SELECTED PROJECT INTERPRETATION

RAMA & SITA: GENERASI BARU, 1996

TEATER MUDA PROGRAMME, FIVE ARTS CENTRE, KUALA LUMPUR, 1991-2002

Rama & Sita – Generasi Baru was a Malaysian adaptation of the timeless Indian epic Ramayana presented as a contemporary piece of theatre by young people. This interpretation looks at the tensions, trials and triumphs of the characters Rama and Sita in the light of virtual reality and the modern-day corporate world and features drama, dance, video projection and digital music.

IMG_20181122_0021

Rama dan Sita - Flier front

Interpretation is based on archival records and memory recollection of participants.

Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)

RAMA & SITA FACTS

1.1 Programme Name

Teater Muda Programme, Five Arts Centre – Young Theatre Penang, 1991-2002

1.2 Project Title

Rama & Sita: Generasi Baru, 1996

1.3 Context and Objective

The production of Rama & Sita was designed as a platform to lead the participants of Teater Muda Phase 3 (1994) and Phase 4 (1995) into a full-fledged children’s theatre production. However, the production had an open call for auditions, which resulted in a few children from Phase 1 and 2, as well as a few untrained children joining the cast.

The choice of the Ramayana story was to reintroduce the legend to young audiences from the perspective of the young actors. While giving an opportunity to the children to display their talents and skills as actors, the production also gave actors the opportunity to collaborate with adult artists, particularly in movement and script writing.

The play involved a creative team of 13 teenage actors and 14 adult artists. It was produced in collaboration with Dramalab and was part of the KL Arts Festival 1996. It culminated in 9 performances staged to full houses in the black box of Komplex Budaya Negara, Kuala Lumpur.

1.4 Project Description

Adapted from the Indian epic Ramayana by participants of Teater Muda, Five Arts Centre, this interpretation transported the action and characters from the epic tale into the modern age of the internet and corporate world. Thematically it featured challenges to relationships and values encountered by young people in a world framed by the digital and the political.

1.5 Source Material

The story was adapted from the Indian classic ‘The Ramayana’, an ancient Indian literary work originally written in the form of an epic poem and ascribed to the Hindu sage, Valmiki. The plot deals with the exile of the divine prince Rama, the abduction of his wife Sita by the demon king Ravana, and her rescue aided by the army of monkey king Hanuman. There are many popular versions and adaptations of the Ramayana in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Laos, Burma, and Malaysia in both literary and oral forms, many of which differ considerably from the Valmiki version.

1.6 Co-Producer

Marion D’Cruz & Suhaila Merican (Five Arts Centre)

1.7 Project Lead

Marion D’Cruz & Janet Pillai

1.8 Creative Team

Directors: Janet Pillai & Charlene Rajendran
Choreography: Aida Redza
Set Design: Liew Kung Yu
Script: The performers of Rama & Sita: Generasi Baru
Video Design: Dogek (aka Hasnul Saidon) & Aziz Salim
Music Director: Hanizah Musib
Lighting Design: Carolyn Lau, Bernard Chauly
Costume Design: Hannah David (aka Elizabeth Cardosa)
Cartoonist for Programme: Na’a Murad
Make-up: Shamsu Yusof
Graphic Design: Chong Kek Heung, Joseph Foo, Leong Kah Fai

Supporting Archival Materials:

Rama and Sita – Cast List

 

1.9 Participants

SCHOOL/COMMUNITY AGE GROUP COMMENTS
Participants from mixed schools. 13-18 13 participants in total

1.10 Events and Activities

DATE VENUE TOWN/CITY
Training
May –June 1996 Intensive training/ Rehearsals
Kompleks Budaya Negara Kuala Lumpur
Performances
9 performances
1st – 9th July 1996
Experimental Theatre, Kompleks Budaya Negara Kuala Lumpur

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme

The promotional materials consisted of a poster, fliers and a programme booklet, which were designed by veteran designer Joseph Foo and young designers at the time, Chong Kek Heung and Leong Kah Fei. The programme booklet also featured a synopsis of the story rendered in cartoons by Na’a Murad.

Supporting Archival Materials

Rama and Sita – Flier

 

Rama and Sita – Cartoon Synopsis

1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum

The final script was devised during rehearsals via improvisation by the performers; it was then edited by co-director Charlene Rajendren. The Malay dialogue in this final bilingual script (English and Malay) was translated by Ismail Hashim. The script was divided into 5 Acts and 19 scenes which highlight the themes of love, trust and deception.

