Watch this Free Online Show To Support the Malaysian Performing Arts Scene: indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition

The coronavirus pandemic has affected many businesses and sectors – and with cancelled shows (going to theatres might be the last thing on people’s minds rn), the local performing arts scene has taken quite a hit.

Image courtesy of klpac

In support of those in the industry, indicinelive! (in-dee-SEE-nee-live) returns this year with a social-distancing compliant performance. Founded by Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) former director-in-residence Kelvin Wong, the show first premiered in 2010 and satirises the insane society we live in through a high-octane line-up of everyday characters, familiar situations and parodies of songs we’ve hard and are all too familiar with. It has played to packed houses in KL, Penang, Melaka, Kuching and Singapore since its inception.

indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition brings the show to audiences at home, and will be the very first show created for an online premiere by The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat (TAS STR) and The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac). This first ever ‘digital show’ packs in 75 minutes of fun and laughter with brand-new sketches, character satires and song parodies inspired by the pandemic, the recent political shift, and how we see the ‘new normal’ world.

It features a freshly sanitised cast comprising alumni – Anrie Too, Dinesh Kumar, Jad Hidhir, Kamini Senthilathiban, Siti Farrah Abdullah, and Tiara Anchant – along with the new kids on the block – Jon Chew, Nabilah Hamid, and Oxford Tong. They will be performing fun-sized sketches by Adriana Nordin Manan, Terence Toh, Tung Jit Yang and head writer, Uihua Cheah.

Rounding up the team are multimedia designers Coebar Abel and Sebastian Ng, sound designer Clarence Chua and Production / Stage Manager Benedict Chin. Audiences can also expect a few surprise guest performers during the livestream.

The show will be livestreamed on klpac’s Facebook page on the 12th of June (Friday) 9pm, and admission is free – although you can support the ongoing fundraising campaign for klpac and The Actors Studio via an interactive approach. With its theatres closed, klpac and The Actors Studio’s losses have already exceed RM1.1 million. While its recent #SaveYourSeat campaign has raised crucial funds for the next two months, klpac requires RM132,000 per month and The Actors Studio RM25,000 per month to stay afloat.

As part of its fundraising efforts, klpac is also running an e-greeting service called Send-A-Song (link) which packages your message with a song sung by a local artiste into a video and delivers it to your loved one’s phone for a fee of RM50 only. Whether it is a heartfelt message to our loved ones, to thank our front liners or just to cheer a friend up, this is a meaningful gift that will help to keep the arts alive, one song at a time. We can help to keep the arts alive and the theatres running!

Both indicinelive! Quaranstream Edition and Send-A-Song is run on a profit sharing basis with the artistes where they will receive a portion of the proceeds. For indicinelive! donations will be split between artistes, klpac and TAS.

The performance will span approximately 75 minutes including pre and post show engagements, and is strictly for mature audiences only. Direct links to the livestream and donation mechanism will be distributed via klpac and indicinelive!’s social media channels.

facebook.com/theklpac/

Sheer Wizardry: Watching The Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Play In Melbourne

When I was 11, I recall stumbling across a dog-eared book at my cousin’s place. On the cover was a flying blue car with two boys and an owl sandwiched in between. “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, the title said. I flipped it… and a whole new world of wonder and imagination opened up to me. Harry Potter and the wizarding world in which he inhabited and battled Lord Voldemort was the pinnacle of adventure for me. Needless to say, I secretly wished for a Hogwarts letter of my own!

When you grow up with a story and its characters, they become like friends. I anguished over Sirius’ death, rooted for Ron and Hermione to finally get together, and even years after the series ended, there is and always will be a special place in my heart (and bookcase) for the Harry Potter books. I was beyond excited when my editor told me I was going to Melbourne.. to watch the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play! It was literally a dream come true.

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is based on a story written by JK Rowling, together with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, who also directs. Melbourne is the third place in which the play has been staged since it made its debut on London and Broadway. Housed in the historic Princess Theatre in the city’s East End Theatre District, the building has been renovated exclusively for the play, and now includes beautiful themed fixtures including a giant nest at the entrance and various decorative elements within such as velvet red carpets with the Hogwarts sign, dragon-shaped lamps and more.

