Dec 13, 2014

d'Next Artist Project at DPAC (season two)

I've been meaning to write a lengthy, well-cited post on artistic events like this one show that I've been to (courtesy of Filzah), but you know me too well not to don't you? Damansara Performing Arts Centre held its d'Next Artist Project (DNA) season one a while back, and judging from its rave reception, they prolonged the series into a second one (and the application for third and fourth seasons is already open).

Season two was a compendium of four new works by young Malaysian arts companies, showcasing fresh talents from the nascent world of Malaysian performing arts. New works are central to DNA’s second season on stage: the programmes included a multi-layered and visceral dance theatre experience by Lee Ren Xin's “B.E.D.”; In Three Minds Theatre was out there to question our moral conscience with “Jade”; Glowing Planet Production's “The Little Prince” was experimenting with the integration of live actors and visual projection; and a hip-hop/musical theatre on stage by the Perassath Servai Vedagiri's “Love Knows No Gender”.

B.E.D by Lee Ren Xin 
B.E.D was the opening act of the shows. Having been unfamiliar with the programmes, I was anticipating some kind of contemporary dance when I saw 12 stacked mattresses and two eager performers. Boy, I was wrong - the more the storyline advanced, the more intrigued and perplexed  I was.
The play was a cacophony of action: the actors were jumping, climbing, mumbling, monologuing, screaming, sliding and running around, on top and beneath the thick heavy mattresses. There were times that Filzah and I looked to each other, and we had the same confused look of what was the performance all about.
But visually, this act makes an interesting way to look at mattresses and people who lie on them on a different perspective.
I guess my embryonic artistic mind is just not ready to accept the richness and complexity of the work.
In actuality, the mattresses were meant to be used in juxtaposition to the performers’ bodies and physicality, while at the same time sculpting and altering the performance landscape.
When I saw one chapter quite seamlessly (but sometimes abruptly) progress into another, I started to realise that the work explored human desires for structures while collapses, crises, and chaos occurred at different stages and aspects of life e.g. divorce, financial crises etc.
The work seems to portray different personae and their individual lives that, at times, collide into one and another in random serendipity. There was one moment that made me think of subtle political agenda when the actors voiced out freedom/independence-related dialogues.

What began as a very tidy and comfortable mattress-scape dissolved quickly into chaos as the chapter advanced.
To me the work is quite experimental and very interpretational, and is the one that induces discussion amongst the audience, of all works showcased.

The Little Prince by Glowing Planet Production
‘The Little Prince’ is an adaptation from a French classic novel written by Antoine de Saint Exupery. The first thing that struck me was how young the opening actors were. There was an eight year old-ish boy who seemed to be trying his best to deliver his lines, and the foxy lady's enunciation made left me guessing the content of her script.
  But the highlight of the show was the live actors + visual projection combo. The two elements were acceptably seamless (inspired by BeyoncĂ©'s Super Bowl performance, perhaps?) and as the show progressed, seasoned-looking performers started to emerge.
My favourite character in this work was the stocky banker, with his effortless portrayal of an eccentric yet money-minded character, complete with British accent and all. I hope to see more of this guy's performances!
The work essentially tells the story of humanity: love and relationship, greed and narcissism vs selflessness. It's storyline, although rather simplistic in nature, is moral-laden,  perhaps reflects the morally corrupt, fame-obsessed and money-chasing individuals in the society.

Jade by In Three Minds Theatre 
Jade, by far is my favorite work of the showcase. It explores the psychological journey of Craig, a man convicted of raping his 12 year old school student. His best friend, and principal also struggles with the news and tries to figure out what was going through Craig’s mind at the time. 
The mini-play consisted of intense, thought provoking and powerful dialogue between two best friends, so much so that I could feel the actors chemistry and raw talent. I couldn't take my eyes off of the actors as their characterisation were spot on. They are surprisingly young but seasoned nonetheless.
 Every line was delivered emotionally, and it was not difficult to be absorbed in their world of confusion, torn between a teacher's love, a student's seduction and being lost to sexual urge/emotions, which is why the play's tagline "When Primordial VS Paternal instincts collide" aptly resonates with today's morally corrupt society.
I guess the audience could relate to much of the play's content, one way or another. This play was deeply rooted in its question of what is morality, and how does one cope with the consequences of acting beyond the limits of morality.
I could feel my heart palpitating at times, as the lines delivered were ever so passionate and effortless. I'd love to see more of these two actors in action in the future...

Love Knows No Gender by Perassath Servai Vedagiri
This act, I tell you, is a different kind of piece altogether. I applaud Perrasath's ballsy attempt to portray a topic considered as taboo in this 'conservative' country - being a homosexual.
The story is about a young boy who thinks that he is normal, and soon learns that what is natural for him is seen sinful among the people he lives with.
 The story unravelled from a dark undertone to brilliantly entertaining manner: in musical style. There was mostly rapping, some fierce choreography and cheeky humour that definitely made the audience smile from ear to ear.
I felt compelled to stand up and shake to the beats of Perassath's well-chosen discography. Some parts were like watching a scene from Glee, and others could be a really good music video parody, worthy to generate thousands of Youtube views.
The performance was definitely a humorous take on such a controversial issue. I for one, loved how this act managed to put the audience at ease after the 'heavier' prior performances.

Kudos to all the performers at DNA, Season Two!

Word by Hafidzudin Zainal
Images by Filzah Athirah 

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