Kakiseni Blog

A foot in the Malaysian arts scene!

A Little Conviction

Posted on 28 November 2013

Venue : The Canvas

Facebook : Electric Minds Project

Listing : FB event page

Twitter : @electricminds

Hashtag : #alittleconvictionemp

EMP

Electric Minds Project takes on the story of boy meets girl (and gets engagement ring) with A Little Conviction, Jody Lancaster’s newest comedy about the war of the sexes and the great eternal mystery of what women want from men. The play features Ostella Adam, Karynn Tan, Alvin Looi and Tan Meng Kheng, and is directed by Alex Chua.

Audience members can immerse themselves in the play, as there will be no audience seating — the performance will happen around you, and you get to choose who or what you want to watch.*

Evening shows: 27–30 Nov , 8.30pm
(RM38 full price, RM33 Adults under 30, RM23 concessions)
Matinee shows: 30 Nov – 1 Dec, 3.30pm
(RM23 flat rate)
Ticket deals: Buy 4 Get 1 Free For on all online purchases.

Extra links:

The Star: The gem session [read]
The Backstage Life: A Little Conviction [watch]

#TEDxKLwomen

Posted on 28 November 2013

Facebook : TEDxKLWomen

Kakiseni : Buy Tickets

TEDxKLWOMENposter2013-LR
Cheryl Yeoh (pic by Ed Garcia at http://www.edcarlogarcia.com/)

Cheryl Yeoh (pic by Ed Garcia at http://www.edcarlogarcia.com/)

A celebration of the art of entrepreneurship, innovation and invention in all its forms, TEDxKLwomen makes its annual return to the stage with this year’s theme “Money — Invented Here”. The conference aims to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences, and will feature a list of guest entrepreneurs who will speak on turning new ideas and innovations into financial success.

Speakers include Tintoy Chua and Take Huat of the popular Peperangan Bintang (Star Wars in Wayang Kulit); notorious comedian Joanne Kam; founder of all-female Queen’s Hostel Rachel Koay; food stylist Samantha Lee; The Apprentice UK contestant and social entrepreneur Melody Hossaini; luxury headband designers from Sereni & Shentel; and successful founder of tech startups Cheryl Yeoh.

For more information, visit TEDxKLWomen FB, and purchase tix here. *

Disclaimer: TEDxKLwomen is an initiative by Women:Girls (which shares an office space with Kakiseni), and Lynn Loo of our parent company Kakiseni is working on the project.

Year-End Dances

Posted on 28 November 2013

2014 is just around the corner, and here are the dance productions you should be watching before the year ends:

6th Nyoba Kan International Butoh Festival
29th–30th November, 830PM |Black Box @ DPAC

Nyoba Kan has been actively promoting and performing the unique Malaysian take on the Butoh dance, which originated in Japan, for years now. If you haven’t caught any of their performances, the Butoh Festival is your best bet. There will be a performance of The Thousand Hands Arhat (which was also staged in Urbanscapes over the weekend) by Nyoba Kan, and Unspelled by Yuko Kaseki, a Japanese Butoh dancer currently based in Berlin. More details →


The Island by Kwang Tung Dance Company
29th & 30th Nov, 3PM (Saturday only) and 8.30PM | DPAC

kwangtung

Kwang Tung Dance Company (KTDC) was founded ni 1980 and til this day continues to provide quality dance productions. The Island will feature three choreographers: Amy Len (Artistic Director of KTDC), Jack Kek (former dancer of the internationally renowned Cloud Gate 2 Dance Company) and Loh Kok Man (Artistic Director of Pentas Project). More details →


Wushu Madness II — The Realm Between by Lee Wushu Arts Theatre & Lee Wushu Arts Workshop
1 Dec, 3PM & 830PM | Pentas 1 klpac

wushu

Wushu Madness II — The Realm Between is a production that combines martial arts and contemporary dance — two different philosophies and approaches into one new arts form. The piece explores the beauty and power of the human spirit through the interplay between contrasting movement, lighting and set design. More details →


Uncommon Ground
4th Dec, 730PM | Fonteyn Studio Theatre, PJ

Caitlin MacKenzie and Gabriel Comerford, Asialink Resident Choreographers at Rimbun Dahan, present a work-in-progress showing of their new full-length work.

Uncommon Ground is a cross-cultural, interdisciplinary work that depicts a story of two identities coming together in one place, transitioning through friction, destruction, compromise and progression, concluding with something that extends beyond the sum of its parts. This concept speaks to an internal and external landscape; a personal struggle to discover and understand oneself and the realities of living in a diverse and ever-changing society. More details →


Film X Dance: Solo Shorts Improvisation Project
6th December, 8PM | Magic Bean Dance & Body Skills Studio

7 Dancers x 7 Improvisation styles x 7 short dance films = creating infinite moments of the imagination.

Solo Shorts Improvisation Project is a performance that features video art and dance improvisation by 7 dancers under the artistic guidance of Jack Kek. Through physical creativity exercises and exploration of movement, the dancers gradually work towards expanding their own personal sense of improvisation using space, music and props to devise a new and unique kind of body language. Emerging photographer Will Chong captures the essence and quality of every dancer through his photographs and short films. More details →


