What to expect at George Town Festival 2024

The community-driven event has become a platform for artists across the globe to collaborate, create and connect.

Inclusive and embracing, the festival's lineup has something for everyone (All photos: George Town Festival)

‘Here & Now’, the theme for this year’s George Town Festival (GTF), connects past and present and welcomes participants and visitors to reflect, reimagine and celebrate the arts, which have the power to transform.

Inclusive and embracing, its lineup has something for everyone, from fine arts showcases to a journal creative market, choreography lab, school collaboration, opera, music, dance, puppetry and theatre performances, an Asian producers’ platform, free shows at outdoor locations and public art that cajoles passersby to pause and look closely at paintings and installations.

Those who enjoy watching how puppets come alive and “speak” have lots to look forward to, from Close to You Festival @ GTF by Taiwan’s Flying Group Theatre, which explores how humans connect with objects and transform living spaces into characters or text, to by Colombian Omayra Martínez Garzón’s Sortilegio, where analogue meets digital. Spectators have to peer through the peephole of a closed box to uncover a world unfolding within. In Je M’évanouis, Agnė Muralytė (Lithuania) uses her hands to breathe life into a human-size puppet, as her legs form his feet, to portray human fragility.

GuoGuang Opera Company of Taiwan’s Double Bill of Jingju Magic has excerpts from two much-loved classic Chinese operas, Avenging Zidu (dubbed the “Eastern Macbeth”) and Zhuangzi Tests His Wife, about the philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE faking his death to test his spouse’s fidelity.

Waktu Batu. Rumah yang Terbakar by interdisciplinary performance collective Teater Garasi will stir discussion with its focus on Indonesia’s contemporary society, environmental destruction and the sorrowful repercussions in a show that draws from Javanese mythology, history and capitalism.

Hombre Collettivo’s Alle Armi (To Arms), from Italy, examines political and economic issues behind the international arms market, using toys instead of words. From Thailand comes House of Mask & Mime, which employs masks, clowns, mime, object theatre, body language and music to present seven stories: Big Eyes, Emoji, Karaoke, La Luna, Yellow Line, Light of Life and Homeless.

Plant/Human Duo sees Bulgaria’s Mirian Kolev House uses devices and sensors attached to plant leaves to create sound waves, affirming that man and nature can make sweet music together. Those who love cabaret numbers will be charmed by Chacko Vadaketh: Songs & Stories, featuring the Malaysian actor and singer accompanied by an ensemble of musicians.

For dance fans, local talents’ Dancing in Place (by MyDance Alliance) and Switchblade Op: A World in the City (by Kongsi Petak), a reimagination of Loke Soh Kim’s 20-minute choreography first performed in 1994, now expanded into an hour-long work . 

Journal Georgetown’s creative market at the landmark Sia Boey Urban Archaeological Park will have about 100 booths packed with creative products, handicrafts, apparel, food, novelties, home decor, art and crafts, as live music and site-specific performances entice visitors to browse and buy.



Those out for something different can book a date with Yam Seng Lah! by Dabble Dabble Jer Collective X Curios-City, Penang. The theatre and dining experience will serve generational recipes and food pairings related to personal narratives on shared identity, culinary heritage and Malaysian culture.

If you would rather walk or cycle around the city than sit and sip, the multidisciplinary Pengalaman Prangin by Moka Mocha Ink theatre will be your cup of tea. Part theatre, time-travel and collective experience on memory, history and space, it will guide participants around the Sia Boey park and on to Lorong Prangin.

Families seeking fun time together need look no further than The Kingdom of Childhood by Waldorf Circle Penang, which offers two weekends of artistic discovery at Armenian Park, and The Story Traveller by Kim Sir Storytelling, which invites children to open their suitcases and uncover timeless folktales as they wander along a back lane.

Finally, the Asian Producers’ Platform, which began in 2014 with an annual camp in different cities across the region, will present forum sessions centred on Why Festival, and How We Fest. Panellists for the first are GTF artistic director Ling Tang; Sawung Dance Festival (Indonesia) founder Sekar Alit, and StoryFest founder Kamini Ramachandran (Singapore). Speakers for the second session are Eric Ch’ng, Paul Augustin and Joseph Foo, directors of the Pangkor Island Festival, Penang Island Jazz Festival and Klang River Festival respectively. For programme details, and dates, visit georgetownfestival.com.

This article first appeared on June 17, 2024 in The Edge Malaysia.


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