Due to the special multi-racial community in Malaysia, the Malaysian theatre is divided into Bahasa Malaysia, English, Chinese and Indian. When we talk about Malaysian Chinese Theatre (MCT), it means that the production and the performance itself consists of only the Chinese language, and the target audiences are Chinese as well.
MCT started in 1919, and the earliest theatre practitioners mostly came from China. Thus the performances presented are closely related to the current situations in China.
From Malaysia's independence in 1957, to the formation of Malaysia in 1963, the multi-racial society structure started to alter itself, and the MCT came to foster its uniqueness in different facets. Unfortunately, due to the lack of man power and financial support, there were only minimal activities happening in the MCT. This was not sufficient enough to evolve a bigger trend in the 1980s. It was not until the late 1980s, with the establishment of the Malaysian Institute of Art, that the Drama Department successfully cultivated a new generation of theatre practitioners, which lead to a new trend in MCT. What was different from the works of earlier theatre practitioners, was that the sources and influences were mainly from Taiwan in the past. In the 1980s, they had a chance to learn and connect with the western theatre, and thus started to involve themselves in different countries and different districts.
The only setback after 87 years of Chinese Theatre performances in Malaysia, is that it lacks the exposition of the thinking framework. The early stage expositions in the theatre mostly emphasized social effectiveness, and explained the drama performances from the social functionality point of view. Some of it looks into the theatre organization, but without acknowledging the interactions of other influences, it is impossible to provide a comprehensive observation to solve and confront the challenges and the problems that are faced by MCT.
Thus, I am trying to write a thesis which starts with the foundation and research done by our ancestors, in order to to analyze MCT thoroughly. First, to briefly depict the overall evolution of the theatre through the discrepancies between the organization's structure within different periods, it could be divided into two stages: 1) The outline of MCT over 70 years (1919 - 1989); and 2) from the 1990s to the current MCT (1990 - present). Then, I would examine the influential factors of politics, culture, society, and the use of language and so on, probing the predicaments of today's MCT under the current situations, such as the unequal distribution of cultural resources, the discrepancy between the acknowledgement of cultural art and so forth. This would be followed by the re-thinking of how and where the MCT could balance these influences. Also, I would like to focus on its future direction and position, and establish its main subject in such an immature circumstances. At the same time, the theatre should acknowledge its own position within the international and the current era, and to exhibit it own temperament and culture, while finally walking a path that highlights the uniqueness of the Malaysian Chinese Theatre.
By Mr.Koh Choon Eiow
Translated by Joanne Tai