Selasa, 10 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Taking the laughs on the road


WHO doesn't like a good laugh?

According to stand-up comedian Phoon Chi Ho, the appetite for comedy has grown beyond the Klang Valley's comedy central to places ranging from Kota Kinabalu to Penang and Kuantan.

"There's a thirst for comedy, especially for those out of KL. They're watching stand-up on YouTube and waiting to get someone doing local jokes at a local venue.

"If you go on YouTube, you see a lot of black comics making jokes about black people, you end up understanding more about African Americans than you do about your neighbours. But with localised jokes, it's something we can call our own," says the co-founder of the Malaysian Association of Chinese Comedians, which shares its initials with a certain national anti-corruption body.

The veteran comic notes that localisation doesn't just mean adding something vaguely Malaysian.

The laughs can be specific right down to the state one performs in.

"Kuantan has Lynas, Johor has fake murals and a new weekend schedule, each state has its own hang-ups," says Phoon.

Phoon will be working with a different group of comics – including Andrew Netto, Rizal Van Geysel and Prakash Daniel – in the Rocklands Entertainment Christmas Crackers comedy tour, which makes stops in Penang and Kuantan.

It finished its shows in the Kland Valley last week. With a title like Christmas Crackers, Prakash admits there will be more Christmas jokes to unleash.

"But we have to start with our old stuff too, we can't just jump into Christmas material," he says.

Phoon points out that this is possibly one of the first Christmas-themed comedy shows being done locally.

"To be fair, people will start having to do Hari Raya, Deepavali, and Gawai shows. And I don't have material for Gawai," he says in mock panic.

Prakash assures that their performance will be "mature-family friendly", pointing at the "For mature audience only 18 & above" stamp at the bottom of their flyer.

"Things can still go wrong, and it's usually when you're making sex jokes," squirms Prakash. He recalls an incident when he called out an audience member, mid-way through a joke about sex, and asked how old the person was, only to find out the boy was 14 and there with his mum. Phoon bursts out laughing and pats Prakash's back as a half-hearted consolation.

"You should have seen him, he was a huge guy, how was I supposed to know he was 14!" objects Prakash, earning more laughter from Phoon.

Phoon says comics don't say "the bad stuff" just to intentionally offend their audiences or leave them upset.

However, a little crudeness is sometimes a natural part of comedy.

"If you analyse different comics' acts, you'll notice that it's the delivery, not just content, that offends people.

"You can get away with murder, with the right presentation," reveals Phoon.

"Here's the secret to stand-up: we make it look simple, but we're pissing our pants when we get on stage.

"It's like pulling a grenade pin, you're either gonna bomb or kill the audience," admits Phoon.

After eight years doing stand-up, Phoon can also attest to the dangers of being a comic.

"I've gotten into a lot of trouble over the years. Mostly with my wife."

*Christmas Crackers will be on tour at China House, Penang (Dec 12), and Sri Manja Butik Hotel, Kuantan, Pahang (Dec 15).

Tickets start from RM35. Call 03-7732 2224 or email to book tickets. Show contains mature material, for those above 18 only.

More info at

Dimensions of dance


Dance, visuals and music come together perfectly in this thought-provoking production.

WHEN telling a story, it matters not how one may choose to do it, only that they do it with conviction. And that is precisely why Flatland: An Adaptation In Dance works so well. It may be a contemporary dance production, but it is also an extremely deft amalgamation of various elements – lighting, audio-visual and sound design – which all come together in just the right way to tell its story.

Created by performing arts company TerryandTheCuz in collaboration with local dancer/choreographer Suhaili Micheline and Australia-based The Rubix Cube, Flatland is adapted from the 1884 satirical novella by Edwin A. Abbott, where inhabitants of a flat two-dimensional world are convinced by the powers-that-be to think their world is all there is.

When the protagonist, a "square", discovers the existence of different dimensions, issues of class, social hierarchy and control of information come to the forefront.

"Flatland: An Adaptation In Dance" might have been a contemporary dance production, but it was also an extremely deft amalgamation of various elements ¿ lighting, audio-visual and sound design.

Dance with depth: Flatland: An Adaptation In Dance may be a contemporary dance production, but it is also an extremely deft amalgamation of various elements – lighting, audio-visual and sound design.

The reason this contemporary dance adaptation of Flatland works so well is because it uses Abbott's strong narrative as a frame within which various art forms can co-mingle to create something entirely unique. You do not need to know or even fully understand the original story to appreciate this production; thanks to the strength of its visual elements, the ideas resonate with you on a visceral level.

Suhaili's choreography for Flatland is both inventive and accessible, with a balance between strong dance vocabulary and a playfulness that serves the storyline well. While some parts are reminiscent of classic video games like Pac-Man or Tron, others allude to anime, and yet others are almost balletic in their tight movements.

Her usage of space and a keen eye for visually-interesting formations are also essential to bringing the concept of the various dimensions to life. Our introduction to Flatland, for instance – all angular movements and straight formations – not only displays the choreographic style of the entire show, but also cleverly depicts the class structures and hierarchy inherent in the storyline.

An accomplished dancer in her own right, Suhaili also does an impressive job playing the square, imbuing her movements with the necessary emotions to allow us to connect with the character. This is especially so when the square is slowly made aware of the existence of other lands; her distress and confusion, and later expanding awareness, are keenly felt by the audience.