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The play is about six hours long (!) and is split into two parts, intended to be seen within the same day, or on two different nights. The excitement was palpable as we stood in line to enter the theatre, with people dressed in robes and their ‘house colours’ waving wands. The atmosphere was infectious. After having read the last HP book years ago (Sorry Fantastic Beast fans, not too keen on the films), I was looking forward to entering that magical wizarding world again, one that had so captured my imagination as a child.

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The theatre was packed. Even before the stage opened, we could see that the set and the pieces were amazing; soaring buttresses, clocks on the archway, movable staircases. Then the lights dimmed, a hush fell over the crowd… and the magic began.

Featuring a 35-strong Australian and New Zealand cast, the story picks up with an adult Harry, now an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, and a husband and father of three school-aged children. While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

It’s hard to describe in words how the play is like: it is definitely an experience that you have to see to believe. The way wands light up in the darkness, the way actors appear and disappear from seemingly thin air and how brooms soar up into the air. There were parts where the audience laughed, cried and gasped as one – and I with them.

There were several breakout performances, especially by William McKenna as Scorpius Malfoy, Albus’ Potter’s best friend (whom I think is the real hero of the story!). I was also mindblown by the clever use of set pieces, which truly came together to create ‘real magic’. One of my favourites was the scene where Dementors actually float towards the audience and you can see the slow fluttering of their sleeves – it felt like they were real and not just props! Another was when our young heroes Albus and Scorpius try to escape from a moving train and the scene featured a gigantic train set piece.

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Of course, Part 1 ended with a cliffhanger, and once the lights came on the hall immediately burst into a riot of voices, as everyone started talking about what they had just seen. If it were up to me I could have sat through another three hours of the play but I guess the actors have to take a rest too. 😛

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The motto for the play is Keep The Secrets – ie no spoilers, so that others may go into the play and experience the magic for themselves.

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As part of a media entourage, we were given an exclusive behind-the-scenes look into production before the play opened for its second night – and as you can see, there is a lot that goes into making it a success. What we see on stage for a couple of seconds is the result of months of careful planning, and perhaps hours of setting up.

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You can visit the theatre during the day to get some Harry Potter exclusive merchandise such as scarves in the Hogwarts house colours, wands and other souvenirs.

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I always thought that I would be a Ravenclaw (being bookish and all) but surprisingly, got sorted into Gryffindor on Pottermore. 😀

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People like a streak of the dark – the shirt with the Dark Mark was especially popular.

 

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The atmosphere was equally electric on the second night, as people now anticipated what the play had in store after the dramatic cliffhanger.

While I felt that the second part was as brilliant as it was the first, the climax that I anticipated never did come. It felt like last night’s cliffhanger was the climax, as opposed to the actual one in the second part. Still, the twist that came at the end was quite unexpected, and the play wrapped up on a high note.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play is definite must watch for Potterheads (heck, even non-Potterheads – although you do need a bit of a background knowledge of Harry’s world). Having it in Melbourne is an awesome idea, as it is the only one playing in the Southern hemisphere, making it more accessible to Potter fans who will not have to go all the way to North America or Europe. The play has taken up a two-year residency since early 2019, which means you will still have time to watch it until the end of 2020.

Tickets are available at harrypottertheplay.com/au/ticket-information/. 

 

 

 

Visiting REX KL – The Iconic Cinema Turned Creative Space In Kuala Lumpur

What do you do with a once iconic cinema that eventually turned into an abandoned eyesore in the middle of Kuala Lumpur? You give it a new lease of life – by turning it into a creative space for events and entrepreneurs.

Back in the 1970s, Rex Theatre, located close to KL’s Chinatown, was THE place to be. It operated for years before shutting down in the early 2000s, as people flocked to newer cinemas in glitzy malls, and ‘classic’ theatres, which did not have the facilities and technology to match, lost their appeal. The Rex Theatre was used as a backpacker’s hostel, low-cost housing and even an entertainment outlet, but the crumbling building was not well maintained, attracting drug users and unsavoury characters into its disused halls.

