This month, the late Ravi Shanker Rama Murthy's dance drama Surpanaka – his last working piece – hits the stage in Kuala Lumpur. It is a complicated story about a misunderstood princess in the Ramayana epic.
For a bit of theatre reinvention, how about a multilingual tribute to the late National Laureate Datuk Usman Awang on what would have been his 90th birthday?
A workaholic salaryman brought back from the dead by a bomoh? That should add a touch of theatre surreal to the month.
There’s no shortage of theatre and performing arts shows to watch in July.
Here are 10 highlights:
Venue: Pentas 2, KLPac
Dancebox, a dance showcase series in a partnership between The Actors Studio and MyDance Alliance, is back with a host of new works by local choreographers and one international dance company. The participants are Chan Kar Kah, Chai Vivan, Douglas Labadin, Fione Chia Yan Wei, January Low and Spanish dance group Meraki Cia. Dancebox is the ideal place for dancers to present work-in-progress showings, experimental work and dance film. More details: www.klpac.org.
Ivory Series Goes To The Movies
Venue: No Black Tie, KL
Date: July 8-9
Ivory Series is the brainchild of Malaysian classical pianist Mei Lin Hii, aiming to combine classical music with various living art forms such as visual arts, dance, and poetry. With its monthly thematic happenings, the Ivory Series has seen collaboration and experimentation from paper art installation to dance duet, from poetry reading to video mapping, all within the intimate frame of a piano recital or a chamber music concert. This month's Ivory Series features Hii on piano, Bernice Ooi on violin and videographer Arnaud Blondel. The repertoire is music from the movies, including classics from Michael Nyman (The Piano) and John Williams (Schindler's List). More info: www.noblacktie.com.my.
Don’t Let Usman Awang Know
Venue: Pentas 2, KLPac
Date: July 11-14
The mark of good literature is one that stands the test of time and where the interpretation is endless. The works of the late National Laureate Datuk Usman Awang falls under this category. Seven directors – Easee Gan, Giant Liang, Mon Lim, Zhafir Muzani, Apple Yong, Zheng Xi Yong, and Fauzi Amirudin – will be reinventing his works in this fourth installment of the Don’t Let series. Presented by The Actors Studio and Muka Space, this multi-lingual, multi-arts genre tribute aims to show the legendary playwright/author/poet’s works in a new light. The show is set to open on July 11, one day before what would be Usman's 90th birthday. It is part of The Actors Studio’s 30th anniversary celebrations made possible by Yayasan Hasanah. With dance, musicals and plays, Don’t Let Usman Awang Know is a show not to be missed. Presented in English, Bahasa Melayu, Mandarin and Cantonese with English surtitles, each performance will last for 10 minutes, with works inspired by Uda Dan Dara, Penjual Air Batu and Jiwa Hamba. More details: www.klpac.org.
Next To Normal
Venue: Theatre, DPAC, Petaling Jaya
Date: July 12-14, July 18-21
Pan Productions goes multi-award winning Broadway musical again. Next To Normal, featuring Nikki Palikat, Peter Ong, Mae Elliessa, Joshua Gui, Vale Wong and Christian Palencia, explores how one suburban household copes with mental illness. The show is directed by Nell Ng. On the outside, the Goodman family appears to be like any other typical American family. A hardworking father, a loving mother and two bright teenage kids. But behind closed doors, the family hides a very dark and painful secret … Diana, the mother, has been battling manic depression for 16 years. This pop rock musical addresses issues such as death, ethics in modern psychiatry and suburban life. More details: www.dpac.com.my.
The Working Dead
Venue: Pentas 2, KLPac
Date: July 18- Aug 4
After a successful workshop performance last year, playwright Terence Toh’s The Working Dead is back … as a full production. Directed by Nicole-Ann Thomas, this original musical examines urban living themes, mundane routines and corporate environment pressures. Add a zombie-fied twist. The musical, revolving around Edwin, a workaholic salaryman who dies unexpectedly, sees his demanding boss Chan hiring a bomoh to revive him from the dead as a corporate zombie to finish off his work. Now, talk about a job to die for! It’s up to his wife and colleagues to save Edwin and put him back to the grave. More details: www.klpac.org.
