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Best of 2015: Performing Arts (Editor’s Choice)
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Best of 2015: Performing Arts (Editor’s Choice)

by The Daily SeniDecember 30, 2015

What a year it’s been, folks.

The Daily Seni in 2015 made an effort to spend more time indulging in local performing arts. We began by telling people to watch the performances we thought deserved your precious, rapidly-devaluing RMs throughout the year.

Along the way, we managed to review theatre, musicals, comedy, and even dance; it’s been a steep learning curve but one we aspire to continue hiking. For the times we’ve got things wrong (sorry Joe Hasham, the follies of Taste of Water was in fact not your doing!) we sincerely apologise and promise to keep on learning.

Due to our efforts, we got to experience the highs and lows of local talent. We’re glad to say however that we were mostly touched (at times even overwhelmed) by the passion and creativity that Malaysians have to offer on the stage,

These are five of our favourite performances from 2015 in no particular order, with excerpts from accompanying reviews from our editor.


Jalan Primadona

The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat
16 – 20 December | Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

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Zamzuriah does silat with her husband, Kamarul Baisah. Image by Ridzuan Rashid.

Still fresh in our minds is one-woman musical monodrama Jalan Primadona, which took to KLPAC recently. With her son, husband, and his accompanying family members supporting her on stage, Zamzuriah Zahari was the only woman under the spotlight in this self-written and self-directed semi-autobiographical depiction of an artist’s life and struggle with spirituality.

National Arts Awards recipient Zamzuriah Zahari does not hold back in Jalan Primadona. […] Much like how Saidah Rastam‘s experience, talent and bond to the nation culminated in Khazanah Nasional Berhad‘s Malam Terang Bulan last month, Zamzuriah’s Jalan Primadona is a proud and daring declaration of her love for art.

Nothing Can Stop This Prima Donna, Except Maybe God

Jalan Primadona was meant to be Zamzuriah Zahari’s last performance on the stage, but we surely hope not — who knows what this 33-year old lecturer at the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (ASWARA) is capable of in the future if she continues at this rate?

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Zamzuriah’s son, Kamarul Baihaqi joined her onstage. Image by Ridzuan Rashid.


Love & Information

Theatrethreesixty
25 – 29 March | The Jewel, Damansara Performing Arts Centre

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Left to right: Tika Mu’tamir, Stefanie Paulus and Carmen Liao. Image by Alex Chua.

This immersive staging of Caryl Churchill‘s bizarre play had a somewhat polarising effect on audiences. Some were lost in the madness — which took place about an incomplete office floor — while others were blown away by its non-linear structure and random nature.

[…] Love and Information is one that rewards viewers who don’t give up in trying to understand. It’s an exploration; an adventure; a journey through fragments and memories that all bear their own effect and meaning, however small or big. By taking this Caryl Churchill play and treating each scene as a component of a kaleidoscope, Christopher Ling and his band of beautiful actors have created something extraordinary not to be missed.

As you can tell, we belong to the latter camp, having developed new beliefs and woken up from strange dreams after watching this particular play. Despite top-notch subsequent productions, Love & Information remains, for us, Theatrethreesixty‘s quintessential 2015 staging thanks to its devotion to new ideas outside the black box theatre.

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Left to right: Sheila Wyatt-Beggs, Hannan Azlan and Nabil Zakaria. Image by Alex Chua.


Kenduri

Lighters
5 – 6 December | Teh Tarik Place, Shah Alam

Coming out from nowhere was this interactive, site-specific performance which pitted audience members against some difficult people — the sort of guests you’ll meet at your typical kenduri.

Set in a cordoned-off section of Teh Tarik Place in Seksyen 7, Kenduri went as far as to include complimentary (and exceptionally tasty) mihun goreng and sirap for guests.

Tucked inside Teh Tarik Place is a kenduri kahwin. Image by @LightersOfficial.

At the venue, attendees were escorted to one of four tables — each came with a family member of the bride or groom, who rotate between tables. All the while, wedding planner and makcik Mak Cah fuss about making sure things go smoothly.

We started off on particularly harsh terms with Yusof, a young man who obsessed over a woman’s subservience. Half an hour in, we’ve gone through his passive hostage of a wife, Shikin, and the black sheep of the kenduri: modern Malay woman Ireena who harbours some secrets of her own.

Soon enough, Mak Cah — who has been hovering about tables — loses her shit and starts accusing her relatives of zina and mengangkang.

As you can see, we don’t have a review of this one yet, so we’re doing it here.

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Happy guests sit with Datin Mashitah (in red). Image by @LightersOfficial.

Kenduri may seem set in a bizarre universe in which its loud, determined characters acknowledge the misery of having to nikah in a venue like Teh Tarik Place, but it doesn’t take long until viewers realise things aren’t that far-fetched after all.

Thanks to the level of sheer commitment displayed by its mostly-unknown batch of actors (praise must go to Tengku Suhaila who gave Mak Cah a frightening ferociousness during our attendance), Kenduri gave audiences an experience of a lifetime as they mingled through a crossfire of messy breakdowns and a whole lot of family fracas.


Tepak Tari

MyDance Alliance
3 – 5 September | Auditorium DBKL

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A moment from Sum to SUM. Image by James Quah Dance Photography.

A star-studded bill of choreographers and performers didn’t clue us into what to expect from Tepak Tari, a smorgasbord of dance styles curated by Bilqis Hijjas. The first dance performance we caught in 2015 (yes, we don’t have a particularly rich history of attending dance events) also happened to be one of our most memorable performing arts moments of the year.

If Tepak Tari has done one more thing for us at The Daily Seni, it’s that it has reinforced our trust in Malaysian talent and opened our eyes to the abundance of hardworking, intelligent people who make art for a living. These are world-class goods on the stage — people who really seem to know what they’re doing and they’re doing it quite well, if we may say so.

Tepak Tari Has Just Dazzled Us Into Becoming Fans of Contemporised Traditional Dance

As you can tell based on the review, our editor was slightly overwhelmed by this performance. In splashes of light and colour across various tempos, Tepak Tari made us take serious note of the Malaysian dance scene.

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Raziman Sarbini choreographed closing number Dikir. Image by James Quah Dance Photography.


Malam Terang Bulan

Khazanah Nasional Berhad
20 – 22 November | Dewan Filharmonik PETRONAS

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Chacko Vadaketh, Zamzuriah Zahari and Zahim Albakri help the people sing Saiful Bahri’s “Berjaya”.

Right off the bat, we knew Malam Terang Bulan was going to be a shoo-in for EOY lists. No surprise then that it managed to make Star2‘s top five of the year. This extremely special show brought Malaysians closer to their land in a one-of-a-kind lecture-concert hybrid backed by a full-blown orchestra.

[…] Malam Terang Bulan returned to us visions of illustrious times, an era when intelligent, charming men led an exciting, fertile land to its independence. The impact Saidah and company have created warrants an encore, if only that it may reach a bigger audience. Whether the cast have the stamina to meet potential demand remains to be seen.

What Else Is There To Say About Malam Terang Bulan?

Malam Terang Bulan was one of rare few ventures by Khazanah Nasional Berhad into the performing arts, and we sincerely hope it signified greater things to come from the government investment body.

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With some help from the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, Zahim and Chacko brought us through our musical heritage.

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The Daily Seni delivers news on local arts and culture, aiming to provide insight into Malaysia's ever-growing creative community as well as provoke thought and discussion.
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