‘Rashomon’ — will the truth prevail?

Presented in collaboration with the JFKL, klpac’s ‘Rashomon’ will start playing on Feb 29 until March 7. The play is also a multilingual experience for the audience


Khairil (left) and Omar posing for a photo at klpac – pic by ARIF KARTONO

A SHORTHAND for the lie of objective truth is what timeless classic Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon” will dive into this month at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and it is sure to intrigue audiences.

Not surprisingly, lecturers of philosophy have taught on the “Rashomon” effect, known as the effect of perception, truth and reality.

The story is set in a traditional Japanese era, where a samurai is murdered and his wife assaulted.

A woodcutter then discovers the body, while a bandit admits to the murder.

And so the search begins for the killer, told from four perspectives where even the samurai is able to tell us his very own version after being summoned by a medium.

A trial is held, but the truth is rarely pure and never simple, begging the question of who is the real killer, and what really happened?

Playing the role of the husband and samurai is Omar Ali. He said it is interesting to see how the audience takes in the four perspectives which are true, but also false at the same time.

“There are snippets of truth prevalent in all four versions, but it will be really fun to see what people think about that and who the real killer is,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

Omar said members of the audience would need to put on their thinking caps because ultimately, the play does not really reveal the truth.

“An interesting thing about the message we want to get out is, situations like this can occur every day. When one thinks the truth is right there, but it’s actually not because there are so many sides to a story,” he said.

Omar said since it is a period piece, he studied the different types of martial arts that samurais might have used during that time and saw what fitted best.

“In terms of preparation, it is psychically challenging for me because I would like to get as accurate of a depiction as I can. There will be fight scenes with metal swords,” he said.

The show features 14 cast members who began rehearsals at the end of January together with the choreography and music directing.

Movement director Ho Lee Ching said she will be mainly working with the gatekeepers, who are part human and part shapeshifters.

“The gatekeepers are part of the whole show and will also be commenting on the four narrations of persons. Movement is important in the play to portray the physical language to the audience,” she said.

Ho said an added element to the play compared to the movie is the inclusion of handmade masks for the gatekeepers.

“We didn’t want the gatekeepers to be just spiritual creatures, but instead, have another element they could play with, so handmade face masks were added in. Each one is unique and different from the rest,” Ho said.

Members of the audience would need to put on their thinking caps because ultimately, the play does not really reveal the truth – pic credit: klpac

Music director Khairil Imran said four musicians would take turns in choosing the instruments for the play.

“All of the musicians are multi-instrumental and we tried to keep the Japanese aesthetics to it, but it will definitely be percussive as we do have a traditional Chinese percussion which emulates the Taiko drum and guitaring to bring in some modernisation,” he said.

Khairil added that the audience can look forward to nice pieces featuring the fusion of contemporary and traditional Japanese music.

“The music is definitely influenced by the Kabuki theatre, so it will be very organic. There will be four different types of music to represent each tale told by the four persons,” Khairil said.

Meanwhile, Omar said all the costumes will be from the traditional Japanese era and the set has been built quite a bit so far.

“The set really does look gorgeous because it is all set in a bamboo forest, on an elevated platform. The person assigned to building the set is actually Joe Hasham’s son. So, we know it will turn out beautifully,” he said.

Presented in collaboration with the Japanese Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL), “Rashomon” will start playing on Feb 29 until March 7, 2020. The play is also a multilingual experience for the audience.

“Three languages will be used — English, Mandarin and Japanese. Sometimes, things can get lost in translation, so it was important for me to learn Japanese so the script stayed in context,” Omar said.

Tickets can be purchased directly from klpac or through any ProTicket outlets.