Murdoch’s dramatic foray into Malaysia

March 4, 2013

Twenty students, three technical crew and support staff travelled to Malaysia in late January to put on a re-imagined Edwardian-era version of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

The production, which met with standing ovations from audiences, featured period costumes, an original Edwardian music hall chorus and a set inspired by painter Gustav Klimt.

Director Associate Professor Jenny De Reuck said the whirlwind tour saw the company put on four shows in three locations over 10 days.

“It was certainly exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. There was a real team effort throughout and our students and alumni were unbelievable ambassadors for Murdoch,” Professor De Reuck said.

“Audiences were a true revelation. All four performances were sold out, playing to crowds in excess of 400 and 500 people, including one performance with a member of the Royal Family, Tengku Shahariah, in attendance.

“We even had a high school bus its students seven hours for our performance in Kuala Lumpur.”

Professor De Reuck said that the venture was entirely self-funded by participants, with facilities and additional technical crew supplied by their hosts, Temple of Fine Arts in Johore Bahru, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris in Tanjung Malim.

She said plans were in the works for a reciprocal tour by a group from the Temple of Fine Arts, hopefully in August.

While not having the reputation of ‘the Scottish play’, The Winter’s Tale was not without a few theatrical hitches and moments of mischief.

“We had one student wrench his back after slipping on a wet floor and another come down with what we suspected was food poisoning before our performance at Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, or UPSI,” Professor De Reuck said.

“We started to refer to the university as UPSI-daisy. But both actors pulled themselves together enough to perform, taking a ‘the show must go on’ attitude.”

Professor De Reuck said she was pleasantly surprised by Malaysian students’ level of engagement and the knowledge of the work, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays.

“The level of cultural engagement was amazing, and I see this tour as the first step in a continuing and evolving relationship,” she said.

The Winter’s Tale was first performed in Nexus Theatre at Murdoch in November 2012 as the culminating production for EGL308 Shakespeare.

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