Intertwined by Toccata Studio
6th & 7th Dec, 830PM; 8th Dec, 3PM | Black Box @ MAP, Publika

Choreographer Steve Goh, music composer Chor Guan Ng and set designer Lisa Foo collaborate through the lens of their art disciplines to create a performing arts piece by interpreting the word “Intertwined”. A performing art piece based on is interaction, moveable abstract origami set design that inspire the body movement of dancers, and music that incorporate the ideas of body movement. More details →


FlatLand: An Adaptation in Dance presented by TerryandTheCuz & Suhaili Micheline
6-15 Dec, 830PM (Sunday shows 3PM only) | KuAsh Theatre

Presented by TerryandTheCuz and multi-award winning dancer Suhaili Micheline, Flatland is a contemporary dance performance adapted from Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, the satirical novella by Edward A Abbott. You may have seen their performance art installation at Urbanscapes. This looks like an ambitious multimedia collaborative adaptation, and with Terryandthecuz, things always get interesting. More details →



Secrets of the Lost Circus™ by Viva Circus
6th Dec, 830pm; 7th & 8th Dec, 3PM & 830PM | DPAC

Inspired by classic fantasies and fairytales, Secrets of the Lost Circus™ is written and directed by Vivian Lea, and will be a unique multimedia acrobatics dance show. More details →

That’s our list of dances to end 2013 with — any you’d like to add to the list? Let us know! *

Something I Wrote

Posted on 27 November 2013

Event listing : on Kakiseni.com

Event listing : on Facebook

Azmyl Yunor : Official website

Five Arts Centre : Official website

Photos : Something I Wrote Photo Album

Azmyl Yunor : Facebook Page

Azmyl Yunor is my current frontrunner for the quintissential urban-Malaysian multihyphenate. The multihyphenate is commonly found in cities like ours where there is a demand for sophisticated or globalised ideas, art and other consumables, but still not big enough to sustain all of the talent. Put another way, the brain drain is so pervasive that the outstanding talents who do stick around have lots of room to stretch and work. Specialisation as an artist in KL is often both unnecessary and unfeasible — smaller fish means you don’t have to fight so hard for that one job, and at the same time there won’t be enough work if you only do one thing. Azmyl is a true many-hat-wearer as he’s achieved distinction in many of his fields. And when you’re that good, sometimes your friends stage a musical based on your work.

Something I Wrote

All pics by Huneid Tyeb, courtesy of Five Arts Centre

Something I Wrote was presented by Five Arts Centre at the Black Box in MAP Publika. Grudgingly labeled a documentary-musical, it was conceptualised by director Mark Teh partly in reaction to the swathe of nostalgia-focused local musicals that have appeared such as Tunku, Puteri Gunung Ledang and P Ramlee the Musical. Devised from research of written work by and about Azmyl, the play was structured as a medley of vignettes presenting a selection of songs, journalism, academia dan lain-lain turned into theatrical pictures. Like a best-of album or Wikipedia page, we learned a little bit about the man’s early life, discography, academic work and political activism.

Teh and his cohort of able actors are adept at crafting beautiful moments, living images full of context and thought that present themselves honestly and dissolve gently. The set and cast were amorphous like their image of Azmyl. Pieces of scaffolding were pushed, pulled, locked and split to make vans, podiums and projection screens in a welcome change from wooden black cubes; and the actors were journalists or demons or seven copies of the man himself.

drapedinflags

Paired with varied and imaginative arrangements of the songs, the piece presented several delights. One song was sung while the actors just created circles of candlelight or wound fairy lights on bars, made lamps out of tubs and generally made small islands of illumination, vigil-like against the dark. A speech made at an UndiMalaysia event was delivered by an actor dressed entirely in flags — flags became a kain sampin, a tanjak, a cape and other things.  He was joined by actors dressed as superheroes with colour-coded costumes made mostly out of plastic bags and T-shirts tied in various ways . After the speech, they slowly stripped their many layers and tossed them into the air. The black air and ground were filled with falling colours. Pretty, poignant and funny.

The humour in the piece was generally sidelong and sarcastic but with compassion – “This is my Malaysia, warts and all,” it seemed to say. In the much-highlighted segment about an incident at Paul’s Place, where police broke up a punk show by claiming to be doing a black metal raid, actors flipped roles according to whose perspective they were viewed from. To the police they were delinquents; as normal participants they were scared and confused; to the Utusan journalist they were winged-sex-fiend-demons with masks and capes. Hilarious but not judgmental. To my mind, Five Arts has a pretty healthy handle on dealing with our various issues of race, identity, globalisation and so forth.

