It all began in 1880 during the mining boom. The glint of tin promised riches and attracted an influx of pioneers from across the Asian region to the muddy junction of the two rivers, Sungai Lumpur (now Sungai Gombak) and Sungai Kelang. We meet Mamat, Meng and Muthiah, three friends who came to this frontier town of Kuala Lumpur in search of opportunities and a new life. Through their journey we encounter a host of colourful characters, each with their own enduring personalities and stories. Together these characters and stories form the cultural mosaic of what we all now know as modern Kuala Lumpur.

Three friends gather in the town marketplace, and over a glass of tea, share their hopes and dreams for the future. A chance meeting with a businessman presents them with promises of wealth and prosperity. Will they pursue this once in a lifetime opportunity or forge their own path instead?

Meng now tries his hand as a miner in the dangerous tin mines of Ampang.  We reconnect with Mamat and our marketplace characters during the joyful cacophony of a celebration to welcome the birth of Mamat’s child. Meanwhile Muthiah finds solace and spiritual guidance in a nearby temple.

The people of Kuala Lumpur are at the mercy of the elements as a fire breaks out and threatens to engulf the thatch and wooden town. A sudden downpour offers temporary relief but for how long?

The great flood washes away what is left of Kuala Lumpur. Has the ordeal changed them or made these pioneers of Kuala Lumpur more resilient? The city is rebuilt, stronger but still retaining some semblance of its humble roots. The final scene at a tea stall brings us back full circle. What does the future hold for these three friends?

The Concept

[ut_dropcap style=”two”]W[/ut_dropcap]hen the opportunity arrived for us to pitch an idea to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall for a new culture-based show to be staged at Panggung Bandaraya, we were beyond excited. All of us, at one point or another, have built our careers around this theatre. The opportunity to bring new life to Panggung Bandaraya was something we could not take lightly. The original brief was to create a show that will be performed daily, for local theatre audiences as well as foreign visitors to our city.

mudl

We took this brief from City Hall and enhanced it with what we do best – a memorable musical. Enfiniti Vision Media, as creative content producers, did not want to create just any cultural show, we wanted our pitch to stand out and be one-of-its-kind. We wanted to celebrate the people of Kuala Lumpur and create something that they could be proud of. This is after all ‘our’ story and everyone who has ever called KL home is part of that history. Hence:

 

MUD: OUR STORY OF KUALA LUMPUR.

 

 

A vibrant cultural musical show was born. We believe, what won us over was how we retained the original brief and treated it with theatrical magic, a breathtaking sensory feast, and deep in the heart of it: a Malaysian story with a strong emotional connection to the people of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

[ut_dropcap style=”two”]T[/ut_dropcap]he concept of this show started with a simple word: ‘lumpur’. A Malay word that means ‘mud’. From this, we centered our research on the origin of ‘mud’ itself – the convergence of two rivers (Gombak River and Klang River) where Kuala Lumpur began. We discovered how these rivers gave life to the development of the surrounding area. We knew that Gombak River was then named Lumpur River. However, as we walked in the area during our research, we realized that major buildings in the area were not only built around the same time; it also shared similarities in design and material.

In 1881, following a fire and later flood destroying a major part of Kuala Lumpur, Frank Swettenham, the new British Resident, decreed in 1882 that the rebuilding of Kuala Lumpur was to only use tiled roof and bricks. A new area was opened to manufacture bricks nearby to support the demand – an area now known as Brickfields. With all this information on our table, we sifted through it all and came to this discovery: ‘mud’ left behind from the disasters of 1881 would have dried as hard as bricks, therefore “from mud this town began, and from mud did it rise again”.

Courtesy of National Archives of Malaysia

Courtesy of National Archives of Malaysia

[ut_dropcap style=”two”]E[/ut_dropcap]xcited by this connection, we then looked at the people who populated this city and the challenges they faced during this period in history. Kuala Lumpur was a melting pot for immigrants from all around the region. It became clear to us that we needed to humanize these findings by honoring the faces and lives of the people that was at the beginning of Kuala Lumpur’s future.

It was a full circle with us. The history of yesterday led to the history of today. By looking into the past, we discovered what transformed Kuala Lumpur into the vibrant and diverse metropolitan it is today. We reflected on the history of our forefathers, the landscape of the town along with its architecture, culture, and nature. The deeper we looked, the more we discovered. There were histories that we did not even know about. And as we combined these elements, we realized that we had a deeper appreciation for Kuala Lumpur by understanding the foundation of this city.

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Chedd Eddie Yusoff & Ghafir Akbar
Concept & Story
MUD: OUR STORY OF KUALA LUMPUR

The Production

Once we were given the honour by the Mayor to execute the project, we knew we wanted this show to represent the best talents in our performing arts industry, both onstage and off. The production team we have assembled are leading players in the industry, most of whom we consider family. They are as invested as we are in seeing the success of “MUD”, because they too have left their footprints in Panggung Bandaraya.

 

As a team, we are inspired by other Malaysian artists who have taken traditional forms of art into newer works that are relevant to contemporary society. We looked to batik patterns as the inspiration for our costume and scenic design, tin ore as the base for our musical soundscape, as well as folk tradition as movement and original music references. Not forgetting Malaysia’s favourite beverage ‘teh tarik’ as a recurring theme in the story. Perhaps the colour of the drink reminded us of our humble past. All the while honouring the musical theatre tradition, in tying all these elements together.

For the Malaysian performing arts fraternity, we hope that “MUD” is the beginning of wonderful things to come, as performers and theatre practitioners can finally consider their work on a daily performance as a “professional full-time job”. Our hopes for our beloved industry as well as the success of this show, are echoed in the lyrics, “tomorrow begins today”.
 

We hope this story will stand the test of time and our audiences find an appreciation towards the architecture, history, and spirit of this city we call our home.

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Tiara Jacquelina
Producer
MUD: OUR STORY OF KUALA LUMPUR

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