NEXT month at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC), there’s a debut production from brand new theatre collective Theatresauce, led by Kelvin Wong. Best part? It’s not going to be a Shakespeare 400 tie-in.
Boy, are we excited already!
Antigone was first staged in Greece four-hundred and forty-one years before years became a thing and people started counting them.
Written by Greek tragedian Sophocles (pronounced saw–fur-cleese), the play withstood time and society thanks to its strong themes, and is today more relevant than ever to Malaysians nationwide.
But wanna know why we’re so excited? Have a look at this quick list which more or less summarises the entire deal.
1. Alhamdullilah, it’s in modern English
How much do we stress this point? Just enough to make it #1 on our list.
After a barrage of Shakespeare at the theatre, its an immense relief that this staging of Antigone utilises contemporary English. Thank poet Anne Carson for having translated the entire piece for the stage with help from Tony Award-nominee Ivo van Hove.
Anne, a MacArthur and Guggenheim fellow, has a penchant for Greek text. She is known for her poetic works which frequently reference elements of Greek literature, such as the widely-acclaimed Autobiography of Red (1998) and her Griffin Poetry Prize winner Red Doc> (2013).
Her translation of Antigone first arrived in the form of Antigonick, a graphic novel which went on to nab the 2012 Criticos Prize.
Akin to the tragedy’s protagonist, Anne too lost her brother after he ran away from home in 1978. They spoke perhaps only six times between his disappearance and his unexpected death overseas in 2000.
What? The hashtag #WeAreAllTraitors seems strangely familiar? Might be your imagination but in any case, wanna know what Antigone‘s about?
Antigone takes place the day after a civil war. When her dead brother is decreed a traitor and his body is left unburied beyond the city walls, Antigone refuses to accept this most severe of punishments. She defies her uncle – the new ruler of the city – and forges ahead with a funeral alone. Antigone places personal allegiance over politics and unleashes a cycle of destruction her city will never forget. Is she wrong?
That’s right. Shit is real. Promising a “sleek world of suits, shades, glitter and electronic dance music”, the staging arrives at the perfect moment. Because Antigone raises some very important questions.
First, does standing up and fighting for one’s beliefs warrant the label of a traitor? And second, in our present world of constant stimuli bombardment, who or what dictates what is right and wrong? Is it tradition? A higher spiritual being? The party that governs? The majority? A certain class in society? Or is it… the internet and pop culture?
We trust to figure it out by the end of next month.
3. Dawn Cheong
If you haven’t seen Dawn Cheong in action, now’s the time.
Fans of film might remember her from In Between Floors and Festival Filem Malaysia-nominee Cuak, which also garnered her nods for Best Actress and Best New Actor. But did you know she’s a Toi Whakaari graduate who has even studied Butoh dance under the legendary Yoshito Ohno?
Indeed, Dawn is amazing on the stage, but off the stage she’s building a solid reputation as a playwright.
Her self-written piece Remnants of the Silk Maker’s Ghost scored her Best Play by a Woman Playwright as well as the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize at Playmarket‘s Adam NZ Play Awards.
We told you a little about her prior to Shakespeare’s Women, but here’s a brand new scoop: Dawn is currently working on creating an original piece, tentatively-titled Burning Women.
4. It’s quite literally a huge deal
This version of Antigone first premiered last year at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
It hasn’t been staged outside the United States ever, so Malaysians have the privilege of viewing the international premiere and it’ll also be having a proper two-week run — this won’t be one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it weekend stagings!
Director Kelvin Wong, who’s been stateside pursuing higher education, makes his debut with Theatresauce via the Greek classic. Kudos to him for having the balls — we suspect his Master of Fine Arts in Directing from DePaul University, Chicago may have something to do with it.
5. We’re hedging our bets on Theatresauce to make theatre great again
This new collective speared by Kelvin is downright terrifying. If the onstage ensemble — Amanda Ang, Abdul Qahar Aqilah, Dawn Cheong, Claudia Low, Oliver Johanan, Alfred Loh, Farah Rani and Gregory Sze — doesn’t frighten you with their capabilities, the production team might.
Aside from its aforementioned Founder and Artistic Director, Theatresauce also comprises actors Anrie Too (as Managing Director), Marina Tan (as Literary Manager) and Amanda Ang (head of Community Outreach) among others.
We see our local stages as transcendental spaces that are both personal and communal. What it needs are catchy, contemporary narratives that dig deep into our darkest of fears, most insane of ideas and the wildest of aspirations. These stories do not only confront our distant past as Malaysians, but challenge us to imagine and work toward a future we want to live in.
Sounds like an insanely organised and beautiful bunch? Claiming to speak in the language of today, these guys vow to pick their stories based on four core metrics: empathy, evolution, entertainment and discourse.
Here’s the promo image featuring Dawn Cheong one last time.
We’ll be back with more news soon. Until then make sure to like Theatresauce on Facebook and spread the word!
Antigone runs from 21 – 31 July at klpac’s Indicine. Tickets are RM45 for adults and RM35 for concessions (students, the disables, TAS Card members). Contact Amanda Ang at email@example.com for more information! Check the Facebook event page for more information!