Dancing on Their Graves



Produced by TerryandTheCuz
9-13 August 2016
APW, Jalan Riong, Bangsar


Review by Anonymous

Thank you, TerryandTheCuz, for your production Sk!n – it made me incredibly angry. I was curious about my anger, which on the night I could not express coherently. Allow me now to clarify my negative emotions against Sk!n with words and reasons.

‘Exploiting the issue of refugees’ was the first argument to appear in my mind right after the show. I continued generating other ideas to explain my anger: ‘using the sorrow of others for your own intellectual satisfaction’, ‘the glorification of your own privilege to discuss something about someone who has no choice’, and ‘making fun of the pain of others.’ I think it is crucial to criticise productions which market their work using ‘trendy’ social issues; this is what I call exploitation. Highlighting the issues of human trafficking, slavery and refugees, as it was done in Sk!n, did not really create awareness; it merely provoked curiosity by using the pain and sadness of its victims as a kind of spectacle. It ended up being just propaganda, avoiding any serious debate about the issue.

Nowadays, with the explosion of input from social media, the experience of reading the news is similar to watching a show; we are at the border line between observation and participation. While reading the newspaper, we exist, consciously or unconsciously, in a confused zone between thinking of ourselves as watching a ‘show’, and being involved, mentally or physically, in the reality. Given that we already have this conflicted experience when consuming the news on a daily basis, what is the point of reproducing a similar experience as a performing arts production? And it’s even worse when you present this tortuous reality through the framework of a ‘game’ – a cruel game.


There are three main parts in the experiential journey of Sk!n: examination, performance, and celebration. At the beginning of the show, each audience member is asked to fill in a questionnaire. Then we are transferred to the next department, where officers in charge measure our weight and height, and request us to do some movements to test our physical ability. The last part of the examination is similar to a customs check: one by one, we step forward towards two officers who use our questionnaires to interrogate us, and then group the audience into red, yellow or green.

I was in the green group, which, with the yellow group, was led to a raised shipping container, to witness the dance performance which was held in an adjoining container. Despite the anger I felt later in the night, I had a great time in the second part of the journey. We had an intense experience in the container, thanks to the wonderful performance and the dancers, featuring Wong Jyh Shyong, Suhaili Micheline and Lee Ren Xin. In the tiny space, we witnessed a group of people crawling continuously, always from the same direction towards the same direction. Through the seemingly endless stream of bodies, we started to notice the diversity of the group – their different skin colour, and their clothes. The featured dancers rose from the group to express images of struggling and suffering, until they fell into a mechanical shaking, as if their bodies no longer belonged to them. The intense but low lighting, combined with the minimal metallic soundscape, created a world of darkness.


At the end of the dance, some people in the audience (the yellow group) were led into the dancers’ container, which was moved off elsewhere. For the green group, the third part started when the customs officers appeared, inviting us to celebrate the precious moment of our release with champagne. Finally, we were invited to return to the place where we had first gathered, to look at a photo exhibition about refugees, and to have discussions with other audience members. Talking to one of my friends in the red group, I learned that while we were watching the performance, they had been blindfolded and led around. Then they joined the yellow group in the moving container, which was driven around Kuala Lumpur on a truck for about half an hour. Everyone sat in the dark in the oppressive, hot and uncomfortable space; when they were released, they joined the rest of the audience at the exhibition site.

While the entire journey was interesting, and at some points exciting, it was also so absurd that at times it led us to mockery. But I became speechless when I realised that some of the kids mingling with us at the photo exhibition were actual refugees, and that they had been among the people crawling during the performance. I couldn’t contain my emotions; I grabbed a crew member and asked her about the process of working with these kids. I was told that they had arrived a few days before the show started, and that there had been no socialising activities to let them get to know each other or the other performers, or to go deeper into the creative process.

Making the connection between the real refugees in our midst, and the performance we had just witnessed, was sobering. I felt ashamed to speak to the refugees; I felt as if their most horrible experiences had been used to satisfy my pleasure. I had gone to see what I thought would be an interesting performance, but the ‘interesting’ turned out to be going through a mock experience of being a refugee. At the time, I had thought it was funny, but then being confronted with the actual refugees I was reminded that the real-life experience had been, for them, cruel and intolerable. I felt angry that I had been used, and that the refugee kids had been exploited. Of course, the kids had the choice not to be in the production, but they are minors and refugees; do you think they really had enough information and power to choose?