Playing various roles within the show are dancers Amandus Paul, Darren Ong, Fahezul Azri, Hariraam Lam, James Kan, Joshua Gui, Lu Wit Chin, Pengiran Qayyum, Syaffiq Hambali and Syafizal-Syazlee, who all put in admirable effort. While the ensemble dancers could occasionally do with more energy, and coordination was slightly lacking in some of the more complex routines, they are particularly impressive when it comes to executing the vastly different movements necessary to evoke each different dimension.

Meanwhile, light, sound and visuals use their own language to simultaneously tell Flatland's story. The lighting and visual design by TerryandTheCuz and Rob Stewart showcases some of the best work seen here in recent times, giving both boundaries and dimensions to the stage while using shifts between shadows and stark lighting to either emphasise or de-emphasise the differences between the various dancers onstage. Projections, meanwhile, cleverly capitalise on the geometric concept of the story, adding both visual excitement and depth to the narrative. The sound design by Stewart, too, is excellent, with its mix of dramatic instrumentals, techno beats and video game sounds giving the story an extremely contemporary and even futuristic feel; yet, the music also never fails to hit the right emotional note.

It is, however, in the way that all these elements come together that Flatland's beauty lies. In one utterly lovely scene, for instance, the square visits Spaceland, a land of three dimensions. Dancers in flowing white costumes execute ethereal, fluid movements to a throbbing, haunting score, against a hypnotic background of shifting circuit board-like lines, while the square tries in vain to mimic their movements despite its own angles.

It is a scene that doesn't require any explanation or even understanding of contemporary dance – like the best parts of the show, you simply feel it intensely.

*Flatland is currently playing at The Actors Studio @ KuAsh Theatre, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, at 8.30pm till Dec 14, and at 3pm on Dec 15. Tickets, priced at RM53 (adult) and RM38 (concession) are available at TicketPro (, and at The Actors Studio @ KuAsh, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (Kuala Lumpur) and PenangPac @ Straits Quay (Penang). For more information, call 03-4047 9000, e-mail or visit

Deep imagination


One artist's fascination with mythologies takes centre stage at the latest exhibition in Artemis Art.

FROM the bowels of the earth, out of the dark oceans, arose the monsters of the deep. Terrifying sea dragons, monstrous crabs and evil spirits, all bent on wreaking havoc and terror on humans.

The earth quaked, the seas were raging and the thunder roared. But braving the deadly elements and marine horrors was a man, a warrior, wielding his sword.

Armed with his bravery, he ventured in search of these monsters, to slay them once and for all.

Nothing is more fascinating to a storyteller than a hero who risks his life to save the world.

But for Yuli, he was just warming up.

His main act brims with demons and gods and spirits and pyramids and dreamcatchers and even Korean pop stars.

Through his experience learning about art and living with Asperger syndrome, Yuli has a unique vision when it comes to his paintings.

Kyoon hyeong koa jo hwa [balance and harmony]

Kyoon Hyeong Koa Jo Hwa (Balance & Harmony) with Psy in the foreground.

And like the master storyteller that he is, the 27-year-old has conjured worlds familiar and yet bizarre in his second solo exhibition at Artemis Art, Publika in Kuala Lumpur.

Called Mythologies, the exhibition features 15 of Yuli's artworks inspired mainly by Japanese myths and culture.

The artist, an ardent fan of ancient civilisations and myths, also drew inspiration from the other cultures of the ancient world, including Chinese and Norse.

Dabbling in the arts since he was a young boy, Yuli spent more than half a year to complete all 15 pieces and with the liberty and artistic freedom bestowed on him by the gallery, the artist had created rather outstanding pieces of art infused with mythologies.

However, Yuli did not limit himself to ancient myths alone.

Riding on the wave of popular culture, he juxtaposed modern and ancient cultural icons in some of his pieces.

This is most evident in the piece called Kyoon Hyeong Koa Jo Hwa (Balance & Harmony).

Crowding most of the artworks are South Korean masks, the Korean Turtle Ship, drums, food and the Korean traditional dress. But at the foreground, in his most famous dance move, is singer Psy.

Imbued in all of the artworks exhibited are graffiti elements and Yuli reasoned that this mixture of the "modern and the traditional is so that the artworks will look more diverse."

In fact, he steered away from the conventional medium of acrylics and used art markers instead to give his pieces "a more comic-book like feel."

Shibuyaka shows the street culture of modern day Japan

Shibuyaka shows the street culture of modern day Japan.

One such piece, which could pass for a cover of a manga, shows four fearsome beasts, a tiger, a phoenix, a dragon and a black tortoise. Named Shijin – The 4 Guardians Of The Compass, the piece is rich with cultural significance and historicity as all four of the animals represent something in Oriental culture.

These animals, said Yuli, "have always been important symbols in Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese culture."

It was their symbolism that intrigued him.

And it is this symbolism and history, whether derived from ages past or our very own time, that lends a sense of familiarity to Mythologies.

You may not be well versed with this realm but upon setting your eyes on these figures and cultural icons, it will be like meeting an old friend after a very long time.

> Mythologies is on daily till Dec 17 at Artemis Art (Lot 21 & 22, Level G4, Block C5, Publika Solaris Dutamas, Selangor). Admission is free. For more information, call 03-6211 1891 or visit


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