Vi­sion for the re­gion

The Ge­orge Town Fes­ti­val re­turns next month with a more re­gional fo­cus.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Arts - By ROUWEN LIN star2@thes­

WHEN the Ge­orge Town Fes­ti­val (GTF) kicks off on July 28, you can be sure it will be done in style and with much en­thu­si­asm for all things Asean. The Pe­nang-based fes­ti­val, now in its eighth year, will take place in sev­eral lo­ca­tions in Ge­orge Town and But­ter­worth. It will host more than 100 events, rang­ing from art, de­sign and pho­tog­ra­phy to film, mu­sic, dance and drama. This year, 60% of the GTF pro­gram­ming will have a re­gional touch.

The GTF opens this year with Svara Asean (July 28-29), a mu­si­cal trib­ute to South-East Asian mu­sic cul­ture, fea­tur­ing Malaysian singers Adibah Noor and Sean Ghazi, the Pe­nang Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra, the Madri­gal Singers from the Philip­pines, Gus Teja from In­done­sia and Thai­land’s mezzo-so­prano Anchee.

“This year, our fo­cus in­cludes youth, women, com­mu­nity and the Asean re­gion. We have a vi­sion to bring to­gether South East Asian artists onto the world stage. The fes­ti­val’s open­ing will also fea­ture Ma­cam Ma­cam Asean, a mar­ket full of Asean flavours, art, craft and sounds,” shares fes­ti­val di­rec­tor Joe Sidek.

GTF started in 2010 to com­mem­o­rate Ge­orge Town’s des­ig­na­tion as a Unesco World Her­itage site.

Joe points out that the spirit of the GTF has al­ways been all about “place-mak­ing”, some­thing that is very much in­flu­enced by the long-term goal of see­ing Ge­orge Town flour­ish as a cul­tural hub.

“Ge­orge Town is known for its lo­cal del­i­ca­cies, but we also want it to be a place where tal­ent con­verge. GTF is all about pro­vid­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal artists, giv­ing every­one ac­cess to the arts, and build­ing Ge­orge Town’s (cre­ative) char­ac­ter,” he adds.

The­atre prac­ti­tion­ers, dancers and vis­ual artists from Malaysia, Sin­ga­pore, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines will come to­gether in Ikat (Aug 11-12) by ArtISM to tell a story about peo­ple from dif­fer­ent back­grounds who are in­trin­si­cally bound to each other by love, hope and dreams.

A sim­i­lar spirit of unity is also seen in An­thar Agni (Aug 30-31) by Tem­ple of Fine Arts, a mu­sic and dance trib­ute to the sa­cred fire (Agni) that cel­e­brates the spir­i­tual sig­nif­i­cance of the in­te­gra­tion of var­i­ous cul­tures.

Else­where, Nao­hiko Ume­waka, a grand mas­ter of the Ja­panese tra­di­tional Noh the­atre, will team up with chore­og­ra­pher Aida Redza to present a new pro­duc­tion of The Ital­ian Restau­rant (Aug 26-27). The play makes use of sym­bol­ism and metaphors – us­ing the golden Noh mask yakan. The the­atre per­for­mance features Chee Sek Thim, Hardy Shafii and Mis­lina Mustaffa.

Ex­per­i­men­tal the­atre piece Ri­wayat (Aug 31 to Sept 2), di­rected by Tung Jit Yang, will com­bine move­ment, multi-lin­gual text and orig­i­nal sound­scapes, in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of shared mem­o­ries and sto­ries of liv­ing and be­ing in Malaysia.

If you are keen on “retro in­fo­tain­ment”, then the mu­sic-filled What Are You Singing? Tai­wan Liam Kua (Aug 25-26) is some­thing to in­ves­ti­gate. It’s a Tai­wanese tra­di­tional form of bal­lad singing and spo­ken-word sto­ry­telling, packed with folk tales, gods and leg­ends, and ev­ery­day life themes.