While I admit I have done nothing to help the refugee situation, it does not mean I cannot express my position against people who abuse the issue for personal gain, and made me feel like an accomplice in their cruel game. In my mind, this production deals with the refugee issue too simplistically. It gives no deeper perspective. Maybe that’s why the production decided to use actual refugee children to participate in the performance, and enlisted an NGO which helps refugees to assist at front-of-house – in order to link their art work more tightly to the issue.

But it is cruel and intolerable to use the sufferings of dispossessed people as a template to create your own poem. Had the refugees not been part of the performance, and the NGO had not been involved, and there had been no final photo exhibition, I would accept the concept of this performance. But the producers used these elements to justify their work, to set themselves up as researchers and experts, when the work itself did not have give any deeper perspective about refugees or human trafficking. While it is morally acceptable to be inspired by the suffering of others to create work, we should not pretend to be helping a community unless we do it properly and correctly.

I would like to ask the people behind the production: what do these refugees mean to you? And, of course, I shall ask myself what they mean to me, as well.


All photos by Darshen Chelliah, courtesy of TerryandTheCuz.


  1. Thanks to Anonymous for writing the review — I think it raises some important issues that deserve to be discussed.

    I share some of Anonymous’ concerns. I was also disturbed by the use of the refugee kids in the production. However, one of the refugee girls approached me later with her friends and introduced herself, and it seemed that they had had an enjoyable time working on the production, which made it seem a little less exploitative. But also I gather they didn’t get paid, whereas all the other ensemble members did (I assume, anyway), which is a bit questionable — even if they gained some funding or promotion for their school.

    Anne James mentioned that it was good to have the refugee kids involved because it was their story, after all. Yes, but perhaps not the way they themselves would choose to tell it. I also share Anonymous’ concern that the rest of the show seemed to trivialise the issue. Certainly I felt the ‘performance’ section with the dancers was the strongest part of the show — very strong. For me, the rest of it fell flat. The interrogation/division section in the beginning felt quite laughable — perhaps because we know Govin and Terry and they know us. At no point did I feel scared, or even mildly annoyed. The moving truck section at the end was frankly snoozy, especially on those swings. A bunch of nice middle-class Malaysians being driven around KL, all having a nice chat…

    And then there’s the moral question of finding entertainment by pretending to be a refugee, which Anonymous pointed out. On the one hand, maybe we get to empathise more with their suffering, and are then more alert to their plight. But, honestly, the truck section did not help me imagine any more of what it’s like to die of asphyxiation in a shipping container. Thanks, but I’ve already imagined that. As Anonymous says, I can read about it in the news, and still feel for them. And then there’s the ickyness of what has been called disaster tourism or dark tourism. We get to feel the thrill (maybe) with none of the danger, like being on a rollercoaster, then go back to our safe lives, going ‘phew’.

    Finally, there’s a moral issue not raised by Anonymous in the review, about the people who go into the ‘red’ group, who don’t see the dance performance at all, and thus, from my point of view, don’t have a valuable experience. I was not able to recommend dance students to go to this performance, because of the (admittedly small) chance that they would be ‘redded’. For them, RM80 is a lot of money, not to be spent frivolously. And so they missed out on having the decidedly valuable experience of seeing the dance performance. Maybe the producers don’t care, or maybe they think you should suffer for your art. But I can’t help thinking that this approach, however clever or conceptually sound, also alienates an audience whom we can’t afford to piss off. Perhaps some people who were redded are those who don’t regularly see live performing art or contemporary art. Well, you’ve just guaranteed that they’ll never want to again.

    • First and foremost, we would like to thank everyone who attended SKIN and especially those who took the time to share their thoughts and provide feedback to us.

      The driving force behind this project was to highlight an issue that has long been silenced. We know that pitted against reality, the performance does not even scratch the surface of what these survivors have endured. Sadly, we feel that this important discussion has been diverted by a review that contains unfair statements.

      In the review posted by ‘Anonymous’ on the Critics Republic website and Facebook page on Saturday, 20 August 2016, we would like to clarify the following:

      1. Student involvement in the performance.
      Students who participated in the performance from the Achievers Academy and Aurora Dance School were volunteers who responded to our invitation to both schools for young people to be part of an artistic performance. Parents of all the students, as well as the teachers and administrators of both schools consented and supported the students’ participation throughout rehearsals and during the performance itself. The assumption that volunteers were all refugees and that they were exploited, had no choice and no power to choose is very disappointing.

