Art By Day, Laundry By Night

Spoiler alert: They’re not lying in their Facebook profile – they really do run a laundry business.

“Performing Arts and Industrial Laundry Solutions”.

A look at TerryandTheCuz’s Facebook profile, you will see that they provide the above. Sure, we know them for the former, but the latter? Odd. The official website doesn’t help matters either, eschewing fancy abstract designs for a layout based on a laundry outlet.

At this point, I’m not sure if it’s an elaborate inside joke between the duo. I got my answer when I managed to speak with them in their office. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: after a walk through a carpark, passing what seems to be lockers and piles upon piles of clothing and sheets, you will find that TerryandTheCuz actually runs a laundry business – not your residential dhobi, mind you, but a large-scale operation that resides beneath a hotel (just look at the address!).

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The dynamic duo; Govin (L) and Terence (R).

Calling themselves “artists by day, laundry owners by night”, TerryandTheCuz consists of Govin Ruben, a lighting designer, and Terence Conrad, a businessman. Combine the two and you get an artistic chameleon, with entries in theatre, dance and installations.

Now, back to the laundry business. The duo started in Batu Caves before its current location in Subang, and they have moved into a bigger facility at the time of this publication. Double the size of the current one, the latest office provides them with a bigger space to handle TerryandTheCuz-related items, giving them a greater degree of freedom without being physically constrained.

Both businesses complement each other, as they can easily route funding as required, and they can engage their contacts from the laundry business (piping, steel, transportation) to help build their sets. “It’s a very practical approach to making art… in terms of how we build stuff… because we have our own suppliers, it actually works out,” said Govin.

Having spent time with them, they started telling me the natural progression of their projects. A real-life incident was the inspiration for a scene in “Klue, Doh!” as well as “The Bee Project”, and the latter is a rough retelling on how the former was written. These first few efforts had comedic elements, and there was concern that they would be pigeonholed as “just” a comedic crew. Well, they decided to do something about that.

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Refusing to be confined to just one particular genre, TerryandTheCuz began to flex their creative muscles after “The Bee Project”, and it started rather unexpectedly. Criticisms of “The Bee Project” (because it “did not fit the traditional definition of theatre”) spurred them to work on “Flatland”, an all-out contemporary dance performance set to blow naysayers’ minds and socks off. It then gained an installation counterpart, “Welcome2Flatland” thanks to RM50,000 from Urbanscapes. Demand for a show that can tour around the world (thanks to the well-received “Flatland”) then set them on a path to develop their latest project, “SK!N”, another dance performance. It is one of the highlights of this year’s George Town Festival.

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TerryandTheCruz isn’t about making art for the artistic elite, it’s about engaging as many people as possible. “Our aim isn’t to alienate our audience… by the end of ‘Flatland’, more people saw contemporary dance,” Govin said.

On them making art for the layman, Terence promptly said, “Of course! We are the everyman.” Govin also threw in his two cents. “If your audience cannot connect with your work, then why make the work? The contract is between you and the audience, and you need to respect the audience.”

The 2015 George Town Festival features two of their projects – “Welcome2Flatland” and “SK!N”. The former is a commentary on surveillance states, while the latter is about human trafficking. To find out more on the sensitive subject matter, TerryandTheCuz had workshops with refugees and migrant workers in collaboration with NGOs like Tenaganita to gather their stories. “Welcome2Flatland” is set to go live at the Butterworth Fringe Festival (15 – 16 August), while the last day of GTF features an exclusive preview of “SK!N”.

So what’s next for TerryandTheCuz? “We’ve got what we’re gonna work on for the next three years, we’re already clear on what we want to achieve, we’ve got a couple of projects [that] we want to do,” said Terence. Among those in the pipeline is a localisation of a Shakespearian work, which is still a few years away from fruition.

As for them getting two spots in GTF? “We have no idea why Joe Sidek (Festival Director, GTF) likes us,” quipped Govin. ◆

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George Town Festival is sponsored by the Penang State Government and supported by Tourism Malaysia

 

Andrew Yew

Storyteller. Doodler. Gamer.

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