Immersive theatre is a contemporary, yet comprehensive method of presenting a play.
Though theatre elements exist, an immersive theatre enables audiences to enter the world of the characters they are watching.
The interactivity allows viewers to construct and interpret the performance in their own unique way.
An immersive theatre installation also invites the audience to be on their feet and explore the space.
For theatrical company theatrethreesixty, this has been the trademark of all of its immersive theatre performance experiences thus far.
‘The Hyacinths are Blooming’
Known for its unique and extraordinary manner of performing, theatrethreesixty will present a performance at the upcoming What About Kuching (WAK) 2022.
The immersive theatre installation will take place at Think + Tink, Jalan Tabuan, Kuching. It will run from Oct 28 till Oct 30 in the evenings.
The immersive theatre — The Hyacinths are Blooming — written by local playwright Alex Chua — addresses mental health from several perspectives, including family and the medical profession.
Audiences will also see it raise pertinent questions like, “What advice is good, and what is not?”
According to its director, Christopher Ling, the audience can play an active role in the decision-making for the lead character, Nadia, through this unconventional theatre performance.
“They can choose what they want to see, hear, and feel throughout their time in the world of the play’s protagonist, who suffers from schizophrenia.”
To him, mental health awareness is important, especially in a society where there are many misconceptions and stigmas around the subject.
“It is a significant issue that has just recently been addressed in public. As someone who was affected by depression and anxiety during the pandemic, I believe that people should prioritise self-care while also being well-informed on the issues and responses to these conditions.”
Despite the fact that the script was written in 2020, the performance was moved to this year due to the pandemic.
Ling also revealed that the show’s preparation took about three months, which included content planning and rehearsals.
“The process of putting up a show like this is very fragmented. So, the rehearsal period differs from that of conventional theatre.”
Immersive theatre installations by theatrethreesixty are nothing new in Kuching.
Previous presentations of the theatrical company included Duncan Macmillan’s monologue ‘EVERY BRILLIANT THING’ and Nick Choo’s musical ‘LOST/FOUND’ in WAK 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The performances were carried out with the support of Kuching-based collaborators Two Much Drama.
Having been produced in this format since 2014, Ling highlighted that creating an immersive piece can be daunting due to the intensive effort required.
“Nonetheless, it is ultimately satisfying when all of the set design, lighting, soundscape, projection, and acting elements come together to tell the story.
“Furthermore, effective time and resource management is essential when putting together a performance of this nature. Hence, every nook and cranny of the performance space must be given the chance to be transformed into something that will engage the audience.
“As such, the possibilities for creativity and artistry increase in tandem with the demands placed on the production team to bring it to life,” added the director.
Established in 2014, theatrethreesixty is a collective of playmakers dedicated to telling the stories they want to tell while paving the path for new Malaysian theatre.
Its productions have been seen in Malaysia and Singapore, including the Kota Kinabalu Arts Festival, What About Kuching Arts Festival, Kakiseni International Arts Festival, The Other Festival Ipoh, Festival Belia Putrajaya, Gerak Angin Virtual Arts Festival, and the Causeway Exchange Festival, Singapore.
About Christopher Ling
Ling is the co-founder and artistic director of the Malaysian theatre collective theatrethreesixty.
His work as a director and production designer of plays, operas, and musicals has been seen in Malaysia, Singapore, and London, UK over the last 20 years.
In 2012, he received the Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Best Direction (Musical Theater).
In 2009, he was also awarded the Anugerah Seni Negara (National Arts Awards) Young Talent Award for Theater Directing.
Ling was trained in Drama and Theater Arts at Middlesex University, UK and with the National Youth Theater of Great Britain.
He has so far imparted his knowledge in Malaysian Theater and Acting at Nilai University, Perdana University and Methodist College Kuala Lumpur as well as Directing at the National Arts Academy (ASWARA).
About Alex Chua
Playwright Chua has been a freelance theatre maker since 2000. He has appeared in THE ONE THING I DON’T HAVE RIGHT NOW (2009, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre), IONESCO X2 (2010, KLPac), BIRDY (2010, KLPac), RUBY MOON (2011, KLPac), and 4.48 PSYCHOSIS (2017, Theatresauce).
Chua has also directed BURIED CHILD (2010, Theatre For Young People), THE REAL INSPECTOR HOUND (2011, T4YP) and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (2012, T4YP).
Under the Electric Minds Project, he has directed STAGS & HENS (2012), THE DANNY CROWE SHOW (2013), and A LITTLE CONVICTION (2013).
Meanwhile, his work under theatrethreesixty saw him leading the BOUNCE experimental theatre series (2014-15). Most recently, he wrote and directed COYOTES (2022, Theatresauce).