Suara Rimba was a musical dance-drama adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book by playwright Leow Puay Tin, for a Malaysian audience. It was the first professional performance of musical drama staged by Teater Muda, with a cast made up entirely of children and teenagers.

Suara Rimba (1994)

Suara Rimba (1994)

Suara Rimba Programme Book

Suara Rimba Programme Book

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

Download the Archive Record Inventory (PDF)


1.1 Programme Name

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

1.2 Project Title

Suara Rimba, 1994

1.3 Context and Objective

The young performers in Suara Rimba aged 10-17 were participants of Phase 2 (Feb-July 1993) of the Teater Muda project run by Five Arts Centre at the premises of the National Library. Jungle Book or Suara Rimba was conceived with the objective of giving young participants of the Teater Muda Programme an opportunity to apply and display the multi-art skills learnt in the programme. In line with Five Arts Centre’s vision to nurture local creativity, the production involved collaboration with adult artists in terms of original writing, music composition, choreography, and design.

1.4 Project Description

Suara Rimba was a musical dance-drama adapted from Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book by playwright Leow Puay Tin, for a Malaysian audience. It was the first professional performance of musical drama staged by Teater Muda, with a cast made up entirely of children and teenagers.

1.5 Source Material

The main plot for Suara Rimba was inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s novel The Jungle Book and adapted into a script by playwright Leow Puay Tin; who worked closely with the director and actors, observing rehearsals, and adapting the story to a local context, and also to the language capacity of the young actors. The script was translated into Malay by Ismail Hashim.

1.6 Co-Producer

Marion D’Cruz (Five Arts Centre)

1.7 Project Lead

Janet Pillai

1.8 Creative Team

Creative Team:
All performers
Anne James
Bayu Utomo Radjikin
Charlene Rajendran
Ismail Hashim
Janet Pillai
Kit Leee
Krishen Jit
Leong Hon Yuen
Leow Puay Tin
Liew Kung Yu
Marion D’Cruz
Rafique Rashid
Sunetra Fernando
Tan Sooi Beng
Wong Hoy Cheong

Production Team:
Anne James
Ang Bee Saik
Charlene Rajendran
Chee Sek Thim
Hadi A. S.
Hamzah Tahir
Ivy Josiah
Marion D’Cruz
Margaret Martinez
Wong Hoy Cheong

1.9 Participants

Aaron Pragasam, Arman b. Hawari, Basaruddin Basir, Cheng Ling Ying, Divya Madhavan, Faizal b. Abdul Hamid, Ghazidi Ariff, Gerald Chin Wye Heung, Lok Kok Soon, Nadeanne bt. Mohd Salleh, Nafisah Hassan Graham-Brown, Ong Ning Geng, Pauline Nisha Sundram, Phan Yng Yih, Rohayu bt. Mohd. Jais, Renugadevi Subramaniam, Rowena Chin, Saidatul Hafeeza Mohd. Rashid, Sara bt. Noordin, Savinderjeet Kaur, SeeBih Harn, Shah Mahadi, Sujatha Arunasalam, Zool Raimy Abd. Ghaffar.

Children from Teater Muda Phases 1 & 2 11-17

1.10 Events and Activities

(Date unknown) Field trip Zoo Negara Kuala Lumpur Learnt about animals
12th and 13th June 1993 – Field trip Majick River Kuala Kubu Bharu Learnt about the Jungle
(Date unknown) Field trip Carey Island Learnt to weave from the Orang Asli community
June 1993, August 1993, November 1993, December 1993, January 1994 – Rehearsals on weekends and school holidays MATIC and National Library Kuala Lumpur
19th and 20th March 1993 National Library Kuala Lumpur
6th June 1993 Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Kuala Lumpur Performance of songs during The Star’s ‘Green Day’
5th November 1993 MATIC Kuala Lumpur For Pesta Seni Kanak-kanak
21st to 23rd and 25th to 27th January 1994 Auditorium Matic Kuala Lumpur

1.11 Promotional Material/Catalogue/Programme

Promotional Materials – which included a poster, a programme book, a flyer, tickets, and a sticker – were designed by visual artist Liew Kung Yu, who enlisted the help of some young actors. All promotional materials carry the liet motif of the jungle; images of flora and fauna, shapes, shades, and patterns derived from nature.

Supporting Archival Materials

1.12 Final Script/Final Curriculum

The final script was slightly different from the version written by Leow Puay Tin (and translated by Ismail Hashim), as it represented the final ‘performance text’ which included significant additional dialogue, scenes, and songs devised by the creative team of adults and young performers during rehearsals.

Supporting Archival Materials

Staging History: Selected Plays from Five Arts Centre Malaysia 1984-2014. Ed Kathy Rowland. Pg 144.