The peaks of the show were thoughtful and strong, but the connecting threads in between lacked a consistent direction. Since it was difficult to get a feel for where we were going, each peak moment had to work harder and harder to regain attention. Interestingly, the most gripping parts near the end were projected recordings of Azmyl himself, which makes the tribute succesful while unfortunately upstaging the actors. Unhelpfully, the Black Box has no soundproofing, and there was loud music coming in from outside (the musicians were valiant in staying in time with the cast, who dealt with this bravely).

chaos

It is hard to see what it’s all about or trying to say. One possibility is simply, “Hey, check out this cool person.” Perhaps it’s a meditation on many-hat-wearing. Or just glimpses of the contemporary intellectual artist and their challenges. Speaking of contemporary intellectual artists, it’s interesting to note that the readiest applauders were exactly such people — songwriters, theatrefolk, filmmakers, and people generally recognised as being “in the scene”. The other half of the audience, by the end, was a bit fidgety. An anecdote — one sequence was a fake open-mic night with the stereotypes you get at those. One person imitated singer-songwriter Peter Hassan Brown, and I laughed and felt the warmth of inclusion. But when another referenced Reza Salleh, who was in the audience, I wondered if it was still funny if you didn’t know that he runs a fortnightly open mic. The specialisation of the target audience becomes a question then. Is it a show created mostly for one gang? Most of the actors came from one school, where Teh is a lecturer. The only podcasted radio interview I could find was from BFM. There was literally an interview conducted by Azmyl Yunor featuring Mark Teh about the show about Azmyl Yunor.

Something I Wrote is a strong, thoughtful and daring piece in the vein of Five Arts’ work which has always been of high quality.”

Is it important? If it’s really full of inside jokes then perhaps it becomes a celebration of this community — we are here, we are still here and we are numerous enough to be a market. Worthy things. Conversely, it asks whether theatremakers are responsible for insistently reaching out. Insularity within the English-language KL theatre scene is more or less endemic, and it’s up to the creators and next generation artists to decide how much they feel the need to address this.

All in all, Something I Wrote is a strong, thoughtful and daring piece in the vein of Five Arts’ work which has always been of high quality. I will continue to watch their shows and probably most importantly, I am now inclined to buy a stack of Azmyl Yunor albums.

SomethingIWrote

The Island by Kwang Tung Dance Company

Posted on 26 November 2013

A deserted island may bring excitement, or it may bring danger. It may be all about sunny white sand beaches, or perhaps, something else could be lurking in the shadows. Only those who go ashore will find out.

This time round, Kwang Tung Dance Company (KTDC) invites three choreographers — Amy Len, Loh Kok Man and Jack Kek, to jointly explore the possibilities that such an island can offer. They will draw inspiration from their years of experience in dance, in theatre, and in life, to create three unique and brand new pieces of work.

Date & Time: 29 November 2013 (Friday), 8.30pm | 30 November 2013 (Saturday), 3.00pm & 8.30pm

Venue: Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC)
Entry by donation: RM48 (Adult) | RM38 (Students, disabled and senior citizens)

Ticketing & other Enquiries: 03-4065 0001 / 03-4065 0002 (DPAC Box office) | 017-682 1006 (Pui May) | 017-500 6747 (Pui Yi)

To find out more, click here.

Moon Bar Sunday Jazz Jams

Posted on 3 October 2013

Moon Bar : Facebook Page

Porcélene : Facebook Page

Alexis : Official website

KL Intl Jazz Fest : Official website

What is jazz music? Ahh, if you could only hear the sounds in my head right now. “Improvised music with a lot of soul. Just play them blues, dude. Hey, that really swings! Play ‘out’ then come back right in…”

That wouldn’t make sense to a lot of people. So, I looked it up online, hoping to find the perfect explanation of jazz music. Wikipedia’s article was too technical and difficult to understand, even for a supposed jazz enthusiast like me. This is my simplification: jazz was basically popular dance music back in the 40s and 50s, and a highly technical music genre where everything is improvised. How good the improvisation is depends on how technical and musical each musician gets. It is very subjective, as everyone has their own influences and preferred musical tastes.

I did not realise I was indirectly exposed to jazz music in my youth; from cartoons like Tom & Jerry (plenty of Django Reinhardt-like guitar work there); Disney’s The Jungle Book (the swingy, jungle drums and intricate scat battles between King Louie and Baloo in Wanna Be Like You); and The Aristocats. In The Aristocats, during Everybody Wants To Be A Cat all the cats traded instrumental solos and they were cookin’ up some serious hot jazz in that scene, especially towards the end of the song where the upright piano kept crashing down each floor of the building.

Growing up, I was also exposed to a lot of lounge music and stuff that they were playing in the shopping malls (most of it was not my cup of tea). During my Technics electric organ days, I played a lot of score sheet music that was jazzy in nature. I had no internet at the time and it was difficult sourcing for good jazz cassette tapes in my hometown, Kota Kinabalu, so I only had my imagination and the instructions of music books to help me fathom what “jazz” was all about.

My favorite jazz tune to play on the organ was Killer Joe and boy, was I totally blown away and enlightened when I heard the original version at my college’s library. The music library was my favorite place due to my insatiable hunger for jazz, but as the years went by, I somehow got more involved in the pop rock scene and eventually, my Bill Evans books and Jamey Aebersold CDs were gathering dust at the back of my closet. But not for too long, thank God.

