Come August, expect the heat to turn up a notch in Penang for the sixth annual George Town Festival 2015 (GTF). Making its return from Aug 1 to 31, arts lovers can look forward to several homegrown initiatives and a selection of critically acclaimed performances from around the world.
Celebrating the arts, culture, heritage and community, GTF features a slew of local and international artists. Last year’s festival programme included original commissioned works by Penang-born filmmaker Saw Teong Hin’s Hai Kin Xin Lor (Hokkien play) and 2 Houses, a play written and directed by Singaporean Lim Yu-Beng.
This year’s festival highlights include Titanium, a fiery contemporary dance performance from Spain that fuses elements of flamenco, hip hop and breakdance. The all-male dance troupe is led by Madrid-based co-directors/dancers Angel Rojas and Carlos Rodriquez who have danced professionally since young and studied both contemporary and flamenco dance forms.
From Sydney, Australia, comes Shaun Parker & Company with its award-winning production Am I to Asia for the first time. This dance and music collaboration, which garnered rave reviews during its premiere at last year’s Sydney Festival, incorporates ancient fan and stick weaponry and is sure to be a delectable treat for local dance fans.
Also on the GTF programme this year is Slow Sound Of Snow, a slice of experimental theatre by Hole In The Wall Theatre Group from Iran. Meanwhile, the one-woman play Broken Nails: A Marlene Dietrich Dialogue by Polish artist Anna Skubik uses puppetry to depict the legendary German-born film and cabaret star’s last days living in isolation in her Paris apartment.
For a decidedly tech freakout, Oriza Hirata, founder of Japan’s celebrated Seinendan Theatre Company, will unleash his robotic theatre work at GTF, with a creative reimagining of Franz Kafka’s man-turns-bug classic Metamorphosis. The star of this show is, of course, a robot – created by leading Japanese roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro.
On the homefront, theatregoers should look out for 100% Penang, an interactive performance by 100 Penangites. Going by numbers alone, it’s a definite must-watch.
Also on the calendar is the Butterworth Fringe Festival, slotted for the weekend of Aug 15 and 16 in conjunction with GTF, and featuring pop-up bookstores, movie screenings, creative crafts, exhibition, presentations and live performances.
“We have been wanting to kickstart the fringe festival for a long time. Plus, there are over 900,000 people on the mainland who can check out the festival, featuring a wide range of activities for people from all walks of life,” says festival director Joe Sidek during GTF’s press conference in Kuala Lumpur on May 18.
But wait, there’s more…
Other GTF highlights worth checking out are: free open-air screenings of classic Asean movies; Bambu, a showcase and exhibition on all things related to the versatile bamboo; and More Than Friends, an exhibition of works by contemporary artists from five Asean countries.
But wait, there’s more: Same Same is an intriguing photography exhibition exploring and celebrating the diversity of Malaysians whose identities are often lumped together in the “dan lain-lain” category, while Trees, an exhibition of Beth Moon’s Trees series, features pop-up shops and workshops.
GTF promises to end with a bang with its own Merdeka Day celebrations, during which festivalgoers can must check out All Things Malaysian, a celebration spanning the island’s breadth of traditional and contemporary arts, culture, food, film and performances.
The festival will bring a global flavour to the heritage city while maintaining the spotlight on the local community and vibrant spaces of George Town, according to Joe.
“We are excited to showcase a range of Asian, Asean and Malaysian premieres from internationally renowned performers. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity for local and international festivalgoers to witness world-class theatre and dance with George Town as a backdrop,” he adds.
Joe reveals that while it has been a challenge to raise funds to bring in international shows, he assures that ticket prices will be kept low. “Funding is our biggest hurdle. While it has been difficult to raise money, we continue to strive on to bring arts to the masses. Where in the world can you watch an international act for RM20?” he says, with a smile.
At press time, the GTF venues will include historic mansions, landmark streets, as well as more familiar ones like Dewan Sri Pinang and MPPP Town Hall. See you there!
George Town Festival 2015 takes place from Aug 1-31 at various locations in George Town, Penang. There is an early bird promotion of 20% off all regular ticket prices till June 19. For more details, go to redtix.airasia.com and georgetownfestival.com