(Hard copy of complete script available at Five Arts Centre AEAM Repository)

1.13 Multimedia Documentation

Please see ‘Video/Slideshow of Final Output’

1.14 Previews and Reviews


Supporting Archival Materials



1.15 Publications


1.16 Photographs


1.17 Final Report/Project Evaluation:



Synopsis of Story: A family of wolves saves a human boy Mowgli, from a man-eating tiger, but some animals instigate the wolf cubs to reject Mowgli despite the fact that he obeys the Law of the Jungle and is a good ‘wolf’. To end the hostility, Mowgli leaves the jungle with a promise to work for peace between men and animals.

Supporting Archival Materials

Suara Rimba – The Making of, 1994. (YouTube)


The making of Suara Rimba can be viewed as a collaborative work involving adult artists and young performers. Adult artists either contributed directly to the production or facilitated young people in devising the performance and/or production materials.

This production began with the immersion of actors in field exploration and observation. Actors spent long hours watching animal documentaries and had scheduled visits to the zoo to observe animals. During the visits to the zoo, the designer Liew Kung Yu provided paints and dyes to the participants and requested that they capture the facial contours and skin textures of various animals.

Liew also planned a special field trip to Magick River in Kuala Kubu Bahru, where the participants were given an opportunity to work first-hand in a jungle setting. Here they were given specific tasks to use materials found in nature to create make up and costumes, set traps, create camouflage, and carry out ambushes to understand the territorial nature of animals, and experience animal habitats. Their final study was carried out in Carey Island where they learnt the weaving of costumes and accessories from the Temiar tribe.

These first hand observations enabled the actors to become adept at developing their animal characters which combined both human and animal traits through mime, movement, and sound. The trips and hands-on experimentation within a natural environment and utilizing natural materials also enabled the designer to derive inspiration for the creation of costumes and make-up, which was able to reflect the jungle in terms of form, structure, texture, and materials.

Dancer-choreographer Marion D’Cruz, maintained a naive perspective in her simple yet evocative choreography. She used elements of traditional and contemporary dance, Malay martial arts and animal locomotive movements in the dance sequences. The choreography highlighted particular animal locomotion, behavior and sensibility; a slow and temptuous Kaa the snake, the humorous and funny ensemble of monkeys with rude rhythmic antics etc. D’Cruz also took the trouble to customise movement to the capabilities of the actors, so that they appeared confident and comfortable. Dances were accompanied by chant, song and music.

Two local musicians, Rafique Rashid and Kit Leee, were commissioned to produce original compositions for this musical. Since they were residing in the town of Kuala Kubu Bahru which was nestled close to jungles, home to Malaysian aboriginal community, the Temiar. The musicians developed compositions inspired by the traditional musical rhythms of the Temiar people, using traditional bamboo instruments (wind and percussion) and found objects. They synthesised the traditional rhythms with contemporary popular music such as rap and ballads. The composers also worked on the song lyrics (in Malay and English language) for both solos and the ensemble. However, the music director Sunetra Fernandez chose to rearrange the music for a gamelan orchestra (in combination with wayang kulit and bamboo instruments).

The set was designed by visual artist Bayu Utomo and built by the Matahati collective. The simple platforms using coconut fronds as an atmospheric backdrop, presented the jungle as an imaginative playground and home for the animals.

The performance was guided by the script, which was adapted by playwright Leow Puay Tin, however the actors were given leeway to improvise lines and action throughout the rehearsal period. The director initially built the play using basic scenarios but due to the complex nature of the musical dance drama, a framework (rangka cerita) was used in the final phase of rehearsals.

Supporting Archival Materials

Song Lyrics



Rangka cerita


Marion D’Cruz
Producer and Choreographer
Project: Suara Rimba, 1994

• Reflections as a Choreographer
As a young choreographer, I had already begun a ‘journey in search of Malaysian contemporary dance’. I had been playing with ideas of east, west, tradition and modernity; and the collision of these concepts and ideas in finding new vocabulary. In Suara Rimba, I had the opportunity to expand on this with the children. They were ‘free’ from existing ‘dance’ vocabularies in their bodies. They were willing to ‘play’ with me. Additionally, we had the rich source of movement vocabulary from the animals they were portraying. The choreography drew from many sources – animal movements, my own dance vocabulary, creative movement, silat (Malay Martial Arts) and most importantly, from the bodies of the children. While I was ‘playing’ with the children, I was at the same time, a very exacting task master! We repeated the choreography over and over and over again!!! The eventual result was effective. The choreography worked in telling the story.

• Reflections as a Producer
I had been producing work for Five Arts Centre since 1984, but Suara Rimba was the biggest production I had done at that point. It was a huge learning curve for me – dealing with big sponsors, children, parents, artists, a huge production and creative team, logistics, endless details – it was huge and very unwieldy. However, there was an incredible working relationship with my fellow artists – Janet, Kungyu, Bayu, Sunetra, Rafique, Kit Leee, Anne, Sooi Beng, Hoy Cheong and others. We were all early to mid-career artists. We knew what we knew. But we knew that there was a lot that we did not know, and we were excited and willing to experiment and explore – and to learn from each other and from the children. This is quite rare in any artistic collaboration.

Pauline Nisha Sundrum
Supporting child actor playing character of Shere Khan
Project: Suara Rimba, 1994