Home / Regular Issue / JSSH Vol. 29 (1) Mar. 2021 / JSSH-6755-2020


Alienation Effect in Kee Thuan Chye’s Wayang Kulit Adaptations in 1984 Here and Now and The Big Purge

Arbaayah Ali Termizi, Hoo Poh Ying, Nur Aainaa Amira Mohd Said and Faris Abdullah Sani

Pertanika Journal of Social Science and Humanities, Volume 29, Issue 1, March 2021

DOI: https://doi.org/10.47836/pjssh.29.1.36

Published: 26 March 2021

Existing studies have acknowledged the respective influence of Brechtian epic theatre and the adaptation of wayang kulit in Kee Thuan Chye’s plays, though largely keeping them as two separate entities. This paper focuses on Kee’s adaptation of wayang kulit in his first two published plays, namely 1984 Here and Now and The Big Purge to examine its functions in generating the Brechtian alienation effect in the selected plays. The rationales behind the increased scale of wayang kulit adaptation in The Big Purge compared to 1984 Here and Now is also explored in tandem with Kee’s alleged increase in theatrical subtlety. In the findings, the adaptation of wayang kulit in the selected plays correlates to the Brechtian alienation effect through the means of the incongruity of the wayang kulit, the role of the dalang or puppeteer and the fragmented plot structure of the wayang kulit metadrama. In The Big Purge, Kee’s increased scale of wayang kulit adaptation reflects his swerve to a more subtle style of writing as a reaction to the public perception of 1984 Here and Now and his first wayang adaptation in the play.

  • Bakar, E. W., Yusof, N. M. D., & Vengadasamy, R. (2016). Reclaiming voices and disputing authority: A feminist dialogics approach in reading Kee Thuan Chye’s Plays. 3L: The Southeast Asian Journal of English Language Studies, 22(1), 97-109. http://doi.org/10.17576/3L-2016-2201-08

  • Brecht, B. (1978). Brecht on theatre: The development of an aesthetics (J. Willet, Ed.). E. Methuen.

  • Butler, J. G. (Ed.) (1991). Star texts: Image and performance in film and television. Wayne State University Press.

  • Esslin, M. (1961). Brecht: The man and his works. Anchor Books.

  • Gilbert, H. (2001). Introduction to 1984 Here and Now. In H. Gilbert (Ed.), Postcolonial Plays: An Anthology (pp. 250-253). Routledge.

  • Gilbert, H., & Tompkins, J. (2002). Post-colonial drama: Theory, practice, politics. Routledge.

  • Ibrahim, M. A. (2008). Shadow play: Malay traditional theatre. Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation.

  • Kee, T. C. (1987). 1984 Here and Now. K. Das Ink.

  • Kee, T. C. (2004). The Big Purge. Marshall Cavendish.

  • Kee, T. C. (2018). Swordfish+Concubine. Gerakbudaya Enterprise.

  • Lai, A. T. (2009). Asian English writer of Chinese origin: Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

  • Leach, R. (2004). Makers of modern theatre: An introduction. Routledge.

  • Lim, S. G. (2004). Introduction. In The Big Purge (pp. 5-20). Marshall Cavendish.

  • Lo, J. (2004). Staging nation: English language theatre in Malaysia and Singapore. Hong Kong University Press.

  • Philip, S. (2012). Kee Thuan Chye’s political plays: An analysis. Asian Theatre Journal, 29(2), 357-378. https://doi.org/10.1353/atj.2012.0034

  • Quayum, M. A. (2005). Confessions of a liminal writer: An interview with Kee Thuan Chye. Kunapipi, 26(2), 130-139.

  • Rajoo, K. (2001). Existentialism in four Malaysian Anglophones Writers: K.S. Maniam, Llyod Fernando, Kee Thuan Chye and Salleh Ben Joned [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Universiti Putra Malaysia.

  • Tneh, D. (2016). The political plays of Arthur Miller and Kee Thuan Chye: Resisting the hegemonic state [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Malaya.

  • Tneh, D. (2017). From 1984 to Birch: The politics of cultural and traditional arts/games in the plays of Kee Thuan Chye. SARE: Southeast Asia Review of English, 52(1), 122-138.

  • Willett, J. (1968). The theatre of Bertolt Brecht: A study from eight aspects. New Directions.

  • Wulbern, J. H. (1971). Brecht and Ionesco: Commitment in context. University of Illinois Press.

  • Yeo, R. (1995). Introduction. In We Could **** You Mr. Birch (pp. 7-21). Academe Art & Printing Services.