As part of Istana Budaya’s Malaysia Traditional Arts Showcase 2016, the dance play Puteri Lindungan Bulan was held at the Malaysian Tourism Centre (MaTiC) on the 14th and 15th of October. This play is the third installment for this showcase. The first being Mak Yong, also held at MaTiC on the 19th and 20th of August earlier this year and second, The Colours of Malaysia, held on the 2nd and 3rd September.
Puteri Lindungan Bulan is a legend that originates from Kedah. It chronicles the story of the Sultan of Kedah, Sultan Sulaiman Syah in the mid-16th century and his two daughters, Puteri Mariam and Puteri Zaleha. The former has red blood and the latter, white.
Visions of these princesses appeared in The Sultan of Aceh’s dream one night and as a result, he became infatuated with the white-blooded princess, Puteri Zaleha. He sent a proposal party to Kedah to take Puteri Zaleha’s hand in marriage but because of his known reputation of taking up multiple wives, Sultan Sulaiman Syah gave away Puteri Mariam, the red-blooded princess instead.
The wedding happened but when Puteri Mariam suffered from an injury, all hell broke loose. The Sultan of Aceh was deeply angered and sent the Aceh military to attack Kedah and to look for Puteri Zaleha. However, Puteri Zaleha was hidden by her father in a bunker under the castle and was never found.
Sultan Sulaiman Syah died while held as prisoner of the Sultan of Aceh and Puteri Zaleha died in the castle's bunker. Both the royals were buried in Puncak Bukit Kota Seputeh.
I have to say, in some scenes, the way the choreographers chose to translate the story into dance was in more of an interpretive way. The dances weren’t straightforward aids in presenting the story but more of a representation of how the characters felt.
My favourite parts of the play were the live music blaring from the speakers. I could see the musicians playing in the corner, clad in traditional Malay clothing, which contributed to the overall experience. Another thing I enjoyed was how there was a lot of audience involvement. The dancers treated the whole theatre hall as their stage, not just the actual stage.
In some scenes, you felt like you were in Kedah in the mid-16th century because the music and stage presence made it feel real. Not to mention, some characters made the play especially memorable. They were playful and relatable- everything a character should be.
One downside of the play was that I found it to be too short. Only spanning a period of an hour, the audience didn’t really get to warm up to the characters as much as we should’ve. Despite that, though, it still was an enjoyable experience.
A tip you should know if you wish to attend any future MaTiC performances with free admission, is to come early. But bear in mind, that even if you come early, it might not be possible to get the best seats because most of the hall is reserved for university students and members of the press. This won’t pose as a big problem if you come early because we all know the early bird catches the worm.
The Malaysia Traditional Arts Showcase 2016 is a commendable effort by Istana Budaya and the Malaysian Tourism Centre. I hope they do this every year and I'm excited to see what new showcases they'll bring to the table in the future.I kinda wanna be a princess now.