The Malaysian theatre adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm’s saw great success when it debuted to a sold-out show at klpac in 2017. Kandang went on to bag four Boh Cameronian Arts Awards — including best production of the year — and was re-staged to celebrate The Actors Studios' 30th anniversary last year.
There was always excitement brewing in our local theatre scene whenever a new play debuts — on good days, halls were always filled with audience sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. There was always a buzzing energy wherever theatre lovers gathered, discussing storylines or just mingling with the cast after a show.
Fast forward to today, however, many theatre companies in Malaysia including klpac, had to unwillingly shut its doors in compliance with the movement control order (MCO), thus closing off its main sources of income, including ticket sales, venue rental and academy courses. Although it has racked up RM1.1 million in losses so far, klpac still hopes to entertain loyal fans for the time being by bringing some of its best live performances online.
Starting with Kandang, which is available to stream for free on Youtube until May 24, klpac’s new streaming programme will feature a new show every two weeks.
“One of the reasons we decided to stream our past productions online is that there is a dearth of local content available online now,” said Ang Yue May, klpac’s head of marketing and communications. “I think people are missing really good quality local shows — works that make us reflect on this country we call home, that speaks of our dreams and hopes for Malaysia and challenges the way we think. And Kandang does all that and more.”
The play, set in the context of historical Malaya, references issues, challenges as well as ideals and ideologies that have evolved over time. While there are heavy political undertones, the play is lightened through satirical presentation, a move director Omar Ali wanted to make.
“Kandang — along with George Orwell's novella that it was based on, Animal Farm — examines the subjects of power and change,” explains Omar, who currently works in development and dramaturgy with The Actors Studio. “And how great abuses of power can and does occur during instances of massive societal change, such as during, or after a revolution, or perhaps in our case: a pandemic, following a fairly recent abrupt change in government.”
Though watching a recorded performance is unlike enjoying it live, Omar remains positive. “Just like live music, there’s really nothing like the experience living in that moment within that shared space with the performers as well as other audience members,” he said. “But given the circumstances, this is a great way to keep what we do alive, and on a further plus side, makes our content and our works much more widely accessible.”
The performing art centre also has plans to venture into digital theatre. Come June, they will be premiering a brand-new online show, which will be streamed live to audiences all over the world.
“Theatre is very old, and throughout history, it has survived countless pandemics and other calamities before,” Omar pointed out. “The form might differ depending on the given circumstances but as long as humanity — and the human spirit — lives on, so will theatre.”
Watch the trailer for Kandang below:
Stay tuned for more updates on klpac's digital shows here.