Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Norzizi Zulkifli & Mak Yong

Today theSun published my interview with theater director  Norzizi Zulkifli  who is putting up a Mak Yong performance. This dance form is banned in Kelantan. Read more of the story here 

Headline: Shakespeare meets Mak Yong 
By Bissme S

VERY few urbanites have ever seen a Mak Yong performance, a traditional form of Malay dance-drama which originated in Kelantan. It was already playing to dwindling audiences before it was officially banned in that state in 1991, because religious authorities deemed it ‘unIslamic’. 
Since then, Mak Yong performers have struggled to keep the art alive, performing it outside of its home state. In 2005, it received a much needed boost when Unesco declared Mak Yong as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Audiences in Kuala Lumpur can now catch one of the more modern performances of this ancient art, with the staging of Mak Yong Titis Sakti in the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac). 
The performance is based on an intriguing interpretation of one of English playwright William Shakespeare’s best-known works – A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 
Mak Yong Titis Sakti is conceptualised and directed by acclaimed theatre director Norzizi Zulkifli . Norzizi has staged it once before in 2009, also at klpac. 
Recalling her experiences then, Norzizi, 42, said: “klpac is known for its ‘English’ crowd, and I had some reservations [whether] the show would get a good response when I wanted to stage it for the first time.” 
Fortunately, Norzizi, currently the head of the Theatre Programme at the Faculty of Film, Theatre and Animation in Universiti Teknologi Mara, had nothing to worry about. 
Back then, the two-hour show played to a full house for five nights, receiving standing ovations and rave reviews. It was not only a runaway success but also managed to attract a large number of non-Malay crowd. Now, the performance has returned under the banner of The Actors Studio Seni Teater Rakyat. 
“I am performing the same piece, in a bigger hall, at the same venue,” Norzizi adds. 
“I have a far bigger challenge, as I have more seats to fill.” 
Norzizi had creatively blended eastern and western elements into her show, adapting the original story and changing the characters’ names to suit the local setting. 
Mak Yong Titis Sakti tells of two men, Indera Putera and Iskandar Muda, who are both in love with Cempaka Sari, who only has eyes for Iskandar Muda. Unfortunately, her father wants her to marry Indera Putera instead. So, Cempaka Sari and Iskandar Muda decide to flee into the forest. 
The couple are pursued by Indera Putera, who is in turn followed by Seri Laksana, who is in love with Indera Putera. What the four individuals do not realise is that something mystical will take place in the forest, and that their lives are going to change forever. 
“You can easily adapt most works by Shakespeare into Mak Yong,” said Norzizi, who previously won the Boh Cameranion award for best theatre director in 2013 for Usikan Rebab. 
“Shakespeare liked to focus on royalty and mystical characters, and a lot of stories in Mak Yong have similar traits.” 
Her production has been studied by the National University of Singapore, and has appeared in numerous publications, including the Routledge Handbook of Asian Theatre. 
About 25 cast and crew members are involved in the production, including music director Kamrul Hussin, set designer Bayu Utoma Radjikin, and costume designer Nur Afifi Mohammed Taib. 
Some of the cast members from the 2009 performance will be making a return, including two of the most well-known guardians of Mak Yong – Zamzuriah Zahari, who is also choreographing the work, and Rosnan Rahman. 
Other returning cast members include Asrulfaizal Kamaruzaman, Rosdeen Suboh, Shahanaros Shahruddin, Elza Irdalynna, and Siti Farrah Abdullah. They will been joined by popular actress Mardianna Alwi, Ezdiannee Hayatie Omar, Safia Hanifah and Putri Hannan Shahidah, as well as five dancers and 12 musicians. 
Norzizi was kind enough to give the media a preview of her upcoming production, and most of the journalists were impressed with what they saw. I find the traditional music accompanying the performance simply awesome. In addition, 30% of dialogue in Mak Yong Titis Sakti is in English, while the rest is in the Kelantanese dialect. 
“I have a dream that one day I can present a full Mak Yong performance entirely in English, and I hope I can make the dream come true soon,” says Norzizi.

Footnote : Mak Yong Titis Sakti will be staged at Pentas 2, klpac, from this Saturday to Feb 4.

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