KAKUREGA: What do your hideouts look like? | By Saosan Asgar

by - July 18, 2023

The official poster of KAKUREGA
Illustration by Murasaki Haru

As I am sitting here wondering how to start the article, I am supposed to be writing on Murasaki Haru's KAKUREGA—in my opinion, an ingeniously thought-out, devised theatre piece. I cannot help but notice the irony of being stuck in my own KAKUREGA, trying to find a way to write an introductory article on Murasaki's piece that will do it justice.

As I interview Murasaki, I recognise him as an incredibly clever and creative artist who weaved a theatre piece even out of his creative struggle. Murasaki provides me with insight into his process of finding inspiration: ''I went through the whole trajectory of wanting to create but also not knowing what to create. So I ended up hiding. And while hiding, there's also this need to constantly find ways to exit this hideout and create. So, I thought, ‘Why not use this cycle that I'm going through as the subject of the device play to explore these hideouts artists go through in order to create?’’’ And that is how KAKUREGA came into being.

Where do artists who create something to entertain others go when they go through a burnout, become uninspired, or feel lost within themselves? Where does an artist go for inspiration when they lose their artistic vision? These are the questions that KAKUREGA tackles in the contrasting spaces of a bar and an art studio. Four artists stuck in their loop of burnout give you the immersive experience of an artist’s struggle.

Shufitri Shukardi
Photo by Abdul Sami

It was my first time getting to learn about devised theatre, which is a theatre performance created in a collaborative form as opposed to scripted theatre, where the performance remains contained within a concrete script. When playing the role of a director in a devised theatre piece, it is a treacherous road to navigate between wanting to have creative control and also letting the performers lead the process.

As a director, one would like to have as much artistic control as one can. Despite it being tricky to put everything together, Murasaki talks about the importance of honouring the collaborative process of devised theatre and letting the performers showcase their artistic take on the subject. He talks about the many different facets of directing a devised theatre piece that is cleverly based on his personal, tumultuous relationship with creating art.

The magic of a device theatre piece lies in its uncertainty, in its spontaneity, and in its possibilities to transform and transcend in directions one couldn't have expected. It may be volatile in the beginning, and its success depends largely on what the ensemble cast brings to the set. Murasaki talks about how his performers' takes were different than his on the concept of an artist's hideout. One performer would lean into their existential dread, while another would portray their hideout as their constant consumption of content devoid of any creation.

Phraveen Arikiah
Photo by Abdul Sami

Talking about the different takes on one’s hideout, Murasaki also points out the ever-changing faces of his own hideout as an artist. As he calls himself a bit temperamental, he is faced with the challenges of playing the roles of an artist who creates freely and a director who must confirm structure. As he manifests his musings as an artist in the form of a play, he learns to separate his role as director from that of an artist.

Experimenting for the first time with two studio spaces, KAKUREGA will be showcased to a limited audience of 30 at a time. 15 out of the 30 members will experience the Japanese bar performance first, while the other 15 will watch the art studio performance. KAKUREGA is a participatory play where the audience will have the chance to interact with the play. Murasaki explains why he thought of the two contrasting spaces of a Japanese bar and an art class, which would not be too confrontational to the audiences but also, at the same time, encourage them to interact with the play in a passive manner. The audience members can eat and drink at the bar, where there would be a bartender, and make art in the studio with the performers.

Abner Goh (Left, Stage Manager) and Phraveen Arikiah (Right)
Photo by Abdul Sami

Murasaki hopes that the audience can also see his vision and find some universal element to his story-telling, as he imagines himself as a member of the audience and wonders if they will comprehend what he is trying to portray. He is curious to find out what the audience, who do not play the role of an artist full-time, thinks of an artist’s hideout and the concept as a whole. It is quite an intriguing journey that an artist goes through when they are so overwhelmed with the idea of creating that they sometimes freeze in their overwhelm and cease to create. It reminds me of a Jane Austen quote from her book Emma: ‘‘If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.’’ KAKUREGA is not only about an artist’s hideout, but every single person’s hideout. How do different people cope and hide when they struggle and feel lost? What do different people’s hideouts look like? These are all the questions Murasaki wonders about as he imagines himself in the audience’s shoes.

The play sort of takes on a life of its own, where the possibilities are unexpected, the outcomes cannot be measured exactly, the audience gets to play a part in the play and navigate its course, and the performers visualise their perception as well as the director’s. It is a play where everyone will observe and tackle these cavernous questions and arrive at different answers. And that is where the beauty lies in KAKUREGA. 

From left to right: Shufitri Shukardi, Samuel Tin, John Wee, Phraveen Arikiah
Photo by Murasaki Haru

When asked how Murasaki found his perfect set of performers, he talks about how it worked out for the better because each of the performers brought their uniqueness together and somehow still made it work amazingly. Phraveen Arikiah, Shufitri Shukardi, Samuel Tin and John Wee all play intriguing and complex characters. Phraveen is a singer who is also a part of musical theatre; Shufitri is an illustrator and a digital artist; Samuel is a performance artist; and John is an emerging theatre actor. Bryan Chang of Sans Collective is responsible for the scenography. Abner Goh and Jazzie Lee Jin Jye effectively handle the production, with Chisa Tan supervising the entire production. KAKUREGA is being performed by Theatresauce in partnership with Howls Theatre Co., a supplemental project including visual artists expressing their own hideouts, with Murasaki serving as Artistic Director.

KAKUREGA is being performed at Theatresauce HQ at USJ 21 from 19-23 July. On each day, there will be two performances, at 8:30pm and 10:15pm. Standard tickets cost RM55 each, while four tickets may be purchased in bulk for RM45 each. Students who order 15 or more seats together can purchase tickets at a discounted price of RM35. Each performance will run for 60 minutes without a break. Students may also request a free 75-minute theatrical session by contacting the production stage manager at tanchisa00@gmail.com. One must not miss this incredible opportunity to experience an artist’s psyche. Tickets are available now at https://www.cloudjoi.com/shows/kakurega

You May Also Like