Seni Tiga: 11:11 A Tribute To Loving
Venue: KongsiKL, Old Klang Road
Date: July 18-20
This July, the Seni Tiga series presents the sixth collaborative performance. 11:11 A Tribute To Loving, featuring an Asian cast, takes the series back to a dance-based show. 11:11, directed by Gavin Yap, is a dance journey of "forbidden love, unconditional love, in dreams and in reality … always together, forever apart". Chua Sek Khim is the man soundtracking the show, while the dancers include Foo May Lyn (Malaysia), Hiroko Tamura (Japan), Ix Wong (Malaysia), Lim Kay Siu (Singapore), Loke Soh Kim (Malaysia), Neo Swee Lin (Singapore), Nirmala Seshadri (Singapore) and Scarlet Yu (Singapore). FB: KongsiKL.
Gruesome Playground Injuries
Venue: FCAM Studio@City Campus, International University Of Malaya Wales, KL
Presented by the Experimental Theatre Club of The International University of Malaya Wales, this Malaysian adaptation of Rajiv Joseph’s painfully funny two-hander looks at why people hurt themselves for the people they love the most. The show is directed by Axyr Hanz William here. It features a cast of newcomers. Set in the fictional school of SMK St Bukit Nanas in downtown KL, the play revolves around childhood friends Doug and Kayleen and their journey of exploration and discovery of love told through the perspectives of different ages. Following a non-linear storytelling method, the play leaps back and forth in time, connecting the injuries, scars and heartbreak, exploring various taboo topics such as pain, loneliness, self-harm and mental health. FB: Gruesome Playground Injuries.
Surpanaka - The Revenge Of A Dravidian Princess
Venue: Shantanad Auditorium, Temple of Fine Arts, KL
In early March, the Malaysian performing arts scene lost Ravi Shanker Rama Murthy, one of its outstanding Indian traditional dance practitioners. Ravi, the founder and artistic director of dance company Asthana Arts, died from a bacterial infection His legacy lives on. Surpanaka is the final working piece and creative concept from Ravi. It offers a fresh look at probably one of the most misunderstood female characters in the Indian epic Ramayana. Always portrayed as a seductress and a woman hungry for vengeance, this musical dance extravaganza promises to cast a new light on Surpanaka. Was she really a raging, demonic princess or was she a liberated feminist of her times or worse, was she a victim? FB: Surpanaka - The Revenge Of A Dravidian Princess.
Venue: Indicine, KLPac
July 18- Aug 4
Get ready to split your sides with the latest edition of the show that injects high doses of humour and satire to all things Malaysian. Back with an all new and diverse ensemble, the revue is geared up with its new offering of sketches and parodies. Is Malaysia Baharu truly Baharu? Let Indicinelive! dissect – rather wittily – our political, social and pop cultural landscapes in its most current state. More info: www.klpac.org.
Venue: Pentas 1, KLPac
Date: July 25-28
The throwback spirit continues at KLPac with The Actors Studio’s 30th anniversary as Datuk Faridah Merican returns as the director of prolific Chinese playwright Tsao Yu’s Thunderstorm. Having acted in the Bahasa Melayu version twice (1983 and 2001) and directed it in English (2017), the upcoming staging in Hokkien and Cantonese rounds up her three-decade long love affair with this iconic play. Set in Ipoh, this new iteration of Thunderstorm revolves around the rich and wealthy Chous who are served by the Lus. The Chous seem to have it all. Power, riches and a high standing in society. But behind closed doors, the two families are caught in a web of dark secrets in a battle over love, lust and power. As the secrets get unraveled one by one, get ready for a thunderous finale. More details: www.klpac.org.