Mak­ing a splash

The En­core Melaka theatre venue, sit­u­ated in the new Im­pres­sion City cul­tural hub in the heart of Melaka, opens in July. It will be home to a state-of-the art theatre ex­trav­a­ganza that cel­e­brates Melaka’s rich and di­verse his­tory.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Front Page - By DI­NESH KU­MAR MAGANATHAN [email protected]­

THE tale of Melaka has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of Malaysians for cen­turies. The much-sto­ried state that started it all is re­plete with his­tor­i­cal sagas, myths and leg­ends. It is no won­der, then, that the epic nar­ra­tive of this his­toric city is get­ting a grand stag­ing in En­core Melaka.

The 70-minute En­core Melaka show, which will open to the masses on July 1 at Im­pres­sion City, Kota Lak­samana, re­counts the long-for­got­ten tales of this once bustling, cos­mopoli­tan port, from the sto­ries of the early voy­agers to the mak­ings of mod­ern Melaka.

En­core Melaka, boast­ing an en­sem­ble of 200 lo­cal per­form­ers, is set to wow au­di­ences with a breath­tak­ing theatre spec­ta­cle when the cur­tain rises.

Like any­thing else, this am­bi­tious theatre project be­gan with a dream. Nearly five years ago, Datuk Wira Boo Kuang Loon had a grand idea of mak­ing his home­town Melaka the ul­ti­mate tourist des­ti­na­tion.

“I’m a Melaka boy and I’ve al­ways wanted to do some­thing for my home­town,” says Boo, the CEO of Yong Tai Ber­had, a tourism and cul­tural-re­lated prop­erty de­vel­oper.

At an ex­clu­sive preview event on May 28, hundreds of au­di­ence members, in­clud­ing me­dia (for­eign and lo­cal), wit­nessed the re­al­i­sa­tion of that im­pos­si­ble dream with En­core Melaka.

“We are push­ing the en­ve­lope for the performance arts – the in­te­gra­tion of sto­ry­telling with in­no­va­tive stage tech­nolo­gies has never been seen be­fore in South-East Asia,” he adds.

As a new land­mark, the En­core Melaka theatre prom­ises to add a new chap­ter to the state’s cul­tural tourism his­tory.

It is the fo­cal point of the multi-bil­lion ring­git Im­pres­sion City, an in­te­grated mixed de­vel­op­ment – 55.8ha in size – by Yong Tai. The theatre venue is also within a 3.5km ra­dius from Melaka’s bustling tourist zone, in­clud­ing Jonker Walk. Undeniably, there will be no short­age of tourist traf­fic, with Melaka reg­is­ter­ing 16.7 mil­lion tourists in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Tourism Melaka. That places the his­toric state as the main tourist des­ti­na­tion in the coun­try, with the ma­jor­ity of trav­ellers from China, Singapore, In­done­sia, Hong Kong and Tai­wan.

In this part of the world, many would be fa­mil­iar with tourism and cul­tural spec­ta­cles like the Siam Ni­ramit Show in Bangkok and the wa­ter-based stage pro­duc­tion The House of Danc­ing Wa­ter in Ma­cau.

En­core Melaka, helmed by China-based artis­tic direc­tor Wang Chaoge, is a ma­jor new player on the list. It is a state-of-the-art pro­duc­tion of Melaka’s begin­nings and growth through a time­line of six cen­turies, as told by Wang. The direc­tor and her team spent nearly two years study­ing Melaka’s his­tory, cul­ture, tra­di­tions and most im­por­tantly, the peo­ple.

“We did a thor­ough re­search to find out whether we are able to de­liver a com­pre­hen­sive in­tro­duc­tion to the his­tory of Melaka, its peo­ple, arts and cul­ture,” says Wang, who was part of the team be­hind the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2008 Bei­jing Olympic Games.

“I am in­trigued and in­spired by Melaka’s per­se­ver­ance and res­o­nance for his­tory, cul­ture and racial har­mony. We hope that au­di­ences will be spir­i­tu­ally en­cour­aged and in­spired as well while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a vis­ual feast,” she adds.

The En­core Melaka dream was re­alised through Wang’s Im­pres­sion se­ries. It is the 10th Im­pres­sion se­ries (es­tab­lished in 1998 by renowned di­rec­tors Zhang Yi­mou, Fan Yue and Wang her­self ) and first out­side of China.

“When I watched the Im­pres­sion se­ries in China, I knew this was what I wanted for Melaka. So I ap­proached the Im­pres­sion team and be­gan work­ing with them in 2013 to make the show pos­si­ble,” shares Boo.

The Baba Ny­onya dance scene in En­core Melaka, a 70-minute performance re­count­ing Melaka’s his­tory through sto­ries, mu­sic and dance. — Photos: En­core Melaka ‘I am in­trigued and in­spired by Melaka’s per­se­ver­ance and res­o­nance for his­tory, cul­ture and racial har­mony,’ says Wang, the show’s artis­tic direc­tor from China. The build­ing’s mod­ern struc­ture fea­tures a white porce­lain ex­te­rior and blue shades, while an ‘or­ganic’ canopy en­trance wel­comes vis­i­tors to En­core Melaka.

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