The old Rex Theatre. Image via Says.com and https://forum.lowyat.net/topic/3313616/all

It would have been easy to just bulldoze it down and build something new. After all, the old theatre was sitting on prime land that would be perfect for a shiny office building, another mall or whatnot. Instead, a project to revive the theatre, spearheaded by a group of architects, was put into motion, and REXKL opened its doors earlier this year as a space where entrepreneurs, small businesses and artists could meet, share and thrive.

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Went to check out the place over the long Malaysia Day weekend. Vestiges of its days as a cinema remain, such as the old fashioned tiled floors and signages, giving the space an air of nostalgia, while neon lights added to the retro vibe. On the ground floor, which sported an open layout, was a chic bar called Modern Madness Beer, an old-school barbershop and a cafe.

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Malaysia Day bazaar, with trendy outfits and flea market-esque clothing on sale.

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Hand made pottery

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Store selling various knick-knacks and curios, from camp equipment to traditional games

 

 

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We also bought a bottle of sugarcane tuak, a traditional fermented rice wine drink commonly enjoyed by the people of Sarawak. Although no sugar was added, the concoction was naturally sweet, with an alcohol level of about 10 percent.

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Moving on to the first floor, there were shops selling beautiful arts and crafts, such as bowls, handwoven items, bags, jewellery and souvenirs.

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A store selling items many of us growing up in the 1990s and before would recognise – tiffin carriers for food, vinyls, casettes, snow globes (do people still buy them these days?), paper weights, pen holders, and more.

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Spot Mr Pricklepants!

 

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Up on the second floor, we met Mr Lam Ching Fu, author of the book My Journey By Bus, in which he documents his journeys by bus around several states in Northern Peninsular Malaysia. The book is a fascinating insight into the characters he meets and his observations of the towns and places he visited, many of which are off the beaten path. The book is available in Chinese and English.

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A collection of Lam’s beautiful photos, mostly depicting scenes in small towns

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The bus tickets Lam accumulated on his journey

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Also on the second floor was the main theatre which has now been converted into an events/concert space. The hall was intentionally left looking unfinished, with a massive brick wall, age-darkened concrete and exposed skylights to give it that industrial, ‘abandoned’ vibe. REX KL regularly hosts bloc parties and music shows in this space, so visitors can keep updated via their Facebook Page. 

REX KL 

Jalan Sultan, 55000 Kuala Lumpur

Open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 AM – late

Why You Shouldn’t Miss The Ramayana Ballet @ Prambanan, Yogyakarta

If you’re big on culture and the arts, then the Ramayana Ballet @ Prambanan is a MUST-SEE when visiting Yogyakarta in Indonesia.  A unique blend of Javanese dance and Hindu mythology, the performance is based on the Hindu epic Ramayana – and chronicles the tale of Rama, the Hindu prince on a quest to save his wife Sita from the clutches of an evil demon king. The show is held in an open-air amphitheatre against a gorgeous backdrop of the Prambanan Hindu temple – a UNESCO World Heritage site – which adds to the mystery and exotic allure of the entire performance.

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The majestic Prambanan temple complex dates back to the 9th century and is dedicated to Trimurti, the expression of God as the Creator, the Preserver and the Transformer (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). There are hundreds of smaller shrines within the compound, but the main one towers over 47 metres into the air and features intricate reliefs and carvings – one of which is the epic Ramayana, of which the ballet is based on.

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The 2-hour show is divided into two parts, with an intermission. Although it doesn’t have dialogue, there are screens explaining the ‘scene’ on both sides of the amphitheatre.

The massive production features over 200 actors, all of whom are skilled in the art of Javanese dance, which emphasises precise yet graceful movements that are spellbinding to watch.

