Puppet theatre goes back to the future with Ah Loy, who must rescue a dystopian KL

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 01 Nov 2018

Fashion designer Beatrice Looi created the outfits for some of the puppets in the show.

Not all heroes wear capes and in the case of Ah Loy, he certainly doesn’t need one to save Kuala Lumpur.

Arts collective Muka Space, with support from the Malaysian Puppetry Association, will be presenting The Story Of Ah Loy, an all-ages puppet performance, at the Urbanscapes 2018 festival in KL, over three weekends, starting Nov 3.

The 15-minute long puppet show depicts the journey of Ah Loy as a man who travels through time to find ways to prevent future KL from becoming a dystopia.

“In our reimagined scenario, future Kuala Lumpur is in a dire state due to pollution. So Ah Loy builds a time machine to go back in time and learn how to undo the damage. In his journey, the audience will learn about the many iconic events that made KL the city we see today,” says producer Easee Gan, a writer, director and senior production manager at KLPac, in a recent interview.

Gan wrote the story based on the upcoming festival’s ReimagineKL theme.

The Story Of Ah Loy will unfold through a community-based form of storytelling, involving only two performers and a travelling cart. Each performer will be required to navigate up to 30 puppets, change the backdrops, act as storytellers, dance and play musical instruments.

Ah Loy
Part of the puppets to be used for 'The Story Of Ah Loy' show.

In this warung panggung pop-up concept, which will see The Story Of Ah Loy show played at three different locations in Medan Pasar in KL, the audience can also expect to see the performers taking on the ukulele and a kalimba to entertain.

Lee Yueh Yi, an award-winning composer and music arranger, will soundtrack the performance,

“The concept for The Story Of Ah Loy is that our performers are travelling artistes. We have a built a (modular) cart just for them to use for this performance series,” says Gan.

Various types of puppets will be used in The Story Of Ah Loy, from rod puppets (supported by sticks) to string and glove puppets. The trick is to have versatile puppeteers to handle the different puppets.

Gan found his multi-talented performers – Wendy Ng and Paige Chan – through an audition process. They will be dressed in elaborate traveller costumes made by fashion designer Beatrice Looi. The puppets featured in the show will also be wearing designs by Looi.

“It will take about an hour for the performers to be ready in the costume. They will have to carry a bag will all the props and puppets. So in the process of making the puppets, we have to use lighter material.”

Rehearsals have been extensive in the past month and Gan says he needs his performers to be in good, nimble shape.

“They have to remain fit! I expect them to do exercises like squats and eat more to stay energised!”

Well, it’s a good thing the performers don’t have any lines to memorise as Gan reveals the puppet show will be presented without dialogue. He explains that he wanted to a more universal approach for the story.

Ah Loy
Fashion designer Beatrice Looi created the outfits for some of the puppets in the show.

“It’s definitely a challenge but we’re excited to showcase a contemporary puppet show that everyone can enjoy and interpret in their own ways.”

Gan hopes the masses will see a story that reflects the many cultures and diversity of KL.

There will be elements in the show to highlight famous food, notable people and iconic buildings. Ultimately, Gan is preparing an entertaining show with understandbly ... some strings attached.

“I do hope that after watching The Story Of Ah Loy that the audience will also be interested to find out more about the local puppetry scene in Malaysia. At the same time, we’re hoping the purists won’t be too upset with how we’re putting a modern touch to traditional puppetry.”

The Story Of Ah Loy plays at the Medan Pasar area in KL on Nov 3-4, Nov 10-11 and Nov 17-18. The first weekend’s show will take place at the Pesta Lorong Hang Kasturi, No. 2, Jalan Hang Kasturi, the second weekend at Medan Pasar (behind Central Market) and third weekend at the River Of Life (Masjid Jamek area). Show times (all weekends): 4.30pm and 6.30pm. FB: Muka Space. Free admission.

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