Nations within the Ring of Fire have always boasted a rich variety of mythologies and folklore, giving rise to storytelling traditions that are still performed and curated until this day. Malaysia is one such country that has cultivated their stories and performed them in any number of ways you can think of, be it modern or mythical. In the spirit of upholding our heritage and showing off the more invisible parts of our culture, Impression City Melaka can now proudly say they’ve done their part through opening a world-class theatre, ENCORE Melaka.
In early June, this state-of-the-art theatre organised its first three private shows and invited 44 Melaka government schools to play audience and learn about Melaka’s history in a wonderfully theatrical setting. Its opening weekend also doubled as a fundraising event to support the Toh Puan Zurina Foundation. Locals know it as a haemodialysis centre that offers low income kidney patients affordable dialysis treatment. It made a whopping RM60,000 from its opening weekend alone, proving the arena a formidable force in the world of Malaysian theatre.
The students of schools like SJKC Ayer Keroh, SMK St. Francis, Pay Fong High School and SJKC Malim were lucky enough to be the first ones to experience the performances. Their contributions of RM10 each was a small price to pay as they sat in wonder at the phenomenal 70-minute long show, which exhibited a retelling of six centuries of Melaka’s history. The players exhibited this through a series of colourful song and dance numbers, extravagant costumes and exquisite set design which that made the experience so captivating to the senses.
One of the visionaries behind ENCORE Melaka, Datuk Wira Boo Kuang Loon who is also the CEO of Yong Tai Berhad has stated that, “ENCORE Melaka is more than just a show. It is here to inspire and support communities within Melaka.” He is joined by ENCORE’s Chief Director Wang Chaoge, one of the most acclaimed and innovative directors in China. As a pioneer of boundary-pushing performances all across her homeland, she is inspired by Melaka’s melting pot of cultural differences and considers it her duty to give this flavourful community a voice in theatre. The theatre also positions itself differently from other performing arts centers by including Dr Wong Kum Peng as their official Chinese calligrapher, whose work will no doubt have a heavy feature in the stage designs and visualization of each performance.
No doubt, the technological advancements of the theatre itself is significant in telling a compelling story of Melaka’s journey through history. As Asia’s largest theatre, it seats more than 2,000 people and its booming acoustic techniques ensure you never miss any part of the act. The Impression Series is an immersive visual and auditory experience that presents their performance through a blend of art production and intricate props and costumes. It’s art production is a 360-degree rotating auditorium with multiple stages and superb audio and lighting equipment that truly immerse audiences (the audience) in forgotten scenes in history. You are never made to feel like a passive watcher but instead, like an active member of the performance itself. Melakans are now able to connect back to our history by reliving each truly special moment of it.
What ENCORE Melaka proposes to do is not easy: bringing to life the stories of locals who have been a part of our most recent history. It is not easy to include tourists who do not understand the intricacies of Melakan history. But this is not a performance for everyone’s comfort. This is a story of history and as Malaysians, it is a story of our history as well. In a fusion of the traditional and the contemporary, Melaka’s legacy will be retold in new ways the theatre scene has never explored before.