Mak­ing theatre mat­ter

The Wayang diSinkeh in­au­gu­ral sea­son adds to Ge­orge Town’s colour­ful theatre scene.

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

THE lit­tle stu­dio found within Sinkeh guest­house in Ge­orge Town, Penang, is a small place har­bour­ing big dreams. From the first day Sinkeh opened its doors in 2014, this stu­dio for the arts was al­ready there, mark­ing the be­gin­ning of a big­ger plan.

“I like to be able to spend my evenings hav­ing a drink with my friends and go­ing to the theatre. There is cur­rently not enough go­ing on in Ge­orge Town for me to in­dulge in that kind of life­style,” says Chee Sek Thim, a Pe­nang­based theatre prac­ti­tioner, who owns and man­ages Sinkeh.

“So, I do­ing some­thing about it, one step at a time,” he adds.

It is within this ded­i­cated space for the arts at Sinkeh, which seats be­tween 35 to 40 peo­ple, that the in­au­gu­ral sea­son for Wayang diSinkeh, will kick off on July 7.

Wayang diSinkeh fea­tures three mono­logues and one duo­logue de­vel­oped from lo­cal sto­ries and themes,

This 2017 sea­son will feature per­for­mances ev­ery Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day evening, over three months.

A Com­plete Woman, writ­ten and per­formed by Suzanne Teoh, and directed by Chee; The Sto­ry­teller, writ­ten by Lim Chung Wei and Wong Lay Chin, per­formed by Lim, and directed by Wong; and

Fra­grance writ­ten and directed by Noor Rizuwan, and per­formed by Darynn Wee, make up the mono­logues.

The two-per­son per­for­mance, Lina:Li­jah, is adapted from Lina & Li­jah by Nam Ron. It will be directed by Hily­ati Ramli, and per­formed by Muh­an­niz Mesri and Nad­hi­lah Suhaimi.

A Com­plete Woman starts Wayang diSinkeh, with shows on July 7-9, while Fra­grance runs from July 14-16. Lina:Li­jah will book the week­ends of July 21-23 and July 28-30.

“We ran A Com­plete Woman, The Sto­ry­teller, and Fra­grance (which was then ti­tled Ber­cakap Den­gan Sal­biah) in the pilot project in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber last year. Be­cause the feed­back and returns were en­cour­ag­ing enough, we de­cided that we would pro­ceed with open­ing the first sea­son this year,” says Chee, who fore­sees Wayang diSinkeh as an an­nual feature in Ge­orge Town’s theatre cal­en­dar.

“With Wayang diSinkeh, we hope to de­velop into a strong enough plat­form that can mo­ti­vate ac­tors, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, de­sign­ers to take a lead­ing role, tell their own sto­ries and cre­ate small-scale per­for­mances of their own,” he adds with op­ti­mism.

For the up­com­ing per­for­mances, A Com­plete Woman has had changes made to the script. The script for The Sto­ry­teller and Fra­grance re­mains the same.

Nev­er­the­less, re­peat au­di­ences can ex­pect per­for­mances to have ma­tured over time, and can look for­ward to see­ing deeper in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the texts, he shares.

If any­thing, Wayang diSinkeh is part of Chee’s long-term goal to build a sus­tain­able theatre in­fra­struc­ture in Ge­orge Town that in­cludes a venue, tal­ents and pro­gram­ming.

He is con­vinced that a sus­tain­able theatre in­fra­struc­ture is im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity, sim­ply be­cause it is nec­es­sary.

“If you feel theatre has a place within your com­mu­nity and if you wish to con­tinue do­ing it for a long time, then you have to con­sider what you do in re­la­tion to things like the funds you have or are able to ac­quire, your au­di­ence size and the kind of ap­petite they have, the avail­abil­ity of tal­ent and in­fra­struc­ture, and the avail­abil­ity of pro­duc­tion and tech­ni­cal sup­port. If you don’t, then your work risks los­ing its con­nec­tion and rel­e­vance to the com­mu­nity to which you be­long,” he cau­tions.

