AN exploration on the inevitable topic of mortality, and how different people deal with it, will be the foreboding focus of a newly devised play, fittingly titled Dust.
“There is a common misconception that young people don't talk about death. Or that death and grief only impacts a certain, read older, age group,” says its director Esther Liew.
She adds: “To me, that is not true.”
This particular Theatresauce project came about from Liew's own experience with death. Her two beloved grandparents passed away last year and both of them went on into the great unknown within the span of a week.
The natural yet bittersweet events set to heighten the actor-teacher's awareness of her own mortality at the still relatively young age of 31. It also sparked an ongoing journey of self-discovery.
Liew promptly reached out to others who had gone through their own vivid journeys to make sense of and delve deeper into the rich individual and collective experiences that are at the heart of it.
The result are the stories, dreams and imaginations of five performers — Lim Sheng Hui, Andy Poon, Ranessa Theyakaraja, Season Chee, and Thomas Alexander — that form the basis of Dust.
STORIES OF DEATH
“In Dust, our cast are a motley mix of 20 to 40-year-olds. Each of them has been impacted by various experiences and questions about death, grief and life.
“Chee, who has a long-term illness, aims to ultimately exist with the construct of death. He relays the Haruki Murakami quote, ‘Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it’,” says the sensitive director.
Since it is a devised play, Liew adds that even before the auditions took place, she and her dramaturg Sandee Chew had already done a fair bit of research into the matter by compiling a whole list of articles, books, poems, and songs as a mode of infusion to produce a potent work.
“Once we assembled the cast, they were then tasked to write their personal responses to these various prompts given to them. And then we decided to focus on the cast's personal stories and dreams,” says Liew.
She adds: “There was a lot of editing of the text written by the cast, going back and forth. And finally, curating the whole show — stringing the various stimulating stories together.”
LIVING WITH DEATH
“Frankly, the whole process was pretty challenging, from casting to putting the actual show together. I think maybe the least challenging part was during the initial rehearsal period which was four weeks long. That was when we took our time to explore things,” says Liew.
The 90-minute piece will weave exciting theatrical storytelling with expressive visual and auditory montages to present the serious subject matter as an intimate, poignant and ironically enjoyable experience.
At the end of the day, the aim of the production is to examine the search for hope. All this by considering the opposite of death, which is life, and the various ways in which people choose to live.
The production team consists of Ali Motamedi (assistant director), Kelvin Wong (artistic director), Syamsul Azhar (lighting designer), Hannah Cheah (stage manager), and Frederick Tan (assistant stage manager).
Liew says that Dust will be the first of three new projects presented by Theatresauce as part of its 2019 season.
“I hope audiences will be able to leave the theatre by contemplating about the way they live their lives and to know that they are certainly not alone in the things that we will be addressing and talking about in this new show,” she says.
In concluding the interview, Liew said, “You know that saying ‘YOLO’? ...You Only Live Once. I wholeheartedly disagree with this. I actually believe that we only ever die once... because we are all living every single day until then.”
When: June 13-15, 8.30pm (with 3pm matinee on June 16); June 19-22, 8.30pm (3pm show on June 23)
*There’ll be post-performance conversations after the Friday and Saturday shows
Where: KOTAK, Five Arts Centre 27, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 7, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, KL
Admission: RM63 (regular) RM53 (concession; students, the disabled, senior citizens). Tickets can be purchased via WhatsApp: +6019-807 4810, email [email protected], or visit theatresauce.com
Note: Contains strong themes dealing with death, including grief. For mature audiences only.