Review: Asian Youth Theatre Festival Day 3

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We round off our coverage of the inaugural Asian Youth Theatre Festival with our reviews of Jayaprana & Layonsari by Gigi Art of Dance, Beder Meye (Snake Charmer Girl) by Prachyanat, and a review of last Friday’s forum theatre piece Jangan Kurang Ajar (Don’t Be Rude) by Adib Kosnan & Tumpil Yang Tampil. Read more below:

Jayaprana & Layonsari by Gigi Art of Dance (Indonesia)

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Hailing from Indonesia, Gigi Art of Dance came down to AYTF to present a specially choreographed dance piece that combined both traditional Balinese and Javanese dance forms. Telling the classic Balinese tale of the star crossed lovers Jayaprana & Layonsari through movements, this was an enjoyable performance that had high production value, with beautiful traditional costumes and an intimate feel with *SCAPE’s unique theatre space.

In Indonesia, Gigi is actually a dance school that comprises over 400 students, and teaches a wide range of dance genres and forms. The performers we watched are all accomplished dancers in their own right, and despite only being given three weeks to prepare for this performance, they were amazingly well prepared. Using beautiful self-composed songs, along with a good use of projections that helped make the story that much clearer, the entire performance felt polished and well rehearsed, an easy watch that showcases the very best of Indonesian traditional culture and arts. It’s heartwarming to see that Indonesian youth are still very much interested in learning about and getting in sync with their own cultural heritage, and perfectly encapsulated AYTF’s theme of cultural identity.

Beder Meye (Snake Charmer Girl) by Prachyanat (Bangladesh)

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Directed by Md. Shaiful Islam, Beder Meye is based off a rural Bengali play of the same name, and tells of a group of snake charmers (“Bede”) whose lives are turned upside down when a village chief takes a fancy to their most beautiful member.

Despite not having any surtitles and completely performed in Bengali, Beder Meye was an absolute joy to watch, seething with life and energy as the multitalented cast moved across the stage like seasoned performers – not a single hitch and with no interruptions. Combining art forms such as the street play, folk and other traditional elements, the performers shifted between playing traditional instruments (including a conch shell!), singing, dancing and acting to narrate the tragic tale. All one really needs is the play’s synopsis (helpfully provided to each audience member) and the actors’ body language and expressions to understand what’s going on. The live music created a thoroughly immersive atmosphere, loud and evocative of old Bengali villages, and the fast pace of the performance ensured that there was never a dull moment, with Snata Sahrin’s choreography easily capturing our attention every step of the way – expressive and theatrically exciting, be it a declaration of love or the pain of death.

The entire cast feels extremely well trained and rehearsed, expertly bringing out both the humour and tragedy in the story. Melodramatic as it is, the exaggerated style works for this piece, and Beder Meye is a play that glows with such charm and earnestness that one cannot help but fall in love with Prachyanat’s performance from the opening notes. This was undoubtedly one of the most professional performances at AYTF this year, and filled us with a new interest in the Bengali arts scene, capturing the essence of Bengali culture and identity in its form while staying incredibly entertaining and engaging.

Forum Theatre: Jangan Kurang Ajar (Don’t Be Rude) by Adib Kosnan & Tumpil Yang Tampil (13 October)

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Using the forum theatre form, Adib Kosnan and members of local company Tumpil Yang Tampil presented a deeply relevant piece about the daily school environment and how one might easily take some of the people around us for granted. Following three different characters – a misunderstood bully classified as a ‘gone case’ by his teachers, a ‘good boy’ type prefect whose grades suddenly start to dip, and a busybody, Jangan Kurang Ajar is the kind of theatre piece that youths of today need and can easily relate to, with familiar characters and situations reminiscent of the daily grind of school life everyone goes through.

It’s a pity there was only an hour to present the piece and interact with audience members inviting them to participate and question what could have been done better, or to think twice about similar people one might have encountered in one’s lives, putting themselves in their shoes and really helping foster empathy and understanding. Luckily, Adib and the team are planning on using this as a springboard and testing ground, and fully intend to bring it back for a full staging some other time, so look out for a chance to be a part of it when they do.

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In all, the AYTF has had a whirlwind weekend, full of cultural exchange and a chance for local and regional youth theatre groups to bond and network over workshops and learning about each other’s craft through watching their performances. The inaugural AYTF is definitely a success, showcasing the wide range of talents that the youth of today have, and certainly, proves that the future of theatre in Asia is probably in good hands, given the right guidance. There is promise in what these youths are doing, and it’s evident that there’s a lot of passion and hard work that goes into their preparation process, and without a doubt, deserve more support from the public in order to build a strong foundation and ensure that these guys maintain that interest and get the right encouragement to continue doing what they do best. We’re certainly looking forward to the next AYTF in 2018, but for now, will certainly be following the progress of these groups and wishing them all the best for the next production.

Asian Youth Theatre Festival may be over for this year, but look out for when they return in in 2018. Meanwhile, visit presenters Buds Youth Theatre’s website to find out more about their upcoming productions, programmes, and how you can support them to help AYTF become a regular year on year feature. 

 

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