Arts community in a bind over restrictions

KUALA LUMPUR: With just five hours left before the new movement control order (MCO) came into effect on Jan 13, the staff at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) scrambled to finish filming a dance show.

The recordings were originally slated for this week, but a directive by National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (Finas) prohibited filming during the MCO period (Jan 13-26).

“Releasing shows online was a contingency to live shows but now that both are not allowed, it is a double blow to us, ” says Datuk Faridah Merican, KLPac’s co-founder.

With the rigid enforcement of the MCO, it looks the performing arts community is in a bind with no on-site activities allowed.

Many have expressed resignation over the news, after spending nearly all of 2020 with scaled down live performances and arts programming.

A total of 65 shows were cancelled at KLPac last year. The combined losses for KLPac and The Actors Studio stand at RM1.77mil.

“Our grants and sponsorships are also at stake as our funding is tied to our ability to run our venue, programmes and shows, ” says KLPac co-founder Joe Hasham.

The MCO might also delay the opening of a new performance venue, the Petaling Jaya Performing Arts Centre (PJPac), located at 1 Utama E, in March.

“Due to the restrictions, the uncertainty of the duration of the MCO and also the uncertainty of post-MCO restrictions, it has affected not only the construction but also the planning of our month-long opening festival itinerary, ” says Brian Kwan, PJPac’s theatre manager.

Instant Cafe Theatre’s (ICT) twice-postponed show And Then Came Spring, a collaboration with refugee theatre company Parastoo Theatre, has to be shelved yet again.

“It will have to be rewritten in parts as some actors can no longer commit, ” says Jo Kukathas, ICT’s co-founder.

Despite no rehearsals and theatre recordings during the MCO, Cloudtheatre co-founder Dennis Lee feels virtual theatre is still a viable option as performers can work remotely.

“I feel like the latest MCO is a necessary step to combat the current Covid-19 situation in the country. Although no filming is allowed during this period of time, it doesn’t mean that no content can be created. It just means people have to be more creative.

“For example, Ratatouille The Musical was created by collaborators around the world from their home.

“Besides, we are hopeful for CloudTheatre as we are in talks with a few international producers to bring in more international theatre shows to the Malaysian theatre scene.

“One particular interesting one would be a show that requires the audience to put on headphones and be in their own bedroom to let the music and narration immerse them in an imaginary space, ” said Lee.

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