Fairytales never go out of style. Yet it is tempting to think that The Actor’s Studio Teater Rakyat has an immaculate sense of timing with its upcoming theatre show Don’t Let Children Know, which opens at KLPac on April 6.
Don’t Let Children Know features a variety of fun and twisted takes on traditional fairytales. If you need a recent example of the popularity of fairytales, just look at Disney’s Beauty And The Beast movie, which finally reaches our cinemas today.
If watching Beauty And The Beast puts you in the mood for more updated fairytales, why not check out Don’t Let Children Know? It’s a theatre production comprising seven works, all inspired by fairytales, and you can expect some cute and naughty elements on board.
Don’t worry, it’s not going to be anything like Alan Moore’s Lost Girls, an adult graphic novel based on fairytales.
Instead, Don’t Let Children Know – an all-ages show – will unleash the creativity of five directors – Amelia Tan, Easee Gan, Esther Liew, Vincent Hau and William Yap. Each director will bring forward his or her own personal vision when it comes to these handpicked fairytales.
“It’s like a performing arts buffet. We’re featuring all kinds of classic stories – happy, sad, bizarre – through these seven fairytales,” says Easee Gan, Don’t Let Children Know’s show producer, who is also directing one of the pieces.
“Part of the excitement of the show is that audiences won’t know the show’s order. So it’s like a rollercoaster, you won’t know which is coming next. There’s comedy, drama and more,” he adds.
Don’t Let Children Know is the follow-up to last year’s Don’t Let Shakespeare Know. While that was a no-holds barred reinterpretation of the Bard’s works in conjunction with the Shakespeare 400 celebration, this show turns the spotlight on tales you probably heard before bedtime instead.
The Actor’s Studio Teater Rakyat is collaborating with Muka Space Productions for this show, and it will be performed in a variety of languages, with English subtitles.
Gan’s piece is a Mandarin take on the poignant Oscar Wilde story The Fisherman And His Soul, and will feature actors Lim Si Jie and Vivienne Oon.
“The text for this piece is very beautiful. And I’ve always loved the story of The Little Mermaid by (Danish author) Hans Christian Andersen, and this story is like the reverse of it. There, the mermaid gives up her soul for love, but here the fisherman does it,” says Gan.
The Fisherman And His Soul’s text is not only a forbidden love story, but also a meditation about the body-spirit tension, about the importance of the heart for building a sense of self, and about what brings us happiness and salvation.
Liew will direct Belah, an experimental take on the Malay folk story Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup, which was also made into a Jamil Sulong-directed Malay movie in 1959. In short, as a fairly sad folk tale, Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup concerns familial ties, a mother’s wrath and a mystery cave. Viewers will have to find out for themselves if Liew will add the fish eggs element to Belah.
Meanwhile, Hau tells a love story without words in The Word Factory, an adaptation of the French picture book La Grande Fabrique De Mots.
Tan will be showcasing Wayang The Tapir, an intricately handcrafted shadow puppet show, which premiered at the Thailand Harmony World Puppet Festival earlier this year. Meanwhile, Yap’s M Kaki has Snow White, Red Riding Hood and various other fairytale darlings discussing their love lives, while playing a game of mahjong. In a twist, however, these characters will be played by men!
Apart from theatre, the Don’t Let Children Know show will include a horror-inspired dance version of the popular Mid Autumn Festival tale of starcrossed lovers Hou Yi, the archer, and his wife Chang’e. It will be choreographed and performed by Tan Bi Ni. Also expect tunes by singer-songwriter Chan Jian Ning, who will be performing in Mandarin and English.
“All fairytales tend to start with a narrator. So in our show, we have a singer-songwriter as one. He will sort of play the tune for the series, and lead the audience into the stories,” says Gan.
The producer hopes this contemporary production will encourage more people to visit and experience the joy of watching a stage performance.
A well-told fairytale, he says, appeals to everyone, and while his show is titled Don’t Let Children Know, he maintains that it is an accessible production for the entire family to enjoy.
“I think that all of us still have a child somewhere in our hearts,” concludes Gan.
Don’t Let Children Know will be showing at Pentas 2, KLPac, Sentul West, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (formerly Jalan Ipoh) in Kuala Lumpur from April 6-9. Showtimes are 8.30pm on April 6-8 and 3pm on April 8-9. Tickets are RM55 and RM45 (concession/show preview on April 6). For more info, visit klpac.org. Call 03-4047 9000.