Performing Arts · Reviews

Opening Minds, Creating Memories


Addictions could be beginning of downfall … or the start of a brand, new journey.

Presented in different spots of Empire Damansara, from July 26 to 31 Opium is a 4 part production about life. Life, as we know it is one big non-linear episode and OPIUM, a collaboration of HANDS Percussion’s Artistic Director Bernard Goh together with other French and Malaysian artists, is one that tries to makes sense of the beauty and tragedies of life’s journey.

In this site-specfic production, audience walked from one site to the next, watching the first piece Drumbeat of Pain together and then spliting ino two groups to watch the other two presentations Fake Freedom and Tunnel of Memories before the audience once again comes back together for the finale.

There’s a lot going on in Drumbeat of Pain. While vocalist Mathilde Limal, cellist Florian Antier and accordionist Azli Taslim perform an original composition together,  the HANDS ensemble, with painted white faces do physical movements with their drums. Calligrapher Ong Chia Koon paints lines and curves with brush.  The music performed by the trio stands out, with Mathilde’s voice penetrating and unforgettable, amidst the tapping of the drums by the ensemble.

Fake Freedom is a choreography that starts off simple but becomes increasingly complex as it continue. Two dancers, a man and a woman are in to confined spaces. The lady is getting herself ready while the man is doing many poses. The audience watches them as if in a museum of life. Then three other dances get into the scene and then there is conflict and confusion. Although it may be a little puzzling, the themes of reality, dreams and possibilities are evident.

In Tunnel of Memories, Bernard paid tribute to Paris, with an original song in Mandarin and another in French alongside pianist Yuan Leow Yunn and guitarist Alu8khan. This was also the spot for the art installation by Anne Deguerry. However, (depending on where you’re seated), what was more evident was a child drawing on the pillars. Bernard’s renditions were lovely to listen to and despite not understanding the lyrics, it was for me the best part of the piece.

Opium’s finale ends on the rooftop where the collaborators come on stage, with Ong Chia Koon painting on the side of the floor. The highlight though was Mathilde, Florian and the rest combining their talents with  the famous La Vie En Rose

For those who have witnessed the live performance of HANDS Percussion and their various partners in production, one would expect the show to be bold and out of the box. Bernard and his friends do not disappoint in this aspect.

An unforgettable, modern perforamance, Bernard and his artistic collaborators show that they are not afraid of exploring different mediums and opening the minds of Malaysian audiences to new elements of performance – and creates history while doing so.




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