Video: 

Synopsis: 

The story starts with Rama Wijaya, the prince of Ayodya Kingdom, winning the hand of a beautiful princess named Dewi Sita, through an archery competition. However, the evil ruler of Alengkadiraja, Prabu Rawana, is eager to marry Sita himself. The scene transitions to Dandaka Forest, where Rama, Sita and Rama’s younger brother, Laksmana, are out on an adventure. Rawana sees this as the perfect chance to capture Sita, so he orders one of his followers to change into a golden deer to attract her attention. Sita is awed by its beauty and asks Rama to catch it, which he obliges. After waiting for a long time, she grows worried and begs Laksmana to look for him. Before leaving, he draws a magic circle to protect her. As soon as she is left alone, Rawana disguises himself as a beggar and lures the innocent, kind Sita out before capturing her and flying off to his own kingdom.

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Rama eventually realises he has been tricked when the deer transforms back into an evil giant. He manages to kill it, and upon rushing back, realises that Sita has gone missing. The brothers set off to search for her.

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Meanwhile, Rawana carrying Sita meets a mystical bird, Jatayu, who realises she is being kidnapped. There is a fight to save her but ultimately, the bird falls prey to the demon king. As he lay dying, the brothers arrive and find out that it is Rawana who has spirited Sita away.

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Moments later, a white monkey named Hanuman arrives. Hanuman is searching for heroes to help kill Subali, a member of his tribe who has taken his uncle’s woman by force. Rama decides to help, and after helping the monkey kingdom solve their problems, Hanuman is sent to help Rama in his quest.

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In the kingdom of Alengka, Sita is being held against her will. Rawana’s niece, Trijata, comes to comfort her in the garden. Rawana arrives and asks Sita to be his wife, which she refuses. This drives him into a fit of rage, but Trijata convinces him to spare her, after which he leaves. As Sita laments her predicament, she hears a song sung by Hanuman, who explains that he is there on the orders of her husband. Hanuman destroys the garden, but is no match for Rawana’s son Indrajit, who captures him and sentences him to be burnt alive.

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Just before Hanuman is set on fire, he escapes and turns the tide, burning down the kingdom.

(This was one of my favourite scenes in the production! The actors were using real fire, and even seated at a distance, I could feel the heat coming from the stage)

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A large statue of Hanuman rising up from back stage, flanked by burning ‘buildings’ (straw structures that represented houses)

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Hanuman makes his way just outside the burning kingdom, where Rama and the rest of the ape troops are waiting. After receiving the report on troop strength, Rama commands Hanuman and other monkey generals to lead the troop on an attack on the kingdom of Alengka.

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The war results in the deaths of both Rawana’s son, Indarjit, and his younger brother Kumbakarna. Rawana finally leads his troops to face Rama and a battle ensues. Of course, the hero triumphs, killing the evil demon king with an arrow, before Hanuman drops a mountain (yes, a mountain – Mount Sumawana) on Rawana’s body.

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Sita is finally rescued, but Rama refuses to accept her (kinda lol since he came all this way to save her and all, wut) until she proves her purity. To show her innocence, Sita burns herself, and with the help of the God of Fire, walks out unscathed. Her proof makes Rama happy and the pair lived happily ever after.

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I was truly awed by the grace and beauty of the dance, as well as how they recreated the Ramayana epic into such a mesmerising show. It’s something I admire greatly in Indonesia – they work hard to protect their culture and keep it alive, unlike in Malaysia where rising religious conservatism has resulted in some authorities ‘banning’ traditional arts, deeming them “against religion” (like the Mak Yong in Kelantan, a pre-Islamic Malay dance).  A majority of Yogyakartans are Muslim, and they have two of the grandest ancient Buddhist and Hindu monuments in Southeast Asia, which are well maintained and kept as national treasures. I believe carrying on tradition and being proud of your heritage has no bearing on what you believe in, if you are truly a follower of the faith.

The Ramayana Ballet at Prambanan is held every alternate day. Tickets start from 125,000 IDR (RM35 – USD8 ) USD to 400,000 IDR (RM113 – USD27) depending on seating.

For the full schedule and to make reservations, go to visitramayana.com  

 

*Photos not watermarked are courtesy of PT Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur

Kuala Lumpur Events in September – Diversecity 2017: An International Art Festival

Celebrate and explore Malaysia’s vibrant arts and culture scene at Diversecity 2017, an international arts festival held annually in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Happening throughout the month of September, visitors can expect a showcase of over 50 local and international acts across genres such as dance, music, visual arts, the arts and more at venues all around the capital.