Moon Bar's house band for the night, with David Gomez on piano, Jordan Rivers on guitars, Jonathan Jacobs on drums and Anthony Muthurajah on bass.

Moon Bar’s house band for the night, with David Gomez on piano, Jordan Rivers on guitars, Jonathan Jacobs on drums and Anthony Muthurajah on bass.

Moon Bar Jam

The year 2013 was a turning point in my life as I rekindled my long lost passion for jazz. I made drastic decisions : I stopped playing Top 40s nightly, I started sourcing for jazz tutorials online, attempted jazz standards during gigs, watched jazz cats perform in local clubs and mustered much courage to check out jazz jams sessions where I could observe, learn and enjoy jazz music.

Lo and behold, the Moon Bar Sunday Jazz Jam Sessions. Every Sunday. From 5-8pm.

I went to Moon Bar two weeks in a row. My first visit on the 4th of August was hosted by saxophonist Julian Chan, and the second week by singer Junji Delfino. Both Julian and Junji are no strangers to the KL jazz scene and they made me feel at home, even asking me to sit in for a couple of tunes. My response was a big fat NO as I was adamant on being a spectator. To my pleasant surprise, there were many music students and seasoned musos in the crowd, all waiting for their turn to play with their instruments ready in hand. It felt like school all over again, and I quickly found myself a seat in the extremely chilly bar that serves cheap beer (RM9 per pint of Tiger Beer) and could do with better sound system.

Everyone patiently waiting for their turns to jam

Everyone patiently waiting for their turn to jam

Jazz Jam Guides

Alrighty then. How does a jazz jam work? What do you exactly in a jazz jam? Do you sign up? Do you bring your own instruments? Do you bring score sheets or memorise 600 tunes? Do you dress up for the occasion? How now brown cow?

Well, it’s basically all of the above. Most jazz jams held at venues such as Alexis, and No Black Tie practise a pretty similar routine: you sign up, and unless you are a pianist or a drummer, you are required to bring your own horn or string instrument. For vocalists, it is advisable to perform something that you already know and hopefully, everyone in the band knows too. If all else fails, learn the usual jazz standards like Nat King Cole’s L-O-V-E. or Gershwin’s Summertime (it’s like how most pub musicians must know how to play Mustang Sally.) Local jazzy standards include P Ramlee’s Getaran Jiwa or Sheila Majid’s Jelingan Manja.  Make sure you let the musos know your keys so that they can play it right. Score sheets are an option; prepare several copies for everyone in the band to play, and brace yourself for the fact that not everyone is a reader. You don’t want to make people feel like they are sitting for a sight-reading exam when everyone is there to share and contribute to the music, and more importantly, have loads of fun making music with each other. It also helps if the vocalist could lead the band too.

There are occasions on jam night where musos would just jump right in with their instruments when the band is already playing. I remember watching Junji ‘kill’ on Days Of Wine and Roses with her amazing scatting vocabulary. I heard hints of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, and Junji’s rich vocal texture with that slight raspy, huskiness that I am totally biased towards made me sit up in my chair with super concentration. I have no idea what modes or scales she was using at that time because I just don’t analyse music that way, but I was trying to remember her melodic choices. I repeated every note she used and I definitely looked like a foolish person doing so in a loud jazz club.

I really liked when Junji joined Janet Lee on Bye Bye Blackbird on the second verse and they kind of held hands and smiled at each other, and took turns to improvise. My highlight of the night was when the pianist for the night’s house band, Wei Li, jumped in with his violin and improvised, and sat in for a few more songs that night with his violin. Michael Veerapen played his melodica effortlessly with loads of interesting and tasteful note choices. I loved how drummer Jonathan Jackson gave bebop a fresh new twist with his funky, neo soul drum chops. Multi instrumentalists like David Ling (clarinet) and Marques Young (trombone) took turns to tinker the ivory keys at the jam, which makes it really fun to watch. And if you are like me, you will be overwhelmed with amazement, envy and a slight feeling of defeat because they sounded equally good on both instruments. These cats have been around and I salute them for making such an effort to create an awareness for jazz music and making it possible for everyone to experience playing and creating magic with each other during these jam sessions.

I was super thrilled when I could still name every tune that they played: Lullaby of Birdland, Days of Wine and Roses, Autumn Leaves, Bye Bye Blackbird, Night and Day, All The Things You Are, This Masquerade, Straight No Chaser, Billie’s Bounce, Scrapple From The Apple, No More Blues and my favorite, You Don’t Know What Love Is…and I applaud the brave mother-and-daughter duo that attempted L.O.V.E and Sway during my first night at the Moon Bar.

David Gomes, Junji and Jordan Rivers truly shone that night with their melodic and fluid jazz scats and I left the bar feeling mighty inspired. I think it may have just created a mini music geek in me.

