Plastic City drives home the point!

 |May 1, 2017
Audience trying their hands playing with the puppets after the performance of Plastic City at PenangPac, Straits Quay, George Town.

Plastic city, a shadow play that drives home the point!

On the, the counter race to reflect 160,000 plastic bags are used per second worldwide.

If place one after another, this plastic chain will go around the world seven times every hour and cover an area twice the size of France.

The average Malaysian is unaware of this and still go about clueless as plastic bags are recycled, non-degradable and end up polluting the seas.

Most bags are simply thrown out.

These convenient bags are made from polyethene that takes centuries to degrade.

Worldwide, we humans use 100 million tonnes of plastic every year.

Some 10% of this plastic end up in the oceans and with dire consequences.

The play shows this plastic soup where the plastic bags breaks down in tiny not digestible pieces and eaten by fish.

Consequently, the plastic builds up and enters into the food chain.

Hundreds of fish, turtles, seals, sea lion, seabirds and even whales at the plastics.

In 2008, 22.2 kilos of plastic was found in the stomach of a whale that died in California (USA).

Alarming studies have shown the migration of these plastic bags which their way to the ‘Pacific garbage patch’ and literary become a plastic soup.

Reka Art Space’s (RAS) initiative shadow puppetry performance – ‘Plastic City’ – tells a poignant tale of the hold plastic has on everyday life.

The play uses actual materials that others have thrown away.

These objects are collected and infused with each other to form the sets for the play.

Torn and dirty plastic bags, mineral bottles, plastic sheets, garbage bags, balloons and even plastic packaging for eggs and food containers are picked up by the crew from the seaside or dumps around George Town.

These are washed, cleaned and reused.

The objects speak their inner voices out.

The young artist is committed and passionate to use a silent story telling of the method of a shadow play to draw the audience into the movement.

The ‘Plastic City’ is part of the ‘Initiate, Develop, Perform’ movement by RAS that aims to provide a platform for young artists to lead and develop their own performances.

The 45-min shadow play is non-verbal and suitable for children as young as four years old accompanied by their parents.

The four young passionate puppeteers are in the forefront to bring shadow play internationally.

Artistic director and puppeteer, Tan Lay Heong’s recent theatrical work, a shadow puppetry, ‘Sang Kancil & Tapir’ was in 2015.

Her love for recycled items and waste materials is often utilised in her artwork as she has a strong interest in installation art and painting which she shares to promote intangible culture heritage to local youth.

Director, puppeteer and actor, Goo Zhuan Xuan’s has an apprenticeship on Potehi (Chinese Glove Puppetry) and has performed widely in the Kakiseni Arts Exchange Programme 2013 touring different states in Malaysia and performed at the Hamedan International Children’s Theatre Festival in Iran.

Goo’s debut full-length performance, ‘Plastic City’ was performed in Penang, Macau and Taiwan.

In July 2016, Goo and Tan were invited to Macau by Ox Warehouse to conduct a 3-week long Shadow Play Workshop for children.

Evonne Ch’ng Yee Von involvement in the theatre started when she was 14.

Her interest in the mixed media children theatre ‘Sang Kancil’ fires up her curiosity in manipulating shadow puppets.

Low Zhi Kai started his involvement in theatre productions started in 2010.

Both Low and Ch’ng started their exploration of puppetry from their apprenticeship with Teo Chew Iron-Rod Puppetry.

This performance incorporates traditional wayang kulit and contemporary experimental presentation which literally jumps out of the box of ordinary black and white shadow play.

The concept of the performance begins with the audiences’ reflection and thought on the relationship between humans and Earth and explores the coexistence of human and nature.

Environmental issues are universal.

An environmental theatre such as this dive into different places and is a catalyst for numerous interesting conversations.

A positive feedback was recorded from the audience that ranged from an eye opener to ways educate young kids on the recycling-reuse concept.

The story uses two main characters, a little fish and a turtle as the voiceless victims to tell the story.

Many of the audience felt that it was a good way to teach young children how to protect the earth in a very entertaining way.

Foo May Lyn who watched the performance said that “Plastic City” should continue for a few more runs; either now or slightly later as it was an impactful, powerful performance.

I’m grateful to see this genre, and am excited and motivated that the show influences and impacts people positively,” said Doris Hafner.

Ian Kerr who watched the performance said the way forward was to publicise the need to limit plastic and the lack of care in the disposal of plastic items.

At best, the directors and players have opened up the eyes of the slumbering audience to the unheard cries of the voiceless creatures that were slowly being poisoned.

Like the “adamantium” that slowly poisons an unknowing Wolverine in the movie “Logan”; we too are slowly dying from our evolution.

Doris Lim is a Malaysia Outlook contributor with a keen eye for details developed form her background in architecture and design. Her affable personality and passion to celebrate life is captured in her stories of the community. Doris’ love for all things beautiful and quirky is tempered by her love for writing, photography, food, art and travel.