Entranced: An Evening with a Ghost

For lovers of dance and movement, enjoy an ethereal performance with Entranced: An Evening with a Ghost, which marries contemporary Southeast Asian trance-rituals with traditional Japanese Noh drama. The haunting showcase cleverly weaves together different elements such as dance, installations, visuals, sounds and vocals for a truly spectacular treat for all the senses.

There’s also the legendary Boy Story from Hong Kong, a classic which was first performed in 1996. Now, 21 years later, watch as the cast who have turned from teens to uncles and fathers reunite to bring audiences on a trip down memory lane.

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Traditional Malay ‘Zapin’ dance
Che Malambo

For the first time ever in Malaysia, Argentinian all-male dance sensation Che Malambo will be bringing their energetic, fiery performances to the stage. This will be a good time for Malaysians and international visitors alike to see them performing the traditional South American Malambo, which is characterised by a blend of precision footwork, rhythmic stomping, drum beats and song.

On the music front, Diversecity offers a wonderful mix this year, be it band ensembles or classical music and traditional instruments. Highlights include the Once Upon a Time by string quartet 16 Strings and the critically acclaimed Sachal Ensemble, who will be making their debut in Malaysia at the festival. Known for their one-of-a-kind take on iconic songs from bands and singers such as The Beatles, the talented musicians blend Western instruments such as violins with traditional Pakistani ones. The result is as enchanting as it is unique, and will surely have audience members tapping their foot and bobbing their heads to the hypnotic rhythms.

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Back by popular demand, playwright, comedian and actor Wolfe Bowart will be making an appearance with ‘Letter’s End’, featuring his signature physical comedy, illusion, shadow puppetry and interactive film which is sure to tickle and wow audiences of all ages.

 

The young ones are not left out as there will be performances such as The Breath of Dragons and Bon Voyage!(above), performed at the Kereta Api Tanah Melayu Berhad platform.

 

Other activities in the lineup include art exhibitions, poetry readings, literature activities and more. Events are either ticketed or free. For the full festival line up and ticket purchases, visit http://www.diversecity.my. 

Breath of Dragons

 

*Photos courtesy of DiverseCity.

Love Story the Musical : Live in KL @ the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre

 

Hey guys! So I was recently invited to the opening night of Love Story: The Musical, happening from now til 18 June at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Not my first time at a musical, but I thought it’d be a good idea to bring B along since he’s never been to one before! 🙂 I’ve also never been to KLPAC, even though I know it’s like THE place for the performing arts in Malaysia.

B and I got to the place early. Located in Sentul within a gated and guarded park area, the centre was opened in 2005 – but the building itself has impressive history dating back to the 1800s, formerly housing a wood-crafting workshop, a sawmill, a railway depot and workshop. At the end of WWII it was bombed but rebuilt and made into a golf clubhouse before being abandoned in the 1990s.Today, the remodeled building houses glass windows on the front.

Entering the spacious, high-ceilinged interior, we were greeted by an open space with stairs on the right leading up to the second floor. Posters of plays, dance performances and music shows were plastered on the pillars, and at the back was a mini library with a space for ongoing art exhibitions. Under the staircase area was a chic cafe called Espressolab, where B and I had some drinks since the show wasn’t due to start in an hour.

Posters of ongoing and upcoming shows on the notice board.

Show that we watched that night!

I’m sure everyone has either seen or heard of this movie from 1970, based on the acclaimed novel by Erich Segal. Even if you haven’t, you would know the popular song “Where Do I Begin”, the film’s instrumental theme (which also seemed to be a favourite tune of music boxes lol). The story was then adapted into a musical in 2010, with the script written by Stephen Clark and music by Howard Goodall. It enjoyed successful runs in UK and the US, and now, luckily for us, has been brought to Malaysia for the very first time!

View from the staircase.

Mini library with books donated from the public.


At 8.30PM, we entered the theatre, which looked like an auditorium with colourful seats. There was a small screen at the top which ran subtitles.