Junji Delfino, the host for the night

Junji Delfino, the host for the night

Not the Final Bar

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

Two days after the second Sunday night, I learnt Moon Bar’s Sunday jazz jam sessions were discontinued due to poor response and weak bar sales. What a shame! I wanted to participate in the following week’s jazz jam with Nat King Cole’s Nature’s Boy, which I was planning to perform on my Hohner melodeon.

But all is not lost. I have Moon Bar to thank for reigniting my inner jazz cat. I think I feel a little braver now to attend the other jazz jam sessions in town. There’s always that first Monday of the month jazz jam night at Alexis Bangsar (dress code applies) and every Sunday at Waikiki Bar PJ. Although Waikiki Bar’s Sunday jams are more inclined towards pop-ish pub numbers, I remember a lot of jazz cats like John Thomas (household name monster drummer) and Thomas Theseira (he plays some mean sax and flute) who have showcased their killer jazz chops there. They totally brought the house down and what was most delightful to see was how receptive the whole Waikiki crowd was towards jazz music. No Black Tie also hosts random jazz jam nights so it would be a great idea to subscribe to their e-newsletter and Facebook for updates, or you could just take a copy of their in-house program flyers when you are there the next time.

I know that this is not the end. Till the next time, I shall see you cats soon at the next jazz jam sesh.

Deciding on what tune to play next

Deciding on what tune to play next

Joseph, the Tailor-Made Man

Posted on 27 September 2013

Touted as the most elaborate production to ever be staged in PJ Live Arts, The Tailor-Made Man retold the epic story of Old Testament Joseph, set in a stempunk Canaan/Egypt. In this adaptation, Joseph is an enthusiastic, exasperating young man — and like the bible version, he endures a trial of faith, interprets dreams, and learns that it takes patience to be part of God’s plans.

Joseph has some serious business chutzpah, and when Joseph’s petty older brothers learn he stands to inherit the family business, they have him kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Mr Potiphar purchases Joseph at a slave market, and catches him doing the accounts on the sly. Joseph is then promoted, profits grow, and things go well! Then Joseph spurns the lusty Mrs Potiphar, and she has him thrown in prison, where he expresses much anger over his hardships despite having done “the right things”. However, Joseph’s administrative skills are also seen there and he’s soon running the place. Enter fellow prisoners baker and butler, or in this production, the Finance Minister and Personal Assistant, each with strange dreams. Joseph interprets them: one will be executed and the other reinstated to power. To the latter he says, “All I ask is that you remember me.” Two years later she recommends Joseph’s talents to the Pharoah, who requires a convincing dream interpreter. Joseph’s vision helps the country weather a famine that spreads through the lands, and he becomes the Viceroy of Egypt. His father and brothers come to Egypt, begging for food, and he munificently forgives them. All the while, Joseph has lucid dreams where he interacts with an enigmatic Tailor (God, played by Darren Yeoh) who tells him that he is defined by his choices.

The Moral of the Story

Stay true to your dreams and ambitions. Keep faith and integrity even in hardship, such as when your brothers sell you into slavery, or when your boss’ wife throws you into prison for not sleeping with her. There were nice original songs (recorded, not sung live) and quite beautiful animated sequences for the dreams.

There were nice original songs (recorded, not sung live) and quite beautiful animated sequences for the dreams.

In keeping with much local/Singaporean English-language original theatre, the writing ran a bit long. The Joseph story is certainly very long and episodic, so the difficulty there is obvious. There were a lot of jokes and bits that were entertaining but not necessary, and a lot of the type of acting where you musn’t show your back to the audience and you certainly address them when making the big statements.

The Not-So-Moral of the Story

An uncomfortable moment — the three experts Pharaoh brings to intepret his dreams are a psychologist (“They’re about your sexual insecurities,”), a new-age dream expert (“We have to go to war,”), and a rather ridiculous Hindu guru. The guru proposes a series of strange rituals, says that dreams are messages from the gods, and does funny Bhangra-ish dancing to lots of laughter and wore intense face paint.

It seemed to say “Look at this caricature of Otherness — this funny person with his funny polytheist religion and his funny accent”. The Tailor-God also literally made the guru slap himself in the face. Quite off-putting when considering the largely protestant-Christian slant of this show and that protestant-Christians in the Klang Valley seem to be a mostly Chinese demographic. Is it racist? Does it contribute to a certain view of Indian people and Hinduism? Is it symptomatic of our intensely divided societies? I don’t know.

“The show could still be quite disrespectful to others who may not have been its intended audience.”

The audience laughed, so of course it’s not lah! Harmless fun what, no malice intended. In real life we don’t discriminate. Does seeing it that way make it true? They’re just doing what the writer wrote. The co-director is Indian Malaysian anyway. This view of Otherness is so academic and American! The issue is long and thorny, and this isn’t really the space for it. I’ll only say I know the team did not mean for it to come across like this to me or anyone.  This show was not trying to talk about race, or change art or society or any of that stuff that “high art” is “supposed” to do. But the show could still be quite disrespectful to others who may not have been its intended audience.

