STORIES and experiences of living in Kuala Lumpur, that come from the perspectives of 10 actors, makes Riwayat an interesting offering come Thursday (Dec 8).
The experimental theatre idea of 26-year-old Tung Jit Yang arose from a simple desire to tell Malaysian stories.
The recent graduate of New York’s Tisch School of the Arts, Tung says he came back to KL “eager to make theatre for my home audience”.
Tung, born and raised in Petaling Jaya and KL, began doing theatre in high school at SMK Taman SEA. “I had wonderful drama and English teachers. Then I joined T4YP (Theatre for Young People), at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, where I met Chris (Ling) and got to work at KLPac with different directors and getting to write, act, design lights, and direct a few shows myself.”
He completed his bachelor degree in New York, and directed two shows before returning home. He chose to do a six-month residency with theatrethreesixty’s artistic director Ling, as “he has always been excited about the theatre and supportive of my work”.
“Theatrethreesixty has a great shoplot black box, and I knew that under Chris’ artistic directorship I could not only make the work I wanted to make but also learn heaps along the way. Theatrethreesixty has been making all kinds of theatre from Shakespeare to Beckett to experimental pieces to educating college and sekolah menengah kids. I feel it is a wonderful place to start and work.”
Tung finds the process of devising plays exciting.
“It starts of as a seed of an idea, or a question, or an urge to say something. But that’s it. Something invisible. Nothing on the stage yet. Nothing on the page. Just this invisible something.
“From there, getting other people in the room, as eager and excited to question or express, and seeing what comes up from it, makes me drawn to devising.
“Riwayat is devised by the ensemble, inspired by their memories, stories, experiences,” says Tung
“My point of departure was the ensemble and their stories. Specifically because we are all KL-ites, Malaysians, but within those similarities, there must be differences, complexities.
“This was the theme, I guess, people and their stories, their relationships to each other, to KL, to themselves.”
The ensemble has gone on excursions to reintroduce themselves to KL, to remind themselves, but also to see something new, something perhaps that goes unseen.
Says Tung: “The rehearsals consisted of sharing. We shared stories and memories. We explored the rain, the news story of the man who jumped off the Penang bridge accusing the kerajaan for being zalim. We’ve explored our childhoods, what we are going towards, what we are turning away from. Our traditions that we hold close to; our childhoods and its unseeming complexities I just kind of suggest where our exploring may begin.”
The ensemble is made up of theatre actors new and familiar, featuring Shane Capri Chin, Vinna Law, Alfred Loh, Claudia Low, Grace Ng, Nicole-Ann Thomas, Stephanie Van Dreisen.
Van Driesen is well-known for musical theatre. “I believe it’s important for any serious performing artist to keep expanding their skill in their craft. In this case, it’s challenging me to become a better actor.
“The best of actors in Hollywood and beyond are great because they never stop learning. You never get to a place where you know everything.
“In songs or musical theatre the material is already set, but in this case we get to be even more creative. Doing this play is really that,” says the 32-year-old actress of musical theatre Secret Life of Nora, one-woman show “Marilyn and me” and 16-bit Coriolanus fame.
On the excursions, she said the cast travelled to places around KL and surrounds to locations that meant something to them, and explored creating movement pieces and theatre segments from the memories or what these places evoked.
She says the experience “has been one of the most rewarding and intimate, where we have had the chance to be raw and real and create very interesting and odd theatre pieces that all work together as a whole”.
“We are the sum total of the choices we made and those we didn’t make. We can laugh or cry and regret, or we can move on. The full immersive theatre experience means audience interaction does happen and they become part of our storytelling. It’s very inclusive.
“I believe the audience will see a lot of themselves in our stories, and remember what is was like, and what isn’t working anymore now. It’s a crazy strange way to process life, but I think I can get addicted to this creative format –devised theatre/physical/ensemble theatre — and will be doing more in the future.”
Riwayat incorporates movement, music and text of multiple languages.
Van Driesen helped craft the sound track of the play. “We (she and everyone involved in Riwayat) explored many sounds and melodies and tones evoking the human experience as men, women, daughters, sisters, travellers, hungry ambitious devourers of dreams, etc. It’s very alive.
“All the sounds and songs you hear have been created by the cast and crew, we held acting-intentioned sound jam sessions before rehearsals and recorded the outcome as the sound track for which we lay out the entire piece.
“Every beat, sound, murmur, cry, is ours. We take full ownership of this piece. It’s really going to bring the audience along for the ride!”
When: Dec 8-11, 8.30pm
Where: theatrethreesixty@Tommy le Baker, Viva Residency, Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Kuala Lumpur
Available for purchase online at http://www.tixipro.com/theatrethreesixty/
** this is an excerpt of the article printed in the new straits times, dec 8, 2016