As photography wasn’t allowed during the show, I only took two photos of the before and during the intermission.

The play tells of a rich, spoiled boy, Oliver Barrett, and poor music student Jennifer Cavilleri, whose paths cross in the most unlikely way. They eventually marry against Oliver’s family’s wishes, and Jennifer gives up her lifelong dream of a scholarship in Paris in order to put Oliver through law school. He eventually graduates, lands himself a job and the happy couple move to New York to start their new life together. But as usual, fate has other plans…

(SPOILER) As far as it goes, it was a great play and I enjoyed it, although personally I don’t like watching sad plays or movies :/

The actors were good at conveying their emotions, especially Joshua Gui, the lead actor who plays Oliver Barrett, and Michelle Tan, who plays Jennifer Cavelleri. Both had awesome stamina; having to run around the stage, dance, sing and also convey emotion is no mean feat. I really admire the production crew and the speed in which they changed the sets around – basically after every scene, they had to rush out and spin/move the huge sets around and have them in place within seconds. The songs were also really great with nice melodies and meaningful lyrics, from the upbeat ‘Pasta’ and ‘Summer’s Day‘ to the haunting What Can You Say. 

The play is produced by Dama Asia, which has a long history of staging theatrical shows and musicals in Malaysia.

Showtimes:

  • 16 June – 8.30PM
  • 17 June – 3PM & 8.30PM
  • 18 June – 3PM

Ticket prices start from RM65 on Friday evening and Saturday Matinee, and RM85 for Saturday evening and Sunday Matinee.

More info on http://www.dama.asia, or call 03-4047 9000 (KLPAC) / 03 7880 7999 (Ticketpro).

Mud the Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I went for the Escape the Fate concert in KL? Well, I was stuck in evening traffic in front of the old Panggung Bandaraya for a good half an hour, so there was plenty of time to look at the big MUD The Musical: The Story of Kuala Lumpur signs they had plastered all over the building. Turns out, the place houses the longest running musical in KL, which has been on for the past two years! How the actors don’t go crazy, singing the same songs every day, is beyond me. 😀

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Evelyn and I went to check it out over the weekend. The theatre is just next to the Sultan Abdul Samad Building facing Merdeka Square. Even if you’re not coming here for the musical, the building is a nice place to take photos. Opened in 1901 (making it well over a hundred years old!), its Mughal-inspired look features a unique carved facade, with brown bricks, white framed windows and a copper dome. Before it was converted into a performing arts centre, it was the first official administration office for the Kuala Lumpur Sanitary Board. 

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The inside retains a European-colonial heritage, from the opulent chandelier to marble tiled floors ,  but with a distinctly local flavour. The stained glass windows, for example, have figures of Malay and Indian characters rather than the usual angels or saints. 
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Tickets are priced at RM50 for Malaysians, and RM80 for foreigners.

The theater is big and can easily seat up to 200 people. Sadly, during our visit, there were only 11 people .__.

Did a short video. Unlike other musicals, which prohibit photography and videography, they encourage it here so feel free to snap and take lots of pictures and vids! 🙂 (PS: 2021 edit: Apparently things have changed – my video on Youtube got a copyright strike from Enfiniti, the company that owns the production. Kind of a bummer that they said it was okay to film and upload, but then changed their policy later. Would have been nice to receive a message coz I would have taken it down, instead of getting a copyright strike immediately.) 

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The story is set in the 1880s, when Kuala Lumpur was nothing more than a small village. If you’re wondering about the title Mud, that’s because KL stands for ‘muddy confluence’ in Malay, being the central point where two rivers – Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang – converge together. Immigrant populations from all over Asia came with the promise of tin riches, and this is reflected in the diverse cast of characters.

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Mamat, Meng and Muthiah are the three central characters and childhood friends who came to KL in search of a better life. Through their tale, the audience is introduced to a host of other personalities, each with their own enduring stories. Mamat, newly married and expecting his first child, is the mail boy for the British administration, while Meng and Muthiah, who recently arrived from their villages, are searching for jobs. Muthiah, who was promised a job building the railway, searches in vain for ‘relatives’ whom he has paid a price for passage to KL.