 

A2_POSTER

 

The Spirit Behind the Story

Recent dialogues and experiences in KL and Singapore have made me question how I define professional theatre. The most useful way, of course, is to ask, “Are they getting paid?” but in our increasingly profit-sharing driven world, it’s hard to make that work. Some companies pay actors as little as RM 300-400 for two months of work. I ask this because it makes no sense to judge whether a show is successful or not until you can see what it is trying to achieve. For Actspressions’ The Tailor-Made Man, I settled on the category of “community theatre” as they call themselves “not full-time professionals” but rather “a team of individuals with a passion for the performing arts.” I will elaborate on what this means.

The point of this type of show (along with school musicals, church shows, large showchoir productions etc) is to get a lot of people involved in building something larger than the sum of its parts, build camaraderie and celebrate the community. There were something like 160 people involved – 50 in the cast alone and a slew of 5-10 person committees for the other elements (costumes, makeup/hair, animation and so forth). The programme thanked the “friends, family and volunteers.” The monetary worries of professional companies — breaking even, selling tickets, paying the staff — seem secondary and everyone just focuses on making a good show.

“The insane amount of hard work and passion showed and shone.”

And it WAS a good show. The insane amount of hard work and passion showed and shone. The design work all around was very detailed, with clear intention and pleasing, tight execution. Lead actor Justin Ooi had quite a knack for comedic timing as Joseph, and I could see director and drama-teacher Thasha Gunaseelan’s work in transforming non-experienced actors into people who could enunciate clearly, bounce off each other, connect with their objectives and improvise a bit. There was a clear and palpable joy in everything happening on stage, which is beautiful to watch. The cast and company were excited, dedicated and supportive of each other. Anytime that they had fun, and they had lots, their audience was right there with them. The house was packed and everyone had a good time. And really, what more can you ask for?

KakiTeater: Talking with Jason

Posted on 26 July 2013

Venue : PJ Live Arts, Jaya One

Date : 26–28 July 2013

YouTube : actspressions

Event : Kakiseni Listing

Tickets : RM30/RM50 (Purchase online)

Facebook : Actspressions

Theatre-goers will get a show full of dreams and steampunk this weekend! The Tailor-Made Man opens this Friday and promises to deliver the most elaborate production in PJLA yet.

We talk with the director of The Tailor-Made Man, Jason Ding, about the upcoming play:
(picture courtesy of Jason Ding)

(picture courtesy of Jason Ding)

Tell our readers a little bit more about The Tailor-Made Man.

The Tailor-Made Man is a story of a dreamer, Joseph, and his journey from his father’s house to the unlikeliest of places. He meets different, interesting characters along the way; and goes through some nightmares before eventually seeing his dreams come true.

+  Read more

5 Books To Read for George Town Literary Festival

Posted on 11 July 2013

Date : 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2013

At the end of 2013, the annual George Town Literary Festival will come about. The theme of this year’s festival is The Ties that Bind, which will look at how writers deal with writing and hope, love, land, loss, memory and history.

In this list, we are not here to tell you which books are the best. However, to best engage with the authors who will be a part of the festival, you do need to know what their work is about. Here’s a list of five books for your  GTLF bucket list:

Stranger in the Forest

by Eric Hansen

strangerintheforest

“At once a modern classic of travel literature and a gripping adventure story, Stranger in the Forest provides a rare and intimate look at the vanishing way of life of one of the last surviving groups of rain forest dwellers. Hansen’s absorbing, and often chilling, account of his exploits is tempered with the humor and humanity that prompted the Penan to take him into their world and to share their secrets.”

Eric Hansen is the first Westerner to trek 4,000km across the Borneo and write about it. Travelling with the Penan can be challenging, and this man did that for over half a year. So for all the self-proclaimed “traveller, not a tourist” people out there, Eric Hansen is the author for you. Interested? His book is listed as available in Kinokuniya.

Map of the Invisible World

by Tash Aw

Mapoftheinvisibleworld

“From the author of the internationally acclaimed The Harmony Silk Factory comes an enthralling novel that evokes an exotic yet turbulent place and time—1960s Indonesia during President Sukarno’s drive to purge the country of its colonial past. A page-turning story, Map of the Invisible World follows the journeys of two brothers and an American woman who are indelibly marked by the past—and swept up in the tides of history.”

Let’s face it: the detractors of Tash’s first book, The Harmony Silk Factory, were brutal. Who knew how attached Malaysians were to facts about geography until Tash wielded his artistic license over them? Kampar and Cameron Highlands, down the road from each other? Pandering to omputeh, pengkhianat!

Tash’s second novel, Map of the Invisible World, is predominantly set in Indonesia. Perhaps Tash can do better writing about this region without having to worry about the scrutiny of defensive Malaysians.

