2019 in review: 5 top stories in Malaysian theatre and performing arts

Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s epic show 'Formosa', which played at Istana Budaya in KL in March, proved that there is an audience in Malaysia for highly-acclaimed works that don’t pander to mainstream tastes. Photo: The Star/Low Boon Tat

Theatresauce sprinkles its awesome sauce

As far as local theatre companies go, none has been busier (arguably), than the Selangor-based company, Theatresauce. For its 2019 season, Theatresauce produced six productions of varying scales: three new creations by Esther Liew, Arief Hamizan and artistic director Kelvin Wong, and three showcases from the 2019 Emerging Directors Lab.

Out of the six shows, five were original works, playing to a total of 1,750 audiences over 44 performances. Theatresauce was bold in its approach to theatre, producing very Malaysian stories but in a non-mainstream manner in terms of staging and storytelling. The bravest show was Wong’s Brohemia! which dealt with issues of sexuality and gender.

“Malaysian contexts are diverging, colliding and evolving, and the theatre we make must reflect that. New works challenge, innovate and invigorate both the maker and audience, and that’s how we move forward. Sure, we can still put up works written by dead white men – Theatresauce just isn’t a fan of that, ” says Wong, who founded the company in 2016.

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Seni Tiga series gives multi-disciplinary shows a boost

Multi-disciplinary shows are a rare thing in the performing arts scene here. Standing out is the Seni Tiga series. Every month, a different team of artists from three disciplines – movement, visual and sound – create a structured site-specific performance at the arts space KongsiKL. So far, there have been 10 Seni Tiga editions with the involvement of 53 artists and 56 volunteers. An average crowd of 120 per edition is an encouraging stat.

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Seni TigaSeni Tiga

A busy year at KLPac

The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) had a total of 132 productions and events this year.

Roughly, the total attendance for 2019 is more than 70,000 people. It was mostly of restagings, with Ho Lee Ching’s In/Out and Tung Jit Yang’s To Which My Brother Laughed being original standout works.

The longest running show this year were The Working Dead musical, which ran for three weeks/16 shows, and the sketch comedy revue Indicinelive!6, which ran for three weeks/15 shows.

Some of KLPac’s top shows this year included Kandang, Stories For Amah and A Man For All Seasons.

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The Working DeadThe Working Dead

Damansara Performing Arts Centre pushes on

The Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) ran 80 shows (up to November) with a total audience of 28,555.

The top three shows staged at DPAC this year included Instant Cafe Theatre’s Gold Rain And Hailstones (2,775 in audience attendance), ballet concert When Dreams Become Reality (1,212) and musical Next To Normal (1,117).

The Damansara International Arts Festival 2019 at the venue in July also veered towards more experimental dance-based shows, giving viewers a glimpse of how local and international performers can push ahead in exciting directions.

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Gold Rain And HailstonesGold Rain And Hailstones

KL: a growing international destination?

On the international front, Kuala Lumpur is still not a popular destination for big West End and Broadway types of shows or acclaimed productions; Singapore attracts the best major shows.

But there were two highlight shows in KL this year, namely Taiwan’s Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s spectacular Formosa (as serious as it gets for dance enthusiasts!) and Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s popular The Phantom Of The Opera (first time in KL).

Webber’s Cats was supposed to play at Istana Budaya next year, but was eventually cancelled. Hopefully, we get to watch more international acts in 2020.

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The Phantom Of The OperaThe Phantom Of The Opera

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Theatre , Dance , KLPac , Theatresauce , KLKongsi , Arts


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