Kakiseni Arts Exchange 2013 brought out the best in storytelling.
This year’s Kakiseni Arts Exchange 2013 yielded two enthralling offerings, performed at the KuAsh Theatre in Kuala Lumpur on Oct 30.
Directed by award-winning Tehran-born puppeteer Hamed Zahmatkesh, The Abrisham Journey was energetic, colourful and full of terrors.
A rare chance for Malaysian kids to experience the full potential of physical theatre, the show was not only exciting, but full of audience participation.
Colourful puppets made from large cut outs combined with an ingenious use of shadows and projector screens, brought the ancient land of Iran, ruled by Evil King Ezhedak, to life.
We were transported from palaces to battlefields, as screens were pulled across to create a series of rotating scenes. Each chapter, from the birth of Fereydoun, a young warrior destined to defeat the evil King, to the final battle ground where both sides charge with an army of invading puppets, were delivered through a context of song and story telling.
King Ezhedak’s puppetwas the centre-piece of the performance. Portrayed as a dumpy old creature with hungry serpents crawling out of his shoulders, he added both terror and comic relief, a caricature of evil, to balance out the more scary scenes.
During some parts of the performance, projected images of (cartoonised) men having their brains scooped out to feed King serpents added a thrilling element of horror, as did scenes of the king’s minions.
A fantastic piece of interactive theatre, The Abrisham Journey was proof that live theatre can be just as thrilling as any video game. Elsewhere, there was the ambitious work Nama Kamu Atas Perahu. Who knew what detailed landscapes could arise from nothing but the power of the imagination?
This was the monumental accomplishment of Nama Kamu Atas Perahu (Your Name On A Boat). Directed by international artist Carlos Garcia Estevez, a 17-strong cast of international theatre veterans delivered a nostalgic tale.
Malaysia’s Ghafir Akbar played a young sailor who finds out the hard way, what dangers await those who live only for their dreams.
The production was so tightly knit, that scenes seemed to move in unison across the stage.
Together, the cast created a lively and captivating bustle of activity – different accents and tongues creating an eclectic vision of our multi-racial present, cocooned within a fairytale-like quality. But words were unimportant, because what brought this piece to life was the physical aspects of the piece.
Each scene came alive through the bodies of the actors.
Clothes held out by stall holders standing in line were sifted through like a clothing rack. A raft was tossed, and broken by the angry waves as the actors, each holding a sail or a rope, were separated into flotsam and jetsam, drifting slowly across the stage.
Among the most captivating scenes were found in the fishing boat. Everythingfelt realistic, aided by soft oranges, shadowy reds and ominous blues through excellent lighting design.
We heard the sea, as a live musical ensemble delivered the lilting rhythm of gamelans. The suspenseful pounding of drums created the appropriate mood in each scene. Some of the most haunting moments arrived when Malay traditional theatre practitioner Zamzuriah Sahari sang. Most entertaining was Indonesian dancer Mohammad Hariyan, who pounded his randy sea-captain chest.
German actor Manuel Schunter brought some comic relief as the lost tourist, who wandered in and out of the show, in search of the Twin Towers.
But it was Malaysian theatre practitioner Jo Kukathas’ narration that gripped the audience.
As a decrepit old lady, she anchored the story, telling us a precautionary tale of love lost and dreams shattered.
All in all, this was a piece of pure magic – not bad for something created by strangers during a two-week workshop.