Little Hut of Leaping Fishes

by Chiew-Siah Tei

littlehutofleapingfishes

“Mingzhi is born to be a mandarin: as the formidable Master Chai’s first grandson, his life is mapped from the moment of his birth. But times are changing in China, and as Mingzhi grows, he begins to question his privileged heritage and the secrets and shadows that lurk in the corners of the Chai mansion. Eager to flee from the corruption, treachery and rivalries of his family — Master Chai, who farms opium poppies and beats out orders with his dragon stick; the jealousy of his second mother and half brother; and his opium-addict father – Mingzhi soon realises his only path to freedom is through learning. But as the foreign devils begin to encroach on China, Mingzhi is torn between two cultures; he must make his choice between the past and the future.”

Not all Malaysian writers tell stories of Malaysia (nor should they be expected to). Enter bilingual author Chiew-Siah Tei, whose historical saga begins in Little Plum Blossom Village, during the late 1800s of China .

Chiew-Siah Tei also has two other books — It’s Snowing (prose) and Secrets and Lies (essays on film), for the Chinese-literate amongst us.

Evening Is the Whole Day

by Preeta Samarasan

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“When the Rajasekharan family’s rubber-plantation servant girl is dismissed for unnamed crimes, it is only the latest in a series of precipitous losses that have shaken six-year-old Aasha’s life. In the space of several weeks her grandmother passed away under mysterious circumstances, and Uma, her older sister, left for Columbia University, forever. Aasha is left stranded in a family, and a country, slowly going to pieces.”

Preeta Samarasan’s writing has been compared to Arundhati Roy, for obvious reasons. This is how her novel begins:

There is, stretching delicate as a bird’s head from the thin neck of the Kra Isthmus, a land that makes up half of the country called Malaysia. Where it dips its beak into the South China Sea, Singapore hovers like a bubble escaped from its throat. This bird’s head is a springless summerless autumnless winterless land.

When an author goes all out into purple prose territory this way, you get a love-it-or-hate-it audience. Which camp are you on? Either way, you have about five more months to make up your mind.

The House with a Thousand Stories

by Aruni Kashyap

housewithathousandstories

When young Pablo goes to his ancestral village in Assam for his aunt s wedding, he encounters twin tragedies that will change his life forever. Set against the backdrop of secret killings and political upheaval, this is a debut to reckon with.

This book was published fairly recently, and is doing quite well in reviews, also drawing inevitable comparisons to Arundhati Roy’s work.


Special mention:

The Kampung Boy

by Lat

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“With masterful economy worthy of Charles Schultz, Lat recounts the life of Mat, a Muslim boy growing up in rural Malaysia in the 1950s: his adventures and mischief-making, fishing trips, religious study, and work on his family’s rubber plantation. Meanwhile, the traditional way of life in his village (or kampung) is steadily disappearing, with tin mines and factory jobs gradually replacing family farms and rubber small-holders. When Mat himself leaves for boarding school, he can only hope that his familiar kampung will still be there when he returns. Kampung Boy is hilarious and affectionate, with brilliant, super-expressive artwork that opens a window into a world that has now nearly vanished.”

Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, will be one of the creators speaking at GTLF. The Kampung Boy is the most well-known of his stories, but Datuk Lat’s ouevre is generally loved.

Peperangan terakhir baru sahaja bermula

Posted on 20 June 2013

Date : 23–26 Mei 2013

Venue : Morne Art Gallery

perangterakhirRevolution Stage mengulangi kemenangan kreatif mereka dengan naskhah terbaru, Perang Terakhir. Formula elemen luaran yang sama seperti naskhah-naskhah mereka yang baru lepas digunakan lagi kali ini: dinding/papan untuk meninggalkan komen, prop dengan gambar-gambar berkaitan dengan naskhah yang dipentaskan dan meja menjual merchandise buku dan DVD semua ada, juga di pentas Morne Art Gallery. Sudah terasa seperti ini ialah rumah Revolution Stage; sampai makanan pun dah mula dijual kepada penonton-penonton yang hadir. Inilah antara sebab saya menyukai RS, kerana mereka peka akan kehendak penonton, dan pandai mencari jalan untuk mencari untung.

Berbalik kepada naskhahnya. Perang Terakhir mengisahkan Omar dan anak dewasanya Rahimah pada zaman perang besar yang difahamkan sedang meletus di serata dunia. Omar digambarkan sebagai seorang yang takut menghadapi realiti dunia luar, sering berjaga dengan senapangnya di pintu rumah yang telah ditahan. Anaknya Rahimah telah dididik untuk menjaga ayahnya, setelah ibunya meninggal semasa melahirkan Rahimah. Kerana ini, Rahimah juga diajar untuk sentiasa berjaga dari dunia luar dan sering duduk berzikir di tikar sembahyangnya.

Muncul pula sahabat Omar sejak kecil, Malek. Sekali seminggu sejak perang bermula, Malek datang ke rumah Omar untuk menghantar bekalan makanan dan menyampaikan berita dari dunia luar. Malek tidak setuju dengan sikap takut Omar dan dapat dirasakan yang dia sudah mula menyampah. Tiba-tiba berlaku sesuatu di luar rumah Omar yang membuatkan ketiga-tiga mereka berkurung di dalam rumah. Dari sinilah dapat dilihat mereka mula betul-betul mengenali diri masing-masing, dan bergaduh tentang ideologi sehingga menjadi pergaduhan fizikal.

