Inspired by George Orwell’s 1984, Toccata Studio’s Ng Chor Guan wants to tell a story about time and space, writes Loong Wai Ting
THE year was 1949 when George Orwell published his dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984). In it, the English novelist, essayist and critic envisioned what the world looked like in 1984 — a totalitarian world split into three main class systems: The Inner Party, the Outer Party and the Proles, where Big Brother, the Party leader ruled over his subjects.
The theme that surrounds Orwell’s novel held a haunting narrative, where many aspects of the book have come to mirror our present world. In 1984, the world is constantly at war: The enemy might change but the result of the war remains the same.
Sixty-seven years since the book, there have been countless dystopian novels, films and theatre works. One of them is 2020: I’m From 2020, a theatre production helmed by Toccata Studio. The project is part of KLDiverseCity Festival 2016.
However, the production does not replicate the work. Touted as Malaysia’s first dystopian-inspired stage production, its joint-creators Ng Chor Guan and Tan E-Jan, have ingeniously raised the question: “What may the future hold for us?” using dance and music as its main narrative.
Change is possible and in most cases necessary, says Ng. “We have to take responsibility for its changes or how we want it to be.”
While raising serious questions about change, Ng, who serves as the production’s artistic director and music composer, also ropes in individuals from all ages and walks of life to share what they think about the future.
“Whenever Malaysians think of 2020, we think about the country’s Vision 2020 and its ideas. But along the way, we forget what it is all about. But the ideas remain.
“Ten years ago, I popped the question on what people think about 2020 and I got a lot of negative feedback. However, what remained unanswered was, how are we going to turn negativity into positivity?” says Ng during an interview in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
Ng’s artistic flair extended to his works such as the 2011 Mobile Phone Orchestra, where it was performed in South Korea as part of the opening ceremony of the 7th Global RCE Conference. In 2012, he was invited to showcase MPO at the Playable City Sprint in Bristol, the UK, a collaboration between the British Council and the Pervasive Media Centre where it featured 12 artists and designers from across East Asia and the UK.
On films, Ng can be heard scoring for Ho Yuhang’s upcoming action film, Mrs K, which is slated for its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival next month.
The 35-year-old Ng, brandishing his salt and pepper hair, is also Toccata Studio’s co-founder and a theremin player.
He says that the idea for 2020: I’m From 2020 started some time last year as a five-year project about the future and change. “The project started from a live performance last year. Then early this year we organised a series of roundtable discussions by bringing people of different background to talk about their contribution towards a future they desire.
“I wanted to remind people of our responsibility to make a change. That is why I engage with different people of different occupations, backgrounds and of different age groups just to gather what they want for the future, real or imagined. It always starts with the most simple question such as ‘what’s their favourite food?’”
The premise itself is an interesting one: It’s 2016, and among the every day ordinary folk there is a clone or two, constantly looking for the one who came from 2020. Rumour has it that he is here and is hiding somewhere in this world. As the story unfolds, the clones are racing in groups, hoping or trying to catch a glimpse of the mysterious time traveller.
The production will also feature choreography by internationally acclaimed Taiwanese choreographer Ting-Ting Chang, who combined dance and the use of 3D technology in her 2015 stage production Body Platform: Persistence Of Memory, in order to heighten the effect of surrealism. Besides Chang and Ng, Toccata Studio’s co-founder Tan E-Jan serves as its creative producer.
Ng calls the project a “hybrid art”, using music as a time travelling device. “Basically we use music and dance to tell our story. Along the way, there will be some acting as well. But music will be our main focus,” he says.
Inspired by his love for science, this is not Ng’s first foray into sci-fi related work. Four years ago he was involved in his first musical-visual performance in Space Age.
“Space Age and 2020: I’m From 2020 is somehow related to each other. It’s a conversation of time and space. They fall into the same spectrum,” he says.
Ng also says that part of the ideas come from his travels. “I usually commute by cycling even when people tell me that it’s dangerous. I learnt a lot by cycling and saw things that you will have otherwise missed if you’re driving. It opens up my perspective of the world. People everywhere shared similar problems and have the same solution to every issue. We must have faith in ourselves in order to make something happen,” he shares.
Ng hopes the production will open up rooms for discussions. “There is so much to explore. If everyone contributes to what they imagine the future will be like, there’s nothing that we can’t achieve.”
On his vision of 2020, Ng, in his sprightly tone, says: “A world that is more harmonious than we have now.”
2020: I’m From 2020
WHEN: Oct 1 (8.30pm) and Oct 2 (3pm)
WHERE: DBKL Auditorium, Menara DBKL 1, Jalan Raja Laut, Kuala Lumpur
PRICE: RM38 (students) and RM58 (adults). For ticketing call 016-361 8504 or email [email protected]