Theatresauce’s fascinating, attractive debut strikes a chord, marking the arrival of even more hope in Malaysian theatre.
Written by Sophocles | Translated by Anne Carson | Directed by Kelvin Wong
Starring Abdul Qahar Aqilah, Dawn Cheong, Claudia Low, Alfred Loh, Amanda Ang, Farah Rani, Gregory Sze, Oliver Johanan, Brian Chan & Andrew Wood
Seen that newly-erected placard off the highway by Angkasapuri? Promising allegiance to a leader whose leadership and credibility has been wrecked by corruption, the blood-red sign reeks intimidation. It brought us hurtling back towards Theatresauce‘s Antigone, the highly-anticipated production from a brand new collective helmed by Kelvin Wong.
What about Antigone?
Theatresauce makes its official debut with Anne Carson‘s translation of an ancient Greek tragedy. After Antigone’s brothers kill each other, her uncle Creon is made ruler. Creon however refuses her brother Polynices a proper burial. Antigone goes against his decree in order to save her brother’s dignity and abide by the laws of nature. Creon will have none of it, even if everyone around him insists its time for him to let go.
Theatresauce has injected a good degree of pizzazz into Antigone’s tale on top of casting some of Malaysia’s better-known theatre performers — Dawn Cheong holds the titular role, Creon is played by Abdul Qahar Aqilah, while Farah Rani commands a pivotal moment in the play. Employing a set comprising a platform and three boxes, much of the staging’s dystopian aesthetic comes from Tung Jit Yang‘s utilisation of fluorescent tubes and a single strobe light to illuminate the performing space.
What did we like?
Antigone is quite the spectacle due to its strong visual choices and references. Scenes transition with the three henchmen’s club choreography set to electronic dance music under a strobe; elsewhere the blind seer Teiresias storms into the room in her cursed form decked in a stylish black robe and aviators. Wearing modern, monochrome apparel, Antigone‘s high-energy cast largely push through, grappling, running and screaming for justice.
Parallels run deep between Sophocles’s original story and present-day Malaysia. In this ancient nation ruled by a once-respectable figure, citizens live in fear. People talk on the streets, but nobody makes a stand bar a few individuals — each guided by different motives and forces — who almost immediately suffer the consequences. Questions soon arise about the nature of human conviction and the concept of leadership. Who decides what is right and wrong? What pushes someone to change their beliefs? Is Creon really that bad of a guy? How did we ever assign so much control to a single human being?
Also notable is the production’s depiction of death. Adding to the original tale’s implication that dying is imminent and not to be feared, glittering confetti flow from wounds and is ritualistically scattered on the dead. On this stage, death is not only necessary, it’s a celebration.
What made us go errr…?
The play’s cold and clinical look is jarring when paired with its glitzy electronic dance transitions and strobe sequences. While these choices make the 70-minute performance a visually-engaging experience, their purpose are not immediately identifiable. Antigone‘s impressive lighting also creates too much noise in its execution — every time a light cue is activated, an audible click is heard. This becomes a distraction in a relatively intimate space as KLPAC‘s Indicine as there are a number of light cues.
The overall composition of the stage comes across heavy on either extreme depending on where one is seated. Antigone‘s committed, top-notch performers too can tend towards shouty and rambunctious as seen during opening night.
It’s as timely as timely gets! Antigone did not merely present an important, highly-relevant story that brought our collective plight to the forefront, but did so in a way that connects with the younger generation. Theatresauce’s vibrant debut signals great things to come from this smart, spirited collective so give them your support, and make sure to catch the play before it ends this Sunday.
Theatresauce‘s Antigone runs from 21 – 31 July at Indicine, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Tickets can be obtained through Ticketpro and are priced at RM45 and RM35 (concession). Look up the play on Facebook for more details!