King Krishen

Marina Tan

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Krishen Jit. Photo SC Shekar

Excavations, Interrogations, Krishen Jit & Contemporary Malaysian Theatre
Charlene Rajendran, Ken Takiguchi and Carmen Nge (Eds) 
Five Arts Centre and Epigram: 2018
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In January 2015, a three-day conference on the life and work of Malaysian theatre director Krishen Jit was held at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre. Put together by a team who had been close to Krishen and in large part attended by people who had known him, it inevitably became something of a love-in: most participants regarded their subject, who had died a decade earlier, as a charismatic director and eminent academic as well as a beloved collaborator, mentor and friend.

I had long heard tales of Krishen’s artistic passion, brilliant mind and legendary love of food, and they were retold at the conference, to the delight of the 200-strong audience in the black box theatre. But I had also heard of people who had been pushed to the point of tears while working with Krishen — actors, musicians and designers, male and female. In one of the conference’s most vivid moments, during an open floor discussion, several respected figures (who had also known and loved Krishen) addressed his trauma-inducing practices. Not all who had worked with Krishen were ill-treated, but it was hard not to wonder whether some people were spared, while others, as though suffering from a kind of Stockholm syndrome, accepted his methods as good for them. Had the man, in fact, been a bully?

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