The Instant Café Theatre Company is more than a theatre company – it’s an IDEA, and a way of looking at who we are.
In December 1989 Instant Cafe was formed because it seemed like a good idea at the time. The country was in the midst of a repressive crackdown and ideas were dangerous. We decided to use humour to subvert our situation. Freedom of Expression was high on our agenda. Our intention was to make political theatre that challenged the way we as Malaysians thought about ourselves, our country and about how and why we made art.
We started off making political satire – our rebellious black comedy struck a cord with some audiences and a nerve with others. But it did get us a following. The following year we decided that political satire was not the only prism with which to view ourselves so we collaborated with Sutra Dance to do A Midsummer Nights Dream in the open air juxtaposing Odissi with baju kebaya and Shakespeare’s text with our subtext and context.
Since then Instant Cafe has continuously sought to challenge itself as a company that makes theatre and to challenge audiences about how and why we make art.
It organised an outdoor festival of arts [Out in the Open 1995 ] and an indoor festival of Art and Ideas that raised the roof on how and what makes art, dance, music and theatre. [Raise the Roof 2003].
It staged multi-lingual plays [adapting Accidental Death of an Anarchist 1998) and created multi-lingual collaborations [Pulau Antara/The Island in Between 2000 and Break-ing/Si-Poh/Ka-Si-Pe-Cah 2005/6].
It opened an eclectic arts space The Theatre Upstairs in 1996 and closed it in 1998.
It curated Art Exchanges that made people think out loud [International Women Playwrights Exchange 2007, How to Make Art in the 21st Century 2007] and work that made people laugh out loud [Laughing Wild 1995, Mass Hysteria 2001].
It continues to create its trademark political satire biting the hand that feeds and nurturing an ever evolving multi-ethnic ensemble of writers and performers [Bullish on Bouncing Back 1998, Millennium Jump 2000,The Bolehwood Awards2003/4, Kurang Manis 2007].
It champions the development of new Malaysian writing with its rigorous FIRSTWoRKS program challenging writers to construct alternative narratives of the nation [Flies and Foreigners 2003, Air Con 2007/8, Hero 2007].
At the same time it continues to stage foreign texts both contemporary [Death and the Maiden 1993, The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde 2001, Happy Days 2006] and classical [Twelfth Night 1998, The Merchant of Venice 2000].
Soon we hope to stage the major work of Malaysian playwright Wong Phui Nam whose new works combines classical forms with contemporary Malaysian issues and ideas.
! 2009 ANOTHER NEW BEGINNING !
In August 2009 Instant Cafe opened a small arts house – instant CAFE’s HOUSE of ART and IDEAS – simply because we thought it was a good idea at the time and because we believe KL needs more good ideas and more places for good ideas.
It’s a small House with BIG Ideas.
Our newly opened Cafe House of Art and Idea – CHAI – is a space for artists and audience to create, meet, discuss, and engage with each other. It’s a space for experimenting and for inter-disciplinary encounters. It is a house for humour and for sober but not sombre reflection. Its a place for talking, thinking, drinking, dreaming and making art. You can come to watch and listen, take part in interactions or stay at home and access art and ideas on-line.
Our long-term aim for CHAI House is to help create an alternative version of the traditional cultural “institution” and to experiment with ways to integrate culture into the everyday lives of people, neighbourhoods and cities.
Every month, CHAI House celebrates one of the great themes of modern life : HOME, HISTORY, FOOD, MIGRATION, TABOOS, BEAUTY, DEATH, CLIMATE, TRAVEL and HERITAGE to name a few.
The programme ranges from art exhibitions to performances, readings to installations, new music to old dance, contemporary wayang to historical film, virtual reality to total theatre immersion experiences, video art to art for schools, rehearsals for new works to demonstrations of old work, debates to conversations – anything that generates ideas. Our house will open to its doors to an eclectic group of guest curators who each month will bring with them unexpected guests, alternative opinions, and animated conversations.
It is a place for creative experimentation around art and ideas. All are welcome.
Jo Kukathas Artistic Director
Zalfian Fuzi Associate Director
Rahel Joseph Director of Programming at CHAI
Andre D’Cruz Administrator