Offbeat and artfully devised

  • Arts
  • Saturday, 06 Sep 2014

Belgian puppeteer master Natacha Belova’s fantasy theatre is bound to give the masses a big dose of weird and cool.

The Kakiseni International Arts Festival is back with more quirky fun.

EVEN on paper, this act sounds eccentric and a little peculiar. For starters, the main actors are a pair of old pliers and mole trap who squabble – wordlessly – over a curious object that is dropped in the middle of a sandy landscape.

One is impertinent, the other greedy and belligerent. Both, unfortunately, are equally tenacious.

This is To Have Or Not To Have, an “object theatre” performance that takes place on a long sand table, one of the many interesting performances slated for the free admission Kakiseni International Arts Festival 2014, which runs from Sept 12 to 16 at Pavilion KL.

This piece has no dialogue, only an eclectic soundtrack, to accompany the swag and swagger of these weather-beaten wooden objects.

Gérard Schiphorst, who makes up one half of the Dutch visual theatre company TAMTAM objektentheater (Marije van der Sande is the other) describes this performance piece as “a rusty fairytale full of beautiful images with undeniable elements of the Spaghetti Western, a shot of Shakespeare and a generous dose of subtle humour.”

To Have Or Not To Have by Dutch visual theatre company TAMTAM objektentheater.

“It is the Wild West combined with the dark Middle Ages, a ruthless but hilarious medieval arms-race, fought with all lawful and illegal means,” he says in an email interview.

Addressing universal themes like greed, jealousy, recklessness, egotism, stupidity and “other very human qualities”, the 45-min act opens with a dreamy, surreal fairytale setting that quickly unfolds and escalates into something more ruthless and merciless.

“This is a moving story that is told with sand and old objects – very simple means. It is also completely without text. You would not think that this is possible but come see the show – you will be stunned!” says Schiphorst who emphasises that To Have Or Not To Have is accessible to everyone.

“We present the content in different layers so that there is something for everyone, from the most experienced theatre visitor to people who have never watched a show before.”

He adds that it is indeed a challenge to pare everything down to only the essential bits in this show, without ever losing track of this goal: to thoroughly entertain the audience.

TAMTAM has been touring the world for 35 years, staging not just performances such as this but also object-art expositions, concerts, improvisations, workshops and masterclasses.

Belgian puppeteer master Natacha Belova’s fantasy theatre is bound to give the masses a big dose of weird and cool.

This month marks their 35th anniversary, so this stop in Malaysia commemorates this milestone.

Another show that utilises everyday objects is Roberto White’s Criaturas Particulares. This Argentinean clown and puppeteer uses objects like ping pong balls, plastic bags, balloons and wrapping paper to tell short funny stories.

Weaving together the language of mime with wordless object theatre, this show has been performed at more than 30 international festivals around the world and was selected as the winner of the International Puppet Fair of Lleida in Spain in 2012.

“These seven stories are composed of aesthetically unique and very special characters, which are made with everyday objects ... maybe some people will never again see a plastic bag as just a simple plastic bag after the show,” he says.

The deft manipulation and interaction of different body parts with these objects is an important aspect of this 45-min show.

Some stories take on a humourous perspective, some have a sentimental and tender touch to them, and yet others are melancholic.

“The hardest part of putting together such a show is the selection of the final material. I spend a lot of time exploring potential characters. But at the end you have to let some go, you have to be able to say that ‘less is more’,” shares Roberto. “The final result should flow as organically as possible, and the simplest – which is not always the easiest – is often very complicated and laborious.”

Kakiseni president Low Ngai Yuen says this second edition of the festival is planned with one thing in mind: accessibility.

“We want to give the audience easy access to the performing arts, particularly the young people. We want people to understand what an amazing thing the arts is, and we want to encourage participation,” she says.

The Kakiseni International Arts Festival 2014, presented by Prudential, will be showcasing 150 international and local acts at the Black Box theatrette and Seni stage (both will be located at the Centre Court in Pavilion KL).

There will also be outdoor performances, busking and workshops, plus a parade on the last day of the festival, which coincides with Malaysia Day.

Award-winning acts like Aussie Stuart Bowden’s She Was Probably Not A Robot (winner of The Directors’ Choice Award at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2012), dance duo Elías Aguirre and Álvaro Esteban from Spain (first prize winners of the International Competition of Choreography Burgos-New York in 2010), Canadian acrobat Akron The Bizarre, Belgian puppeteer master Natacha Belova and many more will be making their rounds at the festival.

Festival-goers will be also treated to performances by homegrown talent such as nose flute musician Raman Bah Tuin from the Orang Asli Semai tribe, Mah Meri cultural dances and Chinese opera performances.

The Kakiseni International Arts Festival will run from Sept 12 to 16 at Pavilion KL, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free, but note that seats are on a first come, first served basis. For more information,


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Offbeat and artfully devised


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