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Rasa Sayang Review

Review of Rasa Sayang in The Age by Jordan Beth Vincent:

Tony Yap Company, fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, April 24-25, 8pm.

BEFORE the show, a bespectacled Tony Yap wanders benignly among his audience, admiring Naomi Ota’s visual installations. Inspired by the Batu Hidup (living stones) of Malaysia, Ota’s design features pillars wrapped in cocoons of white webbing, strange sculptures that erupt from the ground like sun-bleached bones, and shards of plaster to delineate stark mosaics on the floor.

Although the focus of this latest production from Yap’s Buddha Body Series is ”emptiness”, the space brims with latent energy.

Yap steps on to the wooden floor and seems to transform into a man possessed by evil spirits. He wields the body that will become the corporeal battleground for shamans to wage war, and vibrates with tension and emotion: joy, grief, alienation. The victim becomes the magic man, as Yap dances around an imaginary fire, exorcising demons and cleansing the spirit of his alternate self.

Despite its tiny scale, this work has an epic vibe that is driven by Yap’s ability to sustain his trance-like state from start to finish.

An eerie, atonal musical composition by Tim Humphrey and Madeleine Flynn adds to the mood.

Watching Yap move from one level of meditation to the next is both fascinating and exhausting, and an insight into the demands of his artistic practice.

For Rasa Sayang to work, the audience has to slip into a trance of its own. Lose track of that mental state and Yap’s facial expressions seem grotesque and borderline embarrassing; go with the flow and it strikes an emotional chord.

At the end, Yap snaps back into his own persona and shrinks to human proportions. We are left wondering what has just happened and unsure of how to translate the experience into rational thought.

See the review on The Age website.

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