Instant Cafe Theatre’s (ICT) recent restaging of Singaporean writer/playwright Alfian Sa’at’s Parah shows that virtual theatre also has a place in the new normal of performing arts.
Renamed Zoom Parah for the virtual restaging, the show (July 25 and 26) attracted nearly 1,000 viewers from 20 countries worldwide, including Britain, Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
Directed by ICT’s co-founder Jo Kukathas, the play, which was streamed live via newly formed digital theatre platform Cloud Theatre, garnered positive feedback from its online audience.
None of Parah’s hard-hitting themes on race relations, identity and friendship, were lost in digital translation.
One audience member commented: “Never thought a RM5 ticket would get me a front row seat to a great play performed live via Zoom. Brilliant acting, timely story.”
London-based academic/writer/musician Shanon Shah added on Facebook: “My question is, why did a play, performed on Zoom, about a controversy that happened nearly a decade ago in Malaysia, get under my skin so much, especially in my current geographical location in London? There is no doubt that it is an excellent play.”
Zoom Parah made its rounds abroad, but more importantly, it also reached new local audiences.
“It’s an interesting way to reach a wider audience and a cheap way of doing theatre. A lot of people took advantage of the RM5 ticket. So, we want to keep the invention, ” says Kukathas.
She also shares how a friend in Sabah organised a viewing party of Zoom Parah for stateless children in Semporna.
“That’s just great. We would not have been able to reach that kind of community before this. Now, we’re able to bring our art to them, ” she adds.
However, Kukathas points out that ICT is not divorcing itself from live theatre.
“It’s not one or the other, ” she says. With a limit on seating capacity, Kukathas feels staging a show for a live audience may not be financially sound at the moment.
But ICT is looking at possibly live streaming a new show in October (performed in a theatre venue). Ultimately, Kukathas feels excited about what constitutes theatre in the digital world.
“It’s a new world and I’m trying to find out what this world is and ask questions. This gives us the opportunity to investigate how one watches theatre as well. So we’re going to keep on innovating and experimenting, ” she says.
Fresh from Zoom Parah, you can also watch the thought-provoking Merdeka, another work available online now, which was co-directed by Kukathas. It is available on Singapore-based theatre company Wild Rice's 'Wild@Home On Demand' platform until Aug 10.
For a small contribution of US$10 (RM42), you can enjoy this critically acclaimed production by going here for 48-hour access.
The beat goes on
Hands Percussion also concluded its very first full-length digital concert called Reflections which was streamed live from the Damansara Performing Arts Centre’s (DPAC) Theatre on July 18.
The digital concert kicked off DPAC’s new format for live theatre called DPAC Live where stage performances will be broadcast live online. Nearly 300 viewers supported the ticketed (RM23) event.
Starting Aug 23, DPAC will finally open it doors to a live audience for a gu zheng concert by Sara Heng. The concert will also be streamed live on Aug 22.
Spectrum, an instrumental music concert featuring classical pianist Hii Mei Lin, vocal group Colour Of Voices, er hu player Lim Wei Siong and Evelyn Toh and the WVC Jazz Ensemble, are DPAC’s September highlight. Spectrum will be performed live and streamed at the same time.
For both DPAC shows, the online ticket price is RM23 and RM58 for the live show.
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