There will be no short­age of fam­ily-ori­ented shows at GTF, es­pe­cially with the Aus­tralian award-win­ning one-man pup­pet show The Ad­ven­tures Of Alvin Sput­nik: Deep Sea Ex­plorer (Aug 30-31) on board. In this quirky com­bi­na­tion of an­i­ma­tion, pup­petry, pro­jec­tions, live and recorded mu­sic, sto­ry­teller Tim Watt tells the tale of Alvin Sput­nik, a deep sea ex­plorer, and the search for his lost love in the seem­ingly end­less depths of the ocean.

In Bri­tish-based pro­duc­tion Smok­ing Ap­ples And Dog­fish’s Cell (Aug 5-6), you find Ted, newly di­ag­nosed with motor neu­rone dis­ease, em­bark­ing on the trip of his life­time around the world – with his pet fish. This heart-warm­ing pro­duc­tion features pup­petry and phys­i­cal the­atre.

Cell, which is a project close to the hearts of those in­volved as they have lost fam­ily mem­bers to motor neu­rone dis­ease, has also been nom­i­nated for a Peter Brook Award (a Bri­tish arts award).

If you think dancing is for ev­ery­body, then look no fur­ther than one of GTF’s high­light shows, Gala (Aug 19-20), which is chore­ographed by French chore­og­ra­pher Jerome Bell. Gala is a show to break down bor­ders. It will show­case 20 hand­picked Ge­orge Town in­di­vid­u­als, who will take turns in ex­e­cut­ing dif­fer­ent styles and gen­res of dance.

Else­where in the mix, Indian di­rec­tor Roys­ten Abel re­turns with The Man­gani­yar Class­room (Aug 5-6), fea­tur­ing 35 vil­lage chil­dren on a four-row bench ter­race on stage, dancing and singing to the tunes of their school days.

Bei­jing-based chore­og­ra­pher Tao Ye brings two of his Straight Line Tril­ogy se­ries from Tao Dance The­atre to Malaysia for the first time. The mes­meris­ing dance pieces 6 and 8 will play at this year’s fes­ti­val on Aug 25-26.

8 marks the last dance in this se­ries. This ground-break­ing dance – lit­er­ally – has eight dancers ly­ing on the ground, ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of move­ment.

Grav­ity And Other Myths, an Aus­tralian ac­ro­bat­ics en­sem­ble, will push phys­i­cal lim­its in A Sim­ple Space (Aug 11-12), merg­ing the del­i­cate with the taut, raw and in­ti­mate.

GTF ac­tiv­i­ties and per­for­mances will take place at sev­eral venues, in­clud­ing De­wan Sri Pi­nang, Loft 29@Gat Le­buh Gereja, Pe­nang Pac, The White­aways Ar­cade, The Star Pitt Street. The GTF will close with Week on Women (WOW) with talks, work­shops and a bazaar. An In­ter­na­tional Women Arts Fo­rum cu­rated by the In­ter­na­tional Women’s Arts Ex­change As­so­ci­a­tion from South Korea will round up the fes­ti­val.

Ge­orge Town Fes­ti­val is on from July 28 to Sept 3 in Pe­nang. Its satel­lite event, the But­ter­worth Fringe Fes­ti­val, runs on Aug 12 and 13. Tick­ets are on sale at and at se­lected out­lets. For more info and the fes­ti­val sched­ule, visit­town­fes­ti­

Tra­di­tional flute player Gus Teja, from Bali, In­done­sia, will lead his group at the Svara Asean (July 28-29) mu­si­cal trib­ute at the Ge­orge Town Fes­ti­val. — LIM BENG TATT /The Star

The What Are You Singing? Tai­wan Liam Kua (Aug 25-26) show features the Tai­wanese tra­di­tional form of spo­ken-sung sto­ries.

Livin’ La Vida Imelda on July 28 is a solo com­edy about Filipino-born, New York-trained ac­tor Car­los Cel­dran’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences un­der the Mar­cos dic­ta­tor­ship in mid-1970s Manila. — Pho­tos: GTF

Cell (Aug 5-6) com­bines pup­petry and phys­i­cal the­atre in telling one man’s jour­ney of hope in liv­ing life to the fullest.

Hakanai (Aug 18-19) is a French Ja­panese pro­duc­tion that fuses dig­i­tal and per­form­ing arts.

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