      2. Involvement of the NGO.
      The NGO in question is Tenaganita, whose advice, guidance and collaboration from the start has been invaluable. Tenaganita provided their insight and experience over the last 25 years to guide us during this project, and ensured that we respectfully and sensitively portrayed the facts of the issue. The statement that their contribution was limited to front-of-house is highly inaccurate.

      In the interest of transparency, we did turn down a request by the site administrator(s) to review the post by ‘Anonymous’ before it was published. We did so because we believe in the integrity of open and honest discussions. Instead, we extended an invitation to connect with us for clarification especially regarding the collaboration with Tenaganita and the participation of students – an offer that went unaccepted.

      Lastly, we do hope that the writer and site administrator(s) retract the incorrect content in the review and apologise to the students and Tenaganita for the unfounded claims. In the spirit of open and honest discussions, we invite the writer to identify him/her self so that we may openly engage.

      We also invite anyone who has questions, feedback or comments to reach out to us at info@terryandthecuz.com.

      • Hi TerryandTheCuz, it’s good to see you joining the conversation. It’s important to get artists involved in these discussions too,and I’m sure you’ll agree this is an important discussion about an important topic, and a conversation well worth having.

        When I set up Critics Republic as editor, the intention of the website was to stimulate critical discourse in the Malaysian arts community, hence the tagline, “Everyone’s a critic.” This is a place where people can share their opinions. It is not a news site, and it does not pretend to objectivity.

        Anonymity has played an important part in Critics Republic since the beginning. About half of our commissioned articles were written by people anonymously or using pseudonyms. In our small community, where everyone knows and works with each other, as well as in the context of the wider Malaysian culture which values non-confrontation, it’s difficult to encourage people to speak their minds on public record. For this reason, many valuable perspectives are lost. I am committed to protecting the anonymity of the writers, and ensuring that future writers and commentors on Critics Republic feel reassured that they will really remain anonymous.

        In this case, I think the anonymous review has served a vital purpose by catalyzing a public conversation about your production. Thanks to the review, several other people have shared their perspectives using their real names — which I think is great.

        The review itself is clearly a personal opinion, reflecting a strong emotional response. It is also clear from the review that the reviewer’s knowledge of the process of working with the refugee performers was gathered by hearsay, and that it is therefore speculative.

        I hope other people will continue to join the conversation. I’m interested to hear what people think about Sk!n.

        Sincerely — The Editor

  2. I caught the version in Penang last year and was part of the group that was blindfolded, led around the alleys of Penang for 30min before being abandoned and told to find our way back. When we finally found our way back, we were invited to sit in a small upstairs room where we were told by activists what the issues are, and we heard from someone who was herself a trafficking victim. Her voice I felt was the most resonant and honest part of the show. But it felt like an afterthought.

    Meanwhile, others in my group felt cheated they didn’t get to see the actual performances.

    Yes, you may say that was the point, to understand what the victims felt when they were cheated. But really, the two reactions are nowhere the same. Ours is a middle-class kind of annoyance, like, I paid money for this and this is all I got? As opposed to, I paid my life savings and my parents’ life savings, and now I am a slave.

    So, I really did not need for the experiences of victims to be simulated in order to empathise with them. In fact, any such device will always fail to capture the horror, and in its failing, trivialises the actual horror. Just as fasting will never help us understand being so poor you cannot afford to eat.

    I am reminded of a teenager I once edited for a magazine article. He wanted to write an article on what it was like to be a beggar. He proposed to do it by sitting on the street for a whole day and begging. I told him that will guarantee he just knows what it is like to sit in the street for a whole day while people walk by you and give you a few loose change, but it will never help him understand the poverty, the alienation, the desperation, the humiliation, the indignity, the regrets, the knowing tomorrow and the forever it is going to be the same. Meanwhile the writer packs up at the end of that day and feels grateful for being able to do so.

    In fact, I told him, what is worse is you will go away and write something that in the end is about you and your noble intentions, and your readers will read and pat you on the shoulder and feel good for feeling sad. Nothing about this will be about the actual beggars.

  3. Why is the reviewer Anonymous? And why do they assume that the children had no purpose there except to perform? The group I spoke to told me their reason for taking part was to raise awareness of their school which was in need of teachers and funds. The project was done in collaboration with and in aid of Tenaganita who have been working on refugee issues for 30 years. It felt like a genuine conversation on the part of the performance makers and their partners. Certainly after starting the process the people at TerryandTheCuz had to completely throw away all their preconceived notions and the things they had intended to do and had to begin their journey of discovery anew.

