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The ‘OPIUM’ experience: 3 things to expect from HANDS Percussion’s first site-specific production

THIS is HANDS Percussion’s first site-specific production. But what does it really mean?

When Bernard Goh explored Paris on foot, he discovered many little delights along the way – quaint cafes, little art galleries and shops. It was a delightful adventure for him, and its something he is hoping to emulate with OPIUM at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC) this week.

In order to recreate that sense of wonder as you walk from one breathtaking site to the next, HANDS will be presenting three performances happening simultaneously!

But not to worry, you won’t miss any of it. Audiences will watch the first piece together, then split into two groups to watch another two pieces. In the end, everyone comes together for the finale.

 To entice you further, below are exclusive, brief descriptions of what you will see and hear in OPIUM.

“Drumbeat of Pain”

Pain and grief — especially over the loss of a loved one — can be intense and overwhelming, like the courage and strength required to carry on afterwards. Regret should play no part in the process.

Live for the moment with laughter and love; choose acceptance, not judgment. There is only one life, seize every opportunity. Allow the pain to strengthen you. Follow the beat of the drums, let the rhythm carry your pain away on a journey of letting go and carrying on.

This arc of OPIUM will present French singer-songwriter Mathilde Limal singing her own composition with nine HANDS 2 drummers, Florian Antier on cello, Azli Taslim on accordion (adding to the French feel), and live calligraphy by Ong Chia Koon.

“Fake Freedom”

As we observe life, what are we looking for? Will it get us closer to being ‘free’? What are we trying to achieve? What does each of us want to be? How do we deal with conflicts?

In order to get closer to being who he wants to be, there needs to be a change of heart. Conflict between our desire for freedom and what we think we are capable of, makes us question if freedom is real or even possible.

OPIUM also features a pure movement piece choreographed by Wong Jyh Shyong. Here, two “glass houses” depict two contrasting aspects of modern living — the humdrum of daily life, and sculptures in a museum. Who’s watching who?

13781694_1062431987126292_8695954361242407997_nMusic is courtesy of Ng Siu Yee, who will be joined by HANDS’s principal Jimmy Ch’ng, and Howz on the ruan (Chinese moon guitar), as well as HANDS 1 members Tai Chun Wai, Tee Wee Lin, Jack Wan, Leong Kah Miu, and Tee Leong Hoe.

“Tunnel of Memories”

The third arc of OPIUM revolves around Bernard’s memories when he was growing up in Seremban — La Vie En Rose, the Eiffel Tower poster, the smell of opium… It is a place he goes to take refuge; it guides him.

It is now I understand what’s imperfect
Me, my canvas
No regrets, that I am now complete
I share this
Only with you.

Bernard takes the mic for this segment, joined by Yuan Leow Yunn on piano and Gideon Alu8khan Chen on guitar. The performance will be set to a video projection on a paper installation by Anne Deguerry. On top of this, there will be an art installation by Joe Chia, as well as a mural painting by Ikuwasi.


Every artist involved in OPIUM will come together with the HANDS Gamelan Ensemble to perform the ending — expect more live calligraphy by Ong Chia Koon as well as art installations by Muji Lee and Anne Deguerry.


Let’s hope the gods will be kind in this rainy season and give us dry evenings so that we can all enjoy these performances to their fullest. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes as there will be some amount of walking to be done as we go from site to site. Bringing a raincoat might not be a bad idea too – just in case!

HANDS Percussion presents Opium at the DPAC Arts Festival from 26 – 31 July 2016. Written by Swee Chin Pan and edited by The Daily Seni.

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