‘Tai Ji Tua Teow’: Penang-originated Hokkien musical drama gets KL staging

A play anchored to a big problem.

The Penang-originated story of Tai Ji Tua Teow is an original musical drama written in Hokkien (Photo: ZXC Theatre Troupe)

A Penang lang would tell you that a tua tai ji (literally, matter that causes major distress) would rouse a song and dance fuelled by suspicion and speculation. That is the fun part of Tai Ji Tua Teow, an original Hokkien musical drama that is showing at Kotak @ Five Arts Centre from Feb 22 to 24. On a quieter note, it draws you into the turmoil bubbling in the minds of a bar girl, a fishmonger and a student.

The trio bump into each other in an alley every afternoon.  Nancy (Ho Sheau Fung)  dreams of marrying someone who will give her diamonds and take good care of her. Beh Hu Beng (Chen Fook Meng ) blames fate for his luckless life and wants to strike it rich. Ah Boy (Loe Jia Xiang), missing maternal attention, finds solace in video games.  

The musical is directed by Penang-based Chee Sek Thim (third from left). Photo: ZXC Theatre Troupe

They would have continued ontheir daily routines, dreaming, cursing and craving if not for a gruesome discovery – a severed hand. The limb grips them, shakes them out of their reveries and goads them into doing something to change their lives.

Penang Hokkien lends itself to the physicality of Tai Ji Tua Teow (The Big Murder Mystery in English) because the dialect evokes visual images that enhance the telling of this story, written and directed by Chee Sek Thim. Spoken fluently by the versatile cast, it whisks you to a place where some folks pin their hopes on make-believe, games and little pieces of paper filled with four digits.


'Tai Ji Tua Teow' is showing at 8.30pm on Feb 22 & 23; 3.30pm on Feb 23 & 24. Surtitles in Bahasa Malaysia & Mandarin​. Kotak is at 27, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7. Admission at RM40 by donation. Call 018-202 8827 or see here for more info. 

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