    Maybe the outcome of the conversation could have been deeper, better but conversations need to start. And perhaps it is unfair for a reviewer to judge intention – and to pass judgement after just “grabbing a crew member” and to write a piece that is reactive without first researching more deeply the process. And if things are found wanting then by all means bring it up as a way for art making to move forward. On the night I went Terry said this project was a deeply humbling and learning experience for him and Vinod. I’m sure as art makers they too like all of us are still trying to learn, trying to engage, trying not to fail too badly.

  4. I didn’t realise that the kids in the headscarves were actual refugees. I thought they were actors or dancers (but more actors, because you don’t need to be a dancer to do that; also dancers would look too “refined” if made to crawl around like that). I am rather disturbed now to find out that they were actual refugees. I thought the suggestion that they were refugees was a powerful enough image, why did they feel the need to make these poor kids who suffered enough have to relive their suffering? That’s just cruel, man. I am very angry now, and getting more so the more I think of it.

    Admittedly, I was quite impressed with the whole experience when I first encountered it in Penang last year. It was grimier (sorry, but APW is JUST SO HIPSTER ISN’T IT?) and I didn’t know what to expect. But when I had to do the whole processing thing again in Bangsar, I found it so tedious, and was so bored that I was able to see how flawed this part of the experience was. I always thought it hugely unfair that anyone gets put in the red zone — how does pissing someone off contribute to your cause?And this one guy was being a smartass to his interrogator, and so he was thrown into the red zone…

    Would it have made the production less compelling if the container van was transported into a theatre and the audience only saw the dance part? I don’t think so. A lot of imagery from JS, Suhaili and Ren Xin were very powerful, and this is what stayed with me for a long time after the show. Too bad that all people are talking about now is how f’d up the show is because of the other non-dancing stuff.

  5. It is such a sad thing to see comments like these, when the people behind the show had only good intentions when putting it together. It is evident that the dissatisfaction or complaints stem from first world selfish reasons – “I paid money to be blindfolded!!” or “It was not deep enough” or “How could they use actual refugees for the show”. It is all futile chatter (if anyone had the decency to check, the kids actually wanted to volunteer for the show so that they could help raise awareness on the subject).

    In stead of highlighting the issue at hand – sharing something you learned at the show or speaking to the NGO to understand what is really going on, people choose to criticise the people who are trying to create awareness or shed some light on a subject matter that we often cocoon ourselves from – we would rather not know about these things because it makes us “sad” in our comfortable little lives.

    I agree with Pang, in that, we would never ever understand the plight of these victims because how could we? It’s just not possible. But rather than nitpick on how we would never understand, how about talking about what we can do to help?

    The show’s process highlighted a glimpse of what these victims go through, I believe it was done to give the audience an idea of what really happens, an insight, I am very sure the actual process is a lot worse but it opened my eyes to how much agony these victims endure from the start, how brutally they are treated and how badly they have been deceived when all they wanted was a better life for themselves.

    SK!N made me realise that this trade is so well entwined in our society that we don’t even see what’s in front of us. And this was just the processing part (being interrogated, being separated from your friends or being blindfolded for some) – what happens after they are trafficked is even more sickening. The things these people are made to do, the kids especially; it is the kind of stories you would rather chop your ears off then listen to. Knowing that children at the age of 5 or 6 are sold into prostitution is soul destroying.

    So when comments refer to the kids being exploited for the show, I think they are seriously misled. Being trafficked = human exploitation. I applaud the kids who volunteered for the show – they have shown incredible courage and resilience because after all they have been through, in stead of crawling under a rock (as I probably would do) they have decided to make their voices heard, they have decided to be seen and look us in the eye and they have picked themselves up from the deepest hell.

    Instead of missing the point completely and hitting the producers for trying to shed light on a subject matter we insist on ignoring, let’s get off our high horses and do something to make a difference.

  6. Dear Mr Anonymous,

    Greetings of Peace to you and thank you for your thoughts / opinion and participation in the Performance of SKIN.

    For close to 2 years, before the Performance, Tenaganita, Terry and the Cuz with Lead Artist Ashley Dyer have had several discussions and meetings including with victims of human trafficking to gain insights for the well thought off production.

    In my 33 years of personal experience, including 25 years with Tenaganita, fighting human trafficking in Malaysia, I find that SK!N is one performance that has given the participants a taste of the real experiences of those being trafficked, by pushing the participants to feel what victims undergo when they are trafficked. Everyone who participated in the show underwent an unique experience that is coloured by their own knowledge, assumptions, prejudices, personal experiences, environment, and society’s stand on issues. We acknowledge this.

