Instant Café Theatre and the End of Comedy

As Malaysian politicians become better at comedy, do comedians turn to tragedy?

For 25 years, Instant Café Theatre Company (ICT) has injected caffeine shots direct into the arteries of Malaysian theatre with strong doses of political satire. Pleasing audiences and displeasing authoritarians, it seduced with the seditious and tickled with the tendentious, showing up the absurd situations in which Malaysians exist — and must resist.

Yet, the absurd just keeps growing more absurd. Those who hold a mirror to society must call for reinforcement. Expanding its platform for creative resistance, ICT has also dedicated itself to developing New Malaysian Writing. Through the FirstWorks programme, with the mentorship of director Jo Kukathas and various associate artists, ICT has produced plays by first-time playwrights, all of whom then won the Kakiseni Arts Awards for Best Scripts. It staged two powerful plays by Alfian Sa’at that spoke deeply to us of race and religion. In 2013, it also premiered two new plays by Jo Kukathas on the ALMoST TRUE SToRIES platform. Raj and the End of Tragedy by Jo Kukathas which premiered in Nov 2014, was the latest of this series.

“We need theatre,” says Jo, “to provide the necessary counter-fictions in response to the fictions peddled by the state.” But lately, the state’s fictions are getting louder and seem determined to drown out ours. Meanwhile, theatre companies struggle to survive, to create.

ICT hopes to continue nurturing new voices and inspiring us to build that nation born in our imagination.

Photo by Faizal Mustafa