Supporting Archival Materials

Rama & Sita – Script (page 20)

 

1.13 Multimedia Documentation

Please see ‘Video/Slideshow of Final Output’

1.14 Previews and Reviews

“Whilst being entertaining, the modern Malaysian interpretation of Rama and Sita also succeeded in informing on many levels. Besides handing out a fair dose of morals and ethics to the kids in the audience, it helped educate the adults about Malaysian teenage culture… The use of cyberspace lent the story an interesting touch. It activated the myth to a level of high speed and sophistication, one which most appropriately portrays the daily demands of keeping up with social trends, modern lifestyles and technology on today’s youth. The interpretation was further enhanced by innovative choreography (by Aida Redza) and funky yet not overdone costumes (by Hannah David).

Quah, K. (19-25 July 1996).
All the right moves in Rama & Sita. Day & Night, pg. 13.

Supporting Archival Material:

Khoo, E. (16 July 1996) Support Actors make the grade. The STAR

 

Quah, K. (19-25 July 1996). All the right moves in Rama & Sita. Day&Night, pp. 13.

 

1.15 Publications

N/a

1.16 Photographs

Refer to “VIDEO/SLIDESHOW OF FINAL OUTPUT”

1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:

N/A

VIDEO/SLIDESHOW OF FINAL OUTPUT

Synopsis of Story: This adaptation of the classic Indian epic ‘Ramayana’ begins with Dasaratha’s retirement and the handing over of his business to his son Rama. However, a scandal in the company forces Rama to leave his home with his wife Sita and his brother Laksamana. In their new country of residence, the meet Hanuman and Surpanaka. The later tries to lure Rama away from Sita. When she fails to do so she challenges Ravana to take Sita as his bride. Ravana kidnaps Sita sparking a battle where Rama with the help of Hanuman defeats Ravana and wins the release of Sita.

 

Supporting Archival Materials

Rama & Sita: Generasi Baru (1996). (YouTube)

ART MAKING PROCESS

The intention to create a contemporary interpretation of the Ramayana story that would appeal to young audiences, set the tone for the artistic direction of this production. The co-directors began by setting the story in a modern context; where corporate power, business politics and ambitious young executives replaced countries, kingdom, kings, princes, and demons. The popularity of cyberspace communication, interest in virtual reality, the obsession with virtual war games, and the emergence of a ‘computer language’ were elements consciously incorporated into the interpretation.

Using loose references to the epic plot and characters in the Ramayana, the co-directors created a guiding framework consisting of 12 scenarios. The framework outlined the main dramatic action in each scene, the possible performance style and other theatrical elements such as song, music, or video projection. It provided an overarching direction for the adult artists, and allowed them creative freedom to design and develop their respective sections.

The dialogue and characters were developed by the actors through improvisation during the rehearsal period. Later the dialogue was documented and edited by co-director Charlene Rajendren and parts were translated by Ismail Hashim into a final script.

Actors received intensive training in movement from dancer-choreographer Aida Redza. Some of the main scenes such as the marriage and battle scenes employed choreography and dance; while minor scenes incorporated mimed movement which were stylised to reflect robotic gestures and postures associated with the world of technology.

For the set, which represented the dark underworld of Ravana, designer Liew Kung Yu chose industrial materials; metal scaffolding used in building construction, rubber strips and tires, and black plastic sheets. In contrast, the world of Rama and Sita was more minimalist and bare. 20 TV monitors were installed within the set in close-proximity to the audience; and would constantly play a live feed of interviews with the audience by Hanuman, and pre-recorded clips of news, action drama, war images, etc. related to the scenes.  

Supporting Archival Materials

Rama & Sita ( final handwritten framework. scan first page from scene 1-4)

Performance description

This performance was conceived as a contemporary piece of theatre incorporating drama, stylised movements, video projections, and audience participation. However, not all of this actually worked.

One reviewer commented that the young teenage actors (perhaps of their age) seemed overtly self-conscious and that the performance seemed to reflect a style associated with the adult production company rather than a style appropriate to children. The heavy involvement of adult artists in this production may have could explain why the performance style came across as conceived by adults. The thematic and design concepts were developed by adult artists and their views of the modern world of young working adults. Unlike earlier Teater Muda productions, characters and actions were not culled from the children’s actual experiences. As a result, the actors seemed to use characters, actions, and language from video games and science fiction movies as inspiration. While the set and materials used were successful in presenting the dark world, the ambitious use of technology did not quite match the intention to conjure up the world of virtual reality. Nevertheless, the young participants were highly challenged as performers by the many theatrical experiments initiated by the adult artists.