    My question is – why is human trafficking so big in Malaysia and we see it increasing year after year? Is it because GOOD PEOPLE remain silent and therefore traffickers have a field day in Malaysia, selling, buying and using people. Victims need to be empowered and to speak out not to be closeted in shame, even if they are children. The victims/survivors of human trafficking are the best educators of the subject. Two of the refugee children who participated in the show shared with us: “Since participating in this show, I am stronger and talking to so many people, I know many are interested in helping us. I want to go to school and learn and become a doctor so I can help children.”

    Whatever the views on this matter, what is crucial is that we should come together, agree to disagree, and join forces to fight this heinous crime of human trafficking. Every perpetrator should be behind bars not drinking in bars. Tenaganita is ever ready to conduct awareness sessions, discussions and help in the Arts and Theatre.

    I want to thank the fantastic Team of TerryandTheCuz and Ashley for their courage, passion and fight they have put in SK!N. So apt and let us see and feel what is under our SKIN.

    God Bless you and Bless Malaysia.

    Aegile Fernandez

  7. I am one of the dancers in SK!N. I also performed the processing scene and a small part of the “privileged” scene at the end (for the green group). I share from my personal point of view, and do not represent the production team.

    SK!N has been a work where I find myself, along with the dance team in rehearsals, constantly faced with questions: What are we doing? What are we saying? Why are we doing this? Do we need to do this? Is this the best way to do it? And why are we doing this, again? Et cetera.

    At the initial stage of creation, the three of us dancers (JS, Suhaili, and myself) were given reading materials, mostly being self-accounts by refugees who went through the cycle(s) of trafficking. Later on, we also listened to interviews with refugees, recorded by the core team when they went on their “field-” research.

    In response to the review, firstly, I think that the ‘issue of refugees’ is our issue. It is happening in our country which criminalizes refugees, and human trafficking is happening around us every day, here where we call home. This is our story. And it needs to be told. It seems that the reviewer is suggesting it better to leave that to the refugees, lest we become the privileged who “discuss something about someone who has no choice”. Yet I think it is precisely because they are disadvantaged, that those who have the ability and resources, take up the responsibility and make an effort. Agency was always a huge question that we discussed at length in rehearsals. Recently, I spoke with one of the creatives, Ashley Dyer, about an alternative approach to making such a work that would avoid conveying the refugees’ struggles. He reminded me (quite logically obvious) that, “if we created a performance about the issue of human trafficking that never communicated something about the victims, then the performance as a whole would be even more problematic…then it’s a real piece of first world indulgence.”

    Personally, I would also have preferred a deeper and more direct collaboration with the refugees in the performing. But the position of refugees, as I understand, can be very dangerous and precarious, especially in our country that does not recognize the status of refugee. (Refugees are considered illegal immigrants and thus, criminals.) So I would imagine it tricky to have a regularly scheduled rehearsal process with refugees. A few times, Terryandthecuz notified us dancers about their meeting/workshops with different groups of refugees, in hopes that we can join them in the first-person research. It was always very unpredictable, because of the refugees’ risky position. For instance, they’ve planned for a meeting weeks beforehand, but it can only be confirmed at the last second when the refugees are physically in the car.

    I must say, that I do not feel most at ease with the way the children were being choreographed into the crawling roles. I discussed this, mainly with Ashley, post-show. Some thoughts that’s gone through my mind: If us non-refugee dancers and friends could do the crawling, why not the refugee children? Just because they are refugees, does it mean we treat them differently? And by “shielding” them from crawling, are we sort of considering them as not being able to fend for themselves (in this case) and need extra protection? This is, to bear in mind that, the action of crawling is not a reliving of their experience on the run. Of all the horrible things that they might have gone through, crawling is not something that refugees characteristically go through, at least not from our research materials and the refugees the core team’s encountered.

