PETALING JAYA: Upcoming devised show “They All Die At The End” features something rarely, if ever, seen in a local English theatre production: an ensemble cast comprising solely of Indian Malaysian men.
According to director Dhinesha Karthigesu, this was intentional to explore themes of brown masculinity, identity and family history, as well as address certain absences in the cultural landscape.
“A lot of my work last year was focused and centred around brown bodies and stories and identities,” Dhinesha, 32, told FMT in a recent Zoom interview.
“And as I was working on these productions, I realised I had never seen a group of Indian men in an ensemble before, who were intentionally creating work from that space, from that identity. And I got the idea to do a show of that kind.”
Billed as a “brown boy fantasia”, “They All Die At The End” reflects and interrogates what it means to be Malaysian, Indian and male in the past, present and imagination.
Its title may sound morbid at first, but Dhinesha finds it apt, given the subject matter.
“For one thing, I find the idea of death very fascinating,” he said. “But it’s also a reference to the violence of what it can mean to be an Indian Malaysian man. To be in this body, this identity, it is sometimes traumatic, it is sometimes violent.
“So I wanted to put that violence in the title, even if it doesn’t necessarily show up in the show itself.”
The show employs a variety of storytelling approaches, from poetic text and dialogue to music, movement and projections. Both real and fictional narratives blend to create an enthralling theatrical experience that is rib-tickling and poignant in equal measures.
Presented by Theatresauce in collaboration with klpac, the production features the talents of Ian Skatu, Karthigesan, Nandagopall, Sidhart Joe Dev and Tin Raman, with scenography, projections and lights by Syamsul Azhar and sound design by Kirthana Kuhendran.
Dhinesha revealed the production would explore various aspects of everyday life: these would include funerals, the patriarchy, emotional heartbreak and even the “crabs in a bucket” mentality said to be pervasive in the Indian Malaysian community. There is also a heavy focus on family and society.
“I think this show proves the point that if you centre the Indian Malaysian body, you will still get a completely Malaysian experience. You will ‘see’ your heartbreak and pain and expectations and dreams, all those on stage, because they are universal,” he said.
Actor Karthigesan recalled a recent incident, where the cast and director were travelling together after rehearsals. They were stopped by the police, who gave them an especially difficult time, likely because they were a group of Indian men all in a car together.
“What was interesting was how that experience was unique to all of us. We all felt differently, some of us went “ah, this is normal”, while for the rest, this was the first time this had happened to them. So we compiled all these experiences together for a part of the show,” Karthigesan, 31, said.
He said he appreciated the space Dhinesha and the production team provided for them to be vulnerable, and share their experiences for the construction of the play.
Dhinesha added that he hoped this play would allow people to feel “seen”, and spark discussions about issues of culture and identity.
“A lot of times, the Indian Malaysian experience is one of exclusion, whether in ads, in media, or content,” Dhinesha said. “Even for shows supposedly built for us, the people making the creative choices behind the scenes don’t share our identity. But this play is made by us and for us, and that’s what it stands for.”
He said it was his hope that the people who watched this show would question their perceptions of the Indian Malaysian male and recognise that these were shared experiences.
He added: “But at the same time, I hope audiences also see things they have never seen before. That they go, ‘wow, I never knew about these struggles, or about these things they face,’” said Karthigesan.
“I’m very excited about what we have built, and I really hope it makes an impact,” he concluded.
‘They All Die At The End’ is for mature audiences only.
Pentas 2, klpac
Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, Sentul
51100 Kuala Lumpur
May 25-May 28 @ 8.30pm
May 27-May 28 @ 3pm
RM45 (bulk purchase of four tickets)
RM35 (student bulk booking)