Co. Un Yamada together with Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur and ASWARA present a special Malaysian version of hit Japanese play “People without Seasons.”
Inspired by the original book A City without Seasons by Shugoro Yamamoto, Un Yamada transforms impactful stories from World War 2 into living and breathing tales in “People Without Seasons”, through thought-provoking choreography, compelling costume, and magnificent set design. The cross-cultural production tells a story of tragic lives oppressed by the society and their roller-coaster of emotions.Backed by the stirring music of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, the tragicomedy brings to life her kinetic interpretations of hope, using the bodies of the cast to express such emotions as joy, anger, pathos, and humour with relation to the lives of residents of a shantytown.
It All Began in Tokyo
Fauzi Amirudin and Jabar Laura were invited to Japan in March this year to present a revival of the original piece in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Yamamoto’s death. There, Jabar recounted tales of his hometown – Kampung Pituru, Kinarut in Sabah, which shares a number of similarities with the play’s slum setting. Intrigued, Yamada visited the state in August with set designer Hiroshi Fuji and costume designer RYOTAMURAKAMI where she received the idea to transplant the story to Malaysia after encountering the small village.
Uppre had the privilege to watch the full rehearsal at Gymnasium 1, Sports Centre, University of Malaya and eventually, sit down together with Fauzi, Jabar and Un Yamada for a little bit of insight of the upcoming performance. Both Fauzi and Jabar will be a part of the new cast featuring eight fellow Malaysians who made the cut after a series of competitive auditions. Noted theatre practitioner Janet Pillai completes the group alongside Yamada herself and four company dancers.
What is the concept behind People without Seasons?
Un Yamada (UY): This work is (originally) from A City without Seasons, a Japanese novel written by Shuguro Yamamoto 60 years ago. The story was about a small, poor village after the 2nd war in Japan and there were short news every day in the newspaper (about the war). So I used some situations from the story in this novel – the meaning of happiness, our desire, important things in life and some universal issues or questions.
How did you get the inspiration to choreograph this performance?
UY: Based on the similar situation from the novel and the one in Sabah. Let me give you an example. There were many people waiting in the street (during the war) and in Sabah, people were also waiting in the street. We observed their emotions and took some pictures for our costume ideas. The set designer was also inspired by the situation in Sabah. We saw different materials used on the window and wall in Sabah. Some use plastics while some use wood.What is the reception amongst the people for this type of performance (dance-theatre hybrid)?
UY: Last time, Japanese and Malaysian dancers performed differently but this time we combine everything together. Malaysian audience will be able to see the diversity of dance moves as the result of this combination. It’s very interesting.
Jabar Laura (JL): For me, it’s interesting for Malaysian audience to watch this type of performance because it’s not only dancing or musical theatre but a combination of everything – dance, music, and drama. It’s surely a new experience for Malaysian audience.
Fauzi Amirudin (FA): In my opinion, based on last year’s experience of joining the performance (with Un Yamada troupe), like Un-san said, we separated Malaysian and Japanese dancers. But this time, we collaborate and dance together. Last time, the audience’s reception to the performance was not bad and I believe this time they will become more interested because of the unique diversity combined together in a performance. Hopefully, the audience can comprehend and figure out what we are doing on stage.
Tell us more about the characters you portray/roles you play in the performance.
JL: Basically, we capture emotion, it’s not really characters we are trying to imitate. We always change characters, even the moves are different depending on the characters. It’s really hard for the dancers to change the quality of the dances according to the characters. We focus more on the characters’ emotion. For example, in Sabah, people are waiting for something (to happen) and nothing like in the city. Here we always running out of time. But there, they are calm and relaxed.
FA: Before we joined this troupe, we went to Tokyo last April to perform. Un-san gave us some reference; a video of A City without Seasons. We looked at some characters (a dreamer in a family, blind people, heartless and sad people) and we picked up the emotion and portrayed it through the performance.
Changing characters to freshen up the idea is also what we do. We don’t fix the characters but can do so depending on the situation on stage. For example, on the stage, if someone pulls me (by my shirt) or slaps me, I can choose to either to stay quiet or be angry and fight back.
UY: People without Seasons tries to portray that there are different kinds of people living in the same village. For example, my character is different from Jabar and Fauzi. Sometimes intense and sometimes childish and sometimes I act as an old lady.What are the preparations you’ve done before the performance?
JL: Actually, before the performance, we went to Tokyo for the same production but with different title – A City without Seasons. Prior to the practice, we looked at the video, like Fauzi said, and tried to comprehend the characters and their emotions. As for the production team, they went to my village (in Sabah) to do some research and take a look at the situation.
I brought them to Pulau Gayah and my village and they were inspired by the situation in my village. Later, around the past two weeks, we started rehearsing for 9 hours a day. Oh ya! The audition also took place before we went to Sabah.
FA: After the audition, the rehearsal began. The first day, we had a briefing session to make clear of the direction we want to go. We were divided into different sections. Every day we practiced and developed each section until we finished all of them. The following week, we tried to run from A-Z so that every dancer can understand and get a bigger picture of the piece.
After that, we slowly continued to develop the characters. As for the costumes, we tried to match the colours and materials used with the characters. Then, we tried to put it in the set – how you want to hang up the costumes on set. All in all, the process will continue developing until the day of the performance itself.
How is it like working with a Japanese performance troupe?
JL: For me, it’s a different experience. In Malaysia, if we have production, say musical performance, the dancers usually are the same people (from the previous production). The producer will just call the dancers and ask whether or not interested to join (the production).
It’s different with the Japanese production. They always conduct an audition for every different production. Their energy and movement quality are really high. As Malaysian, we face hard times to keep up with their constantly high energy, maybe because of the different training they do. But it’s a good motivation for me to maintain my performance.
They are very welcoming and there’s no such thing like the Japanese just mingling with other Japanese. We are also expected to give our best or to be at least at par with Un-san. For example, if Un-san’s idea is 80%, we have to give more than that. This is the hardest part of working with Un-san (laughs).
FA: It’s a rare experience because it’s very hard to get this type of opportunity. For me, it’s a good exposure for us as dancers and its considered as high achievement. I’m glad to be able to work with Un-san’s company. It’s also very challenging but at the same time, I challenge myself to be at least at the same level with them.
I mean, we have our own specialties and they have their own too. I tried to absorb as much as possible (Un-san’s idea and concepts) to develop myself. For me, teamwork is important. If the practice is scheduled at 8.30 a.m, we have to come earlier to warm up etc. It’s good training for dancers in terms of punctuality and how to maintain the mood throughout the rehearsal.
Catch “People Without Season” only this weekend at KLPAC!
On that note, here’s a reminder that Malaysian stage collaborations with foreign troupes isn’t anything new!
Friday, 20 October, 8.30 p.m.
Saturday, 21 October, 8.30 p.m.
Sunday, 22 October, 3.30 p.m.
RM55 | General
RM28 | Students, Senior Citizens, Disabled, TAS Card Holders, JFKL Library Members
klpac Box Office | Call 03 4047 9000 or visit from 10.00 am to 6.30 pm daily
TicketPro | Call 03 7880 7999 or visit ticketpro.com.my
Pentas 1, The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPAC)
Sentul Park, Jalan Strachan, Off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, 51100 Kuala Lumpur