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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!}

ON! Georgetown: a FRINGE Live

Yes, George Town is an old town, but there are new and creative ways to experience this historic city.  Not convinced? We invite you to join a live and spontaneous play in the streets of George Town this Sunday.

ON! Georgetown is a street happening in a moving trail where performers lead the audience through selected parts of public and semi-public streets on the outskirts of the city center to tap on the energy, behavior and playfulness of George Town street life!

This initiative is led by Pearl (Penang Arts Link), formed by our own local performers as a collective contribution for George Town celebration.

DATE: 18(Sun) & 31(Sat) JULY 2010
Trail: Assemble at Lebuh Acheh - Kimberly - KOMTAR flyover - Lebuh Tek Soon
Time: 6.30pm - 8.00pm

For further information, please contact Aida Redza at 016-4905875 or aida.mohdredza@gmail.com, OR Kent Tan at 010-5207001, kenttcl@hotmail.com.

The collaborator from Pearl, Aida Redza is an independent Malaysian performer and choreographer. Aida advocates her artistic works towards social cause and community projects with focus on integration and inclusion. Her solo works are a visible example of tight bound tradition and deconstruction intertwining new dance and physical theater to create dynamic live performance.

Described as one of the most intense and controversial performer in Malaysia, she explores the relationship between dream, rebellious play and resistance, and revolution of sorts from the perspective of a Muslim woman.

You can read more about Aida's work here.