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A moving play

It was at the field next to the 'Thief Market', on the junction of Armenian Street and Acheh Street, when the commotion happened. This wasn’t a typical scene in Penang. It was an experimental and spontaneous fringe play, "On! George Town", led by our own diverse group of local performers, who were ready to push the boundary of performing art.  
A fusion of contemporary dance, theater, story-telling, and music, the moving performance mixed script with improvisation. An artist sketched her impression of beautiful things in Penang.  The dancers played in a puddle of mud at the field (we’re speaking of die-hard artists here), while other performers interacted with the on-lookers, teasing them and inviting impromptu conversations.

The dancers brought a raw, vulnerable quality to their movement. They became part of the streets as they explored their relationship with the surroundings. From the bustling main road to a quiet back lane, every scene relayed fragment stories of the city through movements and mash-up music. 
The performers constantly challenged the passers-by to respond. Cars slowed down to watch. Some residents, mostly the older people from the neighborhood, were surprisingly willing to be part of the action.  They laughed along at the candid moments.

The performance was bursting with energy and fun, yet the heart of the play focused on issues concerning Penang - loss of clean water, heritage and culture, cleanliness, heavy traffic, unsustainable development, etc. Issues that the George Town community faces every day.

When the troupe finally arrived at its last stop, a vacant shophouse behind Prangin Canal, the mood changed. It was hard not to feel somber to be in a house in such a decrepit state. Only a small remnant of wood structure remained. A guitarist played and sang to everyone a familiar old Hokkien song about our old streets. As dusk fell, everyone lit up candles and sang along. The ending was heartfelt. Trust me, I was almost in tears.

Final thought - Fringe is a new concept in the performing art scene in this part of the world, so I was surprised to see such a progressive performance in Penang. Whether the audience is ready for this adventurous art is still a question, but what is most inspiring is that we already have the artists here to lead the wave.

{The photos are shared by Hun Meng of Panca Design & the B&W ones from Phin Oswald. Thanks guys!}


Shiu In said...

That was really nice, but too bad I didn't join till the end. Missed it :(
Anyway, nice to see your post here.

Reese said...

Thanks Shiu In. Really glad to hear from you. I believe Pearl (Penang Arts Link) will consider more initiatives like this after receiving all the positive feedbacks.