    The continuous, ceaseless crawling in the dance is an imagery for the choreography, and if non-refugee people can be casted into the performance, why not refugees? And some of you might question—as I did—why refugees? While I am uncertain that casting the refugees into this crawling imagery is necessary, I do appreciate their appearing in the dance performance section (perhaps in a simpler, less-choreography way). I see the dance section as a “romantic” section where the audience is not put in direct encounter with refugees and trafficking, but just visual/movement metaphors and imageries. It is a “safe” place to feel and imagine that you’ve appreciated all the significance—
    I was imagining: If it was just a contemporary dance show, most audience would come in, sit, watch, enjoy, and applaud at the end, and go home feeling like they’ve just seen a nice (hopefully) dance show. It is taken at a very “safe” place. Nothing spills out of place. On the other hand, I thought the appearance of the real refugees near the end of the dance helps to jolt the “dreamy” audience back from the romantic poem of dance to realize that this by the way concerns real humans who are standing one meter away from you. Also, (not sure this is the intention of the core creatives,) it is for me, sort of a self-criticism on us performers/choreographers: What are we doing dancing??? How is our dancing going to help, if it is??? (–question to all of us.)

    It seems most audience enjoyed the dance section. I also once thought: why couldn’t we just do a whole full-length dance work? Somehow, I don’t think it will raise as much urgency on the part of the audience with regard to the realness and immediacy of the refugees’ need for help and action.

    As for the children from Achievers Academy, I felt that the reviewer may have underestimated/undermined them. (“but they are minors and refugees; do you think they really had enough information and power to choose?”) I think that we should also see them in an equal light, and not always treat them as the “weak”. I acknowledge that they could be disadvantaged in some parts of their living and current condition, but just socializing with them and observing them over that one week, I saw very intelligent, cheeky, mischievous, and thinking young individuals. They are not afraid to question e.g. “Why do you do this?” and even “What’s all this crawling about?”—before the team demonstrated the larger context of the dance to them. And I was surprised, pleasantly, to find that many of the refugee girls behave more strongminded and uncompromising than most women and girlfriends I’ve known, when I was growing up. I would say to the reviewer: If only you spoke to these children, before you speak on behalf of them.
    (Note: I realize that I may be referring to refugees like one and the same, but I think they are not one homogenous group. There are various groups/community of refugees in varying situations and degree of difficulties.)

    As for “abuse the issue for personal gain”, I am not sure what personal gain Terryandthecuz has gotten besides probably losing money (my guess) and having to deal with lots of huge technical and logistical hiccups and headaches throughout the entire creation.

    With regards to the red group, I also felt conflicted, for my dance friends. I was worried that they might be put into the red group. Two non-dance friends came and were put into the red group. They told me they appreciated the experience. One of them shared to me that, it became a very reflective time for her—with all the issues that she imagined the project themed around, as she waited uncomfortably, and being blindfolded throughout the audio and sensory journey. Finally, while Terryandthecuz were resolute about the necessity for the red group being excluded from the dance performance, I appreciated that they immediately reconsidered and cut down the number of people in the red group to only four. I understand that the core team is continuing to further develop the red group’s experience so that it isn’t about missing the dance as much as it is an entirely different layer, but equally enriching and meaningful experience, if not yet already.

    As regard to the collaboration with Tenaganita (Terryandthecuz would know best), since I joined rehearsals early last year, the core creatives have already been working closely with them, mainly in the research process, and also since the very first preview at Rimbun Dahan—even before GTF—Tenaganita were present to watch and to feedback from their experience and sensibility.

    Although I personally have very different creative approach and aesthetic than Terryandthecuz and Ashley, over the 5 days of performance at APW, I learned something (that may seem obvious) and better appreciated what they do: Different people (I am referring to audience) relate to each medium and form differently. Certain approach or medium works effectively for some more than others. While I can see why some audience found the processing section and the driven-container section thin, I also know many audience (including those who appear to be not directly from the performing arts circle) who genuinely and most appreciated the first and the third section. They related to those two sections the best, and said to me things along the lines of “what’s all that dancing about?”, “that’s the one part that I did not really get”. I self-guesstimate that at least half the audience over the 5 days were not regular contemporary performance-goers. I spoke to some of them, and a number of them said they bought tickets spontaneously after seeing it in TimeOutKL. This led me to appreciate the simplicity and readability of the work—and reminded myself to not focus on creating for audience within the circle, preaching to the converted. Especially for a work like SK!N, I think Terryandthecuz’s intention to raise awareness is meant to reach the larger public, and I am glad that SK!N was accessible to most of these audience—the same audience who were enthusiastic and very engaged in the conversations with the children and Tenaganita, post-show.

    All that said, while it is important that we question our sensitivities and privilege, if this production has led only to a question or debate over who can speak for whom, then we all have failed very, very badly. I hope that whilst some of us remain in disagreement, we can find our own ways to do something about the awareness that we now have, with regard to the injustices around refugees in Malaysia.

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