In shoot­ing for the sky, Chee, in his early 50s, clearly has his feet planted firmly on the ground, ex­plain­ing that to achieve this, there is a lot of work to be done, and it has to be done by many peo­ple.

“At this stage, I am plant­ing some seeds. Mak­ing theatre has to be seen as some­thing that is rel­e­vant, worth­while and mean­ing­ful for peo­ple to want to make it, and for au­di­ences to want to go out and watch it,” he says.

Cre­at­ing the work is just one part of the big pic­ture.

“You also have to put time and ef­fort into nur­tur­ing the en­tire per­form­ing arts in­fra­struc­ture as well; the au­di­ence, crit­ics, writ­ers, pro­duc­ers, man­agers, venues,” he adds.

Chee shares that he is just start­ing to put some ideas into prac­tice, Wayang diSinkeh be­ing the ve­hi­cle for do­ing so.

“I show peo­ple I work with that it is in­deed pos­si­ble to make theatre in a way that doesn’t stretch their en­er­gies and re­sources to break­ing point and that it can feed and sus­tain them both cre­atively and fi­nan­cially. I func­tion within my lim­i­ta­tions, I ad­dress them one at a time. I make my projects work, turn them into ex­am­ples and then, build net­works from there,” he says.

Shar­ing the same build­ing with Sinkeh is Reka Art Space, also founded by Chee back in 2002. Reka Art Space ini­tially served as a stu­dio and art gallery that sup­ported emerg­ing vis­ual artists and artists work­ing on the pe­riph­ery.

To­day, it con­tin­ues with its vi­sion of be­ing a lab­o­ra­tory for new works and a space for art ed­u­ca­tion.

“Sinkeh and Reka Art Space share a prac­ti­cal and syn­er­gis­tic re­la­tion­ship. Sinkeh was con­ceived as a ve­hi­cle for gen­er­at­ing an in­come stream to sus­tain the arts projects of Reka Art Space. And Reka Art Space, of course, gen­er­ates ac­tiv­i­ties in Sinkeh that in turn is po­si­tioned as one of the unique fea­tures in the brand­ing of Sinkeh,” ex­plains Chee.

Talk about be­ing sus­tain­able.

The in­au­gu­ral sea­son of Wayang diSinkeh runs at Sinkeh, 105, Le­buh Me­layu, Ge­orge Town in Penang ev­ery Fri­day to Sun­day till Sept 24. Tick­ets are priced at RM35. Sea­son tick­ets are RM100 (four tick­ets), for four dif­fer­ent per­for­mances. Tick­ets can be pur­chased at Sinkeh, be­tween 9am and 5pm daily. No reser­va­tions will be taken. For en­quiries, email art@ or call 04-261 3966. FB: Wayang di Sinkeh.

‘Mak­ing theatre has to be seen as some­thing that is rel­e­vant, worth­while and mean­ing­ful for peo­ple to want to make it, and for au­di­ences to want to watch it,’ says Chee (far left) about Wayang diSinkeh. — Photos: THUM CHIA CHIEH

The Sinkeh arts space, which opened its doors in 2014, has at­tracted a di­verse ar­ray of pro­gram­ming, in­clud­ing theatre, po­etry and mu­sic. — CHAN BOON KAI/ The Star

The Wayang diSinkeh theatre pro­gramme is a timely project to utilise Sinkeh’s stu­dio space for per­for­mances and re­hearsals. — Filepic

Muh­an­niz Mesri (left) and Nad­hi­lah Suhaimi in Lina:Li­jah, which shows at Wayang diSinkeh later this month.

Suzanne Teoh in A Com­plete Woman, which opens the Wayang diSinkeh sea­son this week­end.

Darynn Wee in Fra­grance, a mono­logue per­for­mance.

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