Dua kali mereka digoda untuk keluar dari rumah: sekali oleh pihak yang mengaku dirinya sebagai puak mereka sendiri dan menjanjikan makanan dan bekalan yang mencukupi kepada orang yang keluar dan menyertai mereka, dan sekali oleh pihak yang melaungkan nama Allah dan mengajak sesiapa yang mendengar untuk berjuang untuk agama Islam. Pihak yang pertama rupa-rupanya menyamar (dan disangka sedemikan oleh Malek) dan kedengaran yang keluar dari rumah mereka ditembak. Pihak yang kedua disangka baik oleh Malek dan dia dapat meyakinkan Rahimah untuk mengikutnya. Omar tidak sanggup meninggalkan rumahnya dan dia ditinggalkan seorang diri.


Jarang saya melihat lakonan yang berkaliber sebegini di mana-mana media atau pentas. Ketiga-tiga pelakon dapat mewatakkan karakter-karakter yang agak kompleks dalam keadaan lighting yang malap. Tambahan pula Amerul Affendi memakai janggut palsu yang membuat penonton lagi susah untuk melihat mimik mukanya, tetapi masih dapat membawa watak yang sekaligus intense dan penakut. Sharifah Aleya juga agak impressive, kerana dapat membawa watak yang kuat walaupun dialognya tidak banyak. Kalau Aleya tidak dapat memberi vibe sedemikian, memang susah untuk penonton percaya yang Rahimah sanggup meninggalkan ayahnya untuk berjuang bersama Malek. Azman Hassan juga turut hebat dan sangat meyakinkan sebagai pejuang veteran di medan perang.

Tentang karakter-karakternya sendiri: Saya rasa kebanyakan orang akan terbahagi kepada personaliti seperti Malek, dan personaliti seperti Omar. Saya cukup yakin yang jika tiba masanya dunia kita berperang sepertimana di dalam Perang Terakhir (nauzubillah), ramai yang akan mempunyai reaction seperti Omar. Berselindung, bergantung kepada orang lain untuk berita dan bekalan, bercakap besar dan sedia dengan senjatanya tetapi sebenarnya takut untuk menghadapi realiti. Dan semestinya memang akan ada pejuang seperti Malek. Saya rasa yang wataknya ditulis dengan bernas — seseorang yang mengalami konflik dalaman setiap kali dia berjumpa dengan rakannya yang tidak sekepala. Dapat dilihat yang Malek sayang akan rakannya dan anak rakannya, dan itu sahajalah sebab Malek menolong mereka. Watak Rahimah pula penting sebagai embodiment konflik yang dilalui antara Omar dan Malek — mahu menurut kata ayahnya dan bersembunyi, tetapi mahu juga keluar untuk berjuang.

Sound design Perang Terakhir ialah yang terbaik yang pernah saya alami di pementasan Revolution Stage. Penata bunyi Omar Yunus menggunakan surround sound dengan bijak, dan kesannya agak layan. Sebagai penonton, saya memang terasa seperti saya di dalam rumah Omar (karakter), bersembunyi dari pejuang musuh. Penggunaan lighting yang malap oleh penata cahaya Mustaqim Muhamad juga membuatkan penonton dapat menumpukan perhatian sepenuhnya kepada apa yang dikatakan oleh pelakon-pelakon, dan tidak distracted dengan pakaian atau set.


Penulis dan pengarah Khairunazwan Rodzy berkata dalam interview melalui e-mel bahawa naskhah Perang Terakhir ini “hanya ingin berkongsi tentang perang akhir zaman yang bakal berlaku menurut kepercayaan dalam agama Islam”. Walau begitu, saya dah rakan-rakan saya berdebat sejenak setelah selesai menonton pementasan ini. Kebanyakan dari kami dapat merasakan undercurrent propaganda, terutamanya apabila Omar, Rahimah dan Malek diberi pilihan antara yang menawarkan makanan dan keselamatan (walaupun secara logiknya sudah kekurangan), dan yang memanggil orang untuk berjuang untuk agama Islam. Tambah pula timing pementasan ini yang berlaku hanya sebulan selepas pilihanraya umum Malaysia, memang sukar untuk kami pisahkan pemahaman kami dari tujuan sebenar penulis naskhah ini.

Tetapi mungkin inilah antara tujuan seni — bukan untuk mengetahui makna sebenar di sebalik sebuah karya, tetapi untuk mengembara mencari makna tersebut. Kepada saya, pemahaman yang berbeza tentang sebuah karya penting kerana ia menunjukkan yang karya tersebut dapat disampaikan kepada berbagai jenis penonton dan membawa kepada — bak kata orang — healthy and passionate debates. People need to have real conversations about real topics dan saya ucapkan syabas dan terima kasih kepada Khairunazwan dan Revolution Stage kerana memberi penonton peluang ini.

This review was written in early June. Revolution Stage has staged other productions since. We apologise for the delay in publication.