Query and we’ll see.

Can I write a story about not-SEAsians in SEAsia?

Maybe. We’re not interested in colonial narratives, but we’d be intrigued with a story of non-SEAsian traders dealing with SEAsians. Query and we’ll see.

Can I see previous examples of / resources for SEAsian steampunk?

Yes, here is a list of SEAsian steampunk stories and resources (not all available online though!):

  • The Terracotta Bride by Zen Cho, Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories
  • “On Wooden Wings” by Paolo Chikiamco, Philippine Speculative Fiction 6
  • High Society by Paolo Chikiamco and Hanna Buena (comic)
  • “Moon Maiden’s Mirror” by Joyce Chng, Semaphore Magazine
  • “Chang’Er Flew To The Moon” by Joyce Chng, Bards and Sages
  • “Between Islands” by Jaymee Goh, Expanded Horizons
  • “Lunar Year’s End” by Jaymee Goh, Crossed Genres
  • “The Last Rickshaw” by Stephanie Lai, Crossed Genres
  • “One Last Interruption Before We Begin” by Stephanie Lai, Steam-Powered 2: More Lesbian Steampunk Stories
  • Lao Steampunk blogposts by Bryan Thao Worra
  • Steampunk Nusantara, DreamWidth Community
  • The Steam-Powered Globe, edited by Maisarah Abu Samad and Rosemary Lim
  • Digitizing Chinese Englishmen

Do these stories have to be nautical-themed?

Despite the title THE SEA IS OURS, stories do not actually have to be on, above, under or even near the sea. Or have anything to do with large bodies of water.

If I get rejected, will you tell me why?

If we have the energy, sure, but be careful what you wish for. Resultant hate mail will be summarily deleted, or published somewhere for public mocking.

White Rabbit Red Rabbit Talkback & Workshop

Posted on 21 February 2014

Tickets : Dpac.com.my

High-res version

The most interesting theatre show in Klang Valley this month is likely White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. The playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour of Iran, conceived an idea for a show that could travel without him, and would require no directors, no stage, no rehearsals. Every night, an actor receives the script and performs a cold reading of the text to a live audience. Much of what delights about the show is seeing how dramatically the energy and feel of it changes depending on the actor onstage, and the audience members pulled up with him/her.

It’s a show that addresses the more sinister questions of life with a lighthearted voice — but the questions will stick in your head after. The point of the show is to be surprised, so we don’t want to give away anything — but do make time to watch it. The play is performed in three languages in Malaysia (KL and Penang): Malay, English, and Mandarin.

Below are the details for talkback with the people behind White Rabbit Red Rabbit (including playwright Nassim Soleimanpour), and a theatre workshop for those interested.

Talkback promo

A workshop for theatre makers, playwrights, theatre students and theatre goers.

Is it possible to have theatrical performance by a non- the theatrical frame? And if, the frame is subverted in this way, is it still theatre? Or has the whole event evaporated back into life?

DATE: Feb 24 & 25 (Mon & Tue)
TIME: 7.00pm- 11.00pm
VENUE: Five Arts Centre @TTDI, Studio (Address:27,27A, Jalan Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr.Ismail, 60000,KL)
FEE: RM60/pax
DRESS CODE: Dress Comfortably
1.Bank into The Instant Café Theatre Company (Bank Acc: RHB Bank 21403500133062), send the bank in slip to the email below.
2.Pay cash to Hui Ting (Stage Manager) OR Tania (F.O.H) during the performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit.

Kindly email instantcafetheatre.co@gmail.com to book a slot. Limited to the first 30 applicants.

Nassim Soleimanpour is an independent multidisciplinary theatre maker from Tehran, Iran. Best known for his play White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Dublin Fringe Festival Best New Performance, Summerworks Outstanding New Performance Text Award and The Arches Brick Award (Edinburgh Fringe) as well as picking up nominations for a Total Theatre and Brighton Fringe Pick of Edinburgh Award. Nassim is an experienced public speaker, most recently as a panellist for the In Conversation series.