Teater Kami play banned in Malaysia

A scene from Merdekanya Kita, a play staged by Teater Kami at the Malay Heritage Centre's (TWM) Black Box theatre.

MALAYSIA - Home-grown Malay theatre group Teater Kami has had what would have been its first show in Malaysia banned.

The company, helmed by Singapore Cultural Medallion recipient Atin Amat, was scheduled to perform the play Merdekanya Kita (Our Independence) on Thursday.

But it was told on Tuesday that the play had not been approved.

The play portrays the way ordinary people in South-east Asia view independence and it explores issues of history and social values.

It was denied permission because the play was deemed by the Malaysian authorities to "touch on the sensitivities of Malaysian society, especially its political and social aspects".

Teater Kami's marketing executive Rafil Kamaruddin said the group submitted an appeal on Wednesday but it received no word by opening night so it cancelled its shows.

The company was scheduled to perform for two nights, Thursday and on Friday, at the 120-seat black box theatre of the Damansara Performing Arts Centre in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

In a telephone interview from Malaysia, the director of the play, Atin, 56, said: "I am disappointed.

This was supposed to be our first time performing in Malaysia.

"It is difficult for me to accept the reason for the rejection. The play has no agenda against anyone, there is nothing at all that is sensitive."

The play premiered in Jakarta in December last year and was restaged at the Malay Heritage Centre in Singapore in March, both times to warm reviews.

Rafil of Teater Kami said the group had originally received word from its Malaysian representative who is assisting with the permit application that the play would get the green light.

So its 12-person cast and crew travelled to Malaysia on Monday to prepare for the show. The group will return on Saturday, which is Malaysia's Independence Day.

The company does not have exact figures but it says tickets, priced at RM40 (S$15.45), have been sold. Ticket holders are being refunded.

This is not the first time a Singapore production has run into problems in Malaysia.

In April last year, the Singapore Dance Theatre was allegedly denied a performance permit to stage a ballet show because of indecent costumes.

It was later dismissed by the Malaysian authorities, however, as a misunderstanding.

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