Presenter Interview プレゼンターインタビュー
The activities of the Five Arts Center, toward the creation of contemporary Malaysian theater
Marion D’Cruz (Five Arts Centre representative)
Before we enter our interview with Marion D’Cruz, let us talk a quick look at the status of the performing arts in Malaysia.
Malaysia is a multi-racial country with three main ethnic groups, the Malays, Chinese-descent Malaysians and Indian-descent Malaysians. These groups coexist in Malaysian society while retaining a strong sense of their respective ethnic identities. This unique social situation is often referred to as the "Malaysian type multiethnic society." For example, in the primary public education system, there are not only schools taught in the national language, Malay, but also schools that teach in either the Chinese or Tamil languages, thus enabling children to study in their mother tongues. English is also widely used, thus making this a "multilingual society" where most of the people understand two or more languages.
Needless to say, there are considerable difficulties involved in keeping this type of society functioning. And, in fact, there was an eruption of interracial strife in 1969 that took many lives. The social situation has also led the government to initiate an affirmative action program known as the Bumiputra policies, which are aimed at improving the socio-economic status of the majority Malays who have long been the most economically disadvantaged of the three main ethnic groups.
It can be said that the Malaysian theater arts world also reflects these social conditions. Theater companies naturally tend to be formed by people of the same linguistic group and there are not always active exchanges between groups based in the different languages. It is the same with the audiences, with a separate audiences existing in each of the three main linguistic groups.
Due to the constant potential for interracial strife, it is forbidden to make public statements relating to religious or ethnic problems, and in the theater world, productions are subject to strict censorship by the regional censorship bureaus concerning contents. Also, due to the Bumiputra policies, most of the government funding for the performing arts goes to Malay theater companies. Also, most of the productions staged in the national theaters are in Malay, with the natural exception of invited foreign productions. Private-sector theater companies get most of their financial support from corporations, and most of the theaters where they perform are smaller facilities with seating capacity of 300 or less. However, 2005 saw the opening of the first large-scale private-sector theater facility, the KL Performing Arts Centre in the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. Now much attention is now focused on how this facility will be used.
Within this social background, the artist organization Five Arts Centre has been one of the major presences in the Malaysian performing arts world for two decades. In this month’s presenter interview we talk with one of the founding members of the Five Arts Centre, Marion D’Cruz, about her activities with the Centre and as one of Malaysia’s representative dancers and choreographers.
Interviewer: Ken Takiguchi