In Pentas Project's Red Demon, a stranger arrives on an island asking for food but gets mistaken by villagers as a demon hungry for human flesh. But just who will eat who first? Photo: Pam Lin
Man fears what he does not know.
Japanese playwright Noda Hideki toys with this idea in Red Demon, the story of a man washed up on an isolated island. There, he is assumed to be a demon by the locals due to his foreign language and appearance.
Bringing the play to local shores is Kuala Lumpur-based Pentas Project Theatre Production, with director/founder Loh Kok Man, 43, at its helm.
Loh envisions a theatre production that invites audiences to look into ourselves while gazing at the world. He believes Red Demon, which describes the fears of an island towards strangers, will do just that.
During a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur, Loh, who formed Pentas Project in 2005, said he was drawn to how the Red Demon play touched on migrants and how locals treated them, especially in light of the recent refugee crisis in the region and Europe.
Red Demon is currently being staged at Pentas 2 in KLPac. It is a universal story of the world in a state of flux and anxiety that will resonate deeply with the masses here.
The play itself is well-travelled: having been performed by different community theatre groups in Japan, England, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore.
In adapting it, Loh collaborated with Shin Pei Yu, the founder of Taiwan-based The Flying Group Theatre, a company specialised in puppets.
Expanding its vision of theatre as a truly collaborative art form, Pentas Project is for the first time combining live performances with live puppetry, with the help of The Flying Group
Theatre. Shin brings puppets and masks to the play to make it more understandable and accessible in terms of entertainment value.
“We are inspired by the possibilities of this collaboration with Pentas Project. Seeing the world through each other’s eyes is how theatre can help to bridge the gaps betweenus,” says Shin.
In Hideki’s original form, the show uses five actors to portray 18 different roles.
Shin believes her additions would help delineate roles rather than have actors develop split personalities.
Despite its almost human appearance, Shin’s giant puppet as the Red Demon remains a highlight on its own. Meanwhile, the Red Demon cast is composed of local talents Tammy Lee, 32, and Yeo Lyle, 29, and Taiwanese actor Peng Hao Chin, 35. They will be assisted by musicians Boyz Chew Soon Heng, 34, Zyee Leow Sze Yee, 33, and Leow Hui Min, 27.
Leow will also be handling the Red Demon puppet and voicing it in a made up “French” language. Such is the eccentricity on the cards in this production.
In each performance of Red Demon, the title character spoke in a different language from the rest of the characters. For instance, English was used in Japan, Japanese in England.
In Malaysia, the main dialogue will be spoken in Mandarin, with English surtitles.
Loh knew he wanted to direct this play when he heard a line by a character in Red Demon: “When I met him for first time, I said to him, ‘You’re a demon, and you’re demon because you eat humans’. I was wrong. Demons don’t eat humans. Human eat demons. They eat them to survive.”
“I hope that Red Demon will help us think about who we are eating in order to survive, and reflect what it means to be human,” concludes Loh.
Catch Red Demon at Pentas 2, KLPac, Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Ipoh in Kuala Lumpur. Shows: June 19-20 (8.30pm) and June 20-21 (3pm). Tickets are priced at RM50 and RM68. Call 03-4047 9000 or visit www.ticketpro.com.my to book. More details: pentasproject.org