Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of the Arts, English and Media

Abstract

In facing globalisation, which might be said to promote and sustain homogeneity, it is important to create contemporary performances that connect to cultural entities while also maintaining cultural integrity. Is it possible, however, for contemporary performance to incorporate traditional materials and practices? Can this be done respectfully? The objective of this research has been to analyse how a Malay-focused intercultural performance practice might fuse traditional Malay performance techniques (specifically taken from Mak Yong) with selected, adapted and reworked sections of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in order to create an intercultural theatre production that reveals a contemporary performance aesthetic and can communicate to a twenty-first century Malaysian and Australian audience. This thesis is comprised of two parts, an exegesis and a creative project. The exegesis charts Eastern and Western approaches to intercultural theatre, the evolution of the traditional Malay dance theatre form Mak Yong, and explores the works of other Malaysian contemporary theatre directors. It also examines the developmental phases in the making of the creative doctoral project, Throne of Thorns, a project that fuses traditional Malay performance techniques with a text from the Western canon. This creative project utilises Eastern and Western styles of direction and performance to develop a unique intercultural Malay-centred performance. This practice-led research involves diverse approaches: theoretical explications of intercultural productions and practitioners, field trips that include interviews with Mak Yong scholars, practitioners and Malaysian arts administrators, and historical research. The theoretical approach draws upon the study of traditional theatre scholars of Malaysian traditional theatre forms, especially Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof’s research on Mak Yong (1976) and on sustaining traditions (2014) and Mohamed Ghouse Nasuruddin’s (2009) scholarly insight into the characteristics of each traditional Malay theatre form. The works of many intercultural theatre theorists inform this thesis, including Joseph Gonzales (2012), Rustom Bharucha (1990), Richard Schechner (1991), and Erika Fischer-Lichte (2014). This research reveals that for Throne of Thorns there were five significant intercultural practice approaches and conceptual criteria that when combined were useful in the creation of an engaging rehearsal process and production. The five intercultural performance practice approaches are as follows: 1) cultural sensitivity; 2) cultural belonging; 3) aesthetic integrity; 4) collaboration; and 5) openness. This thesis argues that if a rehearsal process and production is developed with such cultural criteria in mind, and given that the researcher is Malaysian, working with Australian student performers, then it is possible to fuse elements taken from a Shakespearean text with Mak Yong performance techniques, to create a new theatrical performance piece that reflects a strong Malay cultural connection; a performance that is respectful and relevant not only to a contemporary Malaysian audience, but to an Australian one as well. These combined approaches may be useful for other intercultural projects, although it is important to remember that each individual cross-cultural process will have specific needs.

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