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Meng, on the other hand, lands a job at the Ampang tin mine, run by a wealthy Chinese tycoon. But work is hard and troubles are afoot. The mines are dangerous, and they are raided often by rival factions as the Chinese triads in KL fight for power and influence.

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Meng and Mamat meet up again at the marketplace, where they find a disheveled looking Muthiah, adamant that his relatives will come to his rescue. Unable to face his friends, he runs away. Leaving him to cool his heels, Meng and Mamat adjourn to the village to celebrate the birth of Mamat’s child.

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The ‘kenduri’ scene, where all the characters gather for the celebration, gets points for audience interaction 🙂 They roped Evelyn and another member onto stage to ‘help’ out – Evelyn was given the task of stirring the communal wok 😀

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Meanwhile, Muthiah finds solace at a nearby temple. The backdrop, which first showed a stone statue of a goddess, eventually transformed into a real person and Muthiah starts dancing, seeking for spiritual guidance. This was one of my favourite parts of the show. Contemporary dance is difficult, but the actor who played Muthiah delivered it extremely well – fluid and full of expression. One could feel the character’s hopelessness and desperation in every movement.

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Tragedy strikes with The Great Fire of KL in 1881, where the entire town and its wooden houses was razed to the ground.

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Despondent villagers, resigned to their fate that they have lost their homes and belongings, the life they tried so hard to build.

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As if that wasn’t enough, later that same year, torrential rains caused a massive flooding in KL, resulting in more damage to property and crops.

The flooding scene (which I, unfortunately, didn’t manage to capture on video!) had a huge ‘wave’ crashing down onto the audience members – made from a large cloth tapestry that ran over the seats from one end of the hall to another. The effect was really good!

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At their wits end, the villagers almost pack up and leave… but of course, if they had, we wouldn’t have KL today, would we? 🙂 Persevering, they vow to continue rebuilding the town they have come to call home.

Credited with improving Kuala Lumpur is the British Resident, Frank Swettenham (Malaysia/then Malaya was under British rule, so the different states had an assigned BR, who oversaw stuff). After the flood and fire, he began the clean up of the streets, and stipulated that buildings should be made from brick and tile to make them less flammable. He also ordered wider streets to be built. This programme took about five years. The rich Chinese tycoon, Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, set up a brick industry to help rebuild KL, and the buildings were subsequently replaced with proper brick and tiles, but with Chinese carpentry and influences. This is why you’ll only find the eclectic ‘colonial shophouse’ architecture in Malaysia and Singapore.

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The final scene had the cast performing a very uplifting number dubbed Tomorrow Begins Today – dressed in costumes from all the different ethnic groups in Malaysia. They even had all of us go up on stage and dance the final number, before we took a group picture! 🙂

It was truly a fun and eye-opening experience, and I’m glad I went to check MUD out. The cast is excellent: from the way they perform, and how much heart and soul they put into it, you’d never guess this was probably their 502837 time performing. 🙂 The songs are good, although at times ,the dialogue and the Malaysian accent shines through, so some parts may be difficult to understand for foreign audiences not used to our local slang.

The props are also well done, like the cardboard ‘kampung house’ during the Kenduri scene, the umbrellas during the flooding scene, etc. Costumes are elaborately done and accurate.

It’s pretty sad that more people didn’t turn up for the show,despite it being a weekend. I bet there are some days where they only had one or two audience members (!) Such talent and quality should not be wasted. They really should look into better marketing, because prior to stumbling on the site while driving in KL, I had never heard of Mud KL.

The show runs twice daily at 3PM and 8.30PM. More info at mudkl.com

MUD KL : The Story of Kuala Lumpur

Panggung Bandaraya, Jalan Raja, Dataran Merdeka, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Phone: +603 2602 3335

Getting There 

By LRT: via Ampang or Kelana Jaya LRT line. Get off at Masjid Jamek station. The theatre is a 5min walk away.

Hop On Hop Off: Stop 17 at Dataran Merdeka

Driving: Parking at Dataran Merdeka Underground.