Kee Thuan Chye

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Kee Thuan Chye
Born (1954-05-25) 25 May 1954 (age 64)
OccupationJournalist, editor, author, playwright, actor, and civil liberty advocate
Spouse(s)Lim Choy Wan
ChildrenSoraya Sunitra Kee Xiang Yin (daughter), and Jebat Arjuna Kee Jia Liang (son)
Awards
  • 34th Most Trusted Malaysian in 2010 poll conducted by Reader's Digest [1]
  • The Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards 2008 [2]
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese紀傳財
Simplified Chinese纪传财

Kee Thuan Chye (born 25 May 1954; aged 64) is a Malaysian actor, dramatist, poet and journalist. Acting in theatre, films, and on television for more than 40 years, he continues to do so. In 1981, Kee co-founded the theatre group, KAMI, in Kuala Lumpur. A noted civil rights activist, he would express in his plays whatever he could not express through the newspapers under Malaysia's repressive Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). For speaking out without fear or favour, Kee was among the first recipients of The Annexe Heroes Freedom of Expression Awards when it was launched in 2008.[2] In 2010, he was also voted the 34th Most Trusted Malaysian in a poll conducted by Reader's Digest.[2]

Although social reengineering under the New Economic Policy had already begun after the 13 May Incident of 1969, it became more pronounced after Mahathir bin Mohamad became Prime Minister in 1981. At the New Straits Times, Kee Thuan Chye received numerous memos from his editor-in-chief for trying to push the parameters and opening up public discourse on what was deemed 'sensitive' issues. Firmly believing that the responsibility of a journalist to the public is to inform them of the truth, he had to battle with his superiors and as a consequence, he was often punished, marginalised, and shut out.[3] In 1988, Kee received his master's degree in drama from the University of Essex, after being awarded a British Council Fellowship for postgraduate studies in England.

In 2001, Kee Thuan Chye became an Associate Editor of The Star in Kuala Lumpur, creating and editing the English column, Mind Our English, until retirement in May 2009.[4] His Sunday Star column, Playing The Fool, which he began in April 2007, ran for only two instalments before it was cancelled. In his inaugural article, Kee had written that he would be speaking out frankly on social and political issues, without fear or favour. His second article, hitting out at racial discrimination in Malaysia, was published but when it came to his third article, the editors got jittery and suppressed it. The Star finally decided to terminate the column after Kee submitted his fourth article.

Civil rights advocacy[edit]

Kee Thuan Chye's political awakening began when he could not afford to pursue his master's degree unless he had a tutor's position.[3] He applied for the post at Universiti Sains Malaysia, his alma mater, and although he was the top student in his class, the job was given to someone else.[3] Kee then joined the now-defunct National Echo as literary editor where he created the page Culture Scene and wrote editorials on political and other issues. Moving from Penang to Kuala Lumpur to join the New Straits Times in the late 1970s, he saw more clearly how race had been politicised to divide the people. Mahathir Mohamad who had become the Prime Minister in 1981 was becoming increasingly dictatorial and would tolerate no criticism of him and his government in the media.

What Kee Thuan Chye could not express through the newspaper, he eventually expressed in his plays. 1984 Here and Now which spoke out frankly against Big Brother and institutionalised racial discrimination, played to full houses in 1985,[3] followed, amongst others, by The Big Purge which brazenly satirises Mahathir and Operation Lalang.

In the aftermath of the 2008 general elections, Kee Thuan Chye rushed out his book March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up in a record three months, due to the topicality of the subject matter. This was followed by March 8: Time for Real Change in 2010.

Between 2008 and 2018, Kee wrote a total of 10 books about the Malaysian political scene, as part of his attempts to create awareness among Malaysians of the need for political change and a better Malaysia.

He finally realised the fruits of his struggle at Malaysia’s 14th general election on May 9, 2018, when the seemingly invincible incumbent coalition, Barisan Nasional, was voted out after having held power for 61 years. It was a historic phenomenon that few people expected. But it happened largely because of the efforts put in by Malaysians who wanted change and worked hard to make it come about.

To commemorate this historic event and also pay tribute to the efforts of everyday Malaysians who had endured the oppressive rule of Barisan Nasional for many years and struggled to kick it out, Kee threw himself into writing a thoroughly researched book that captures the drama of their struggle starting from the time of the 13th general election and building up to the climax of the 14th general election. From despair to hope to euphoria.

Entitled The People’s Victory, it is a narrative full of intrigue, dramatic twists and turns, and guts, sweat and tears. It is also an important document, and a labour of love undertaken by Kee for his country.

Filmography[edit]

Films[edit]

Year Title Role Remarks
2015 Foundation Father Short film made for Cine 65 Singapore competition
2008 Sell Out! CEO 1 Directed by Yeo Joon Han (Amok Films)
2007 1957 Hati Malaya Tan Cheng Lock Directed by Shuhaimi Baba (Pesona Pictures)
2004 Ah Lok Kafe: The Movie Char Koay Teow Directed by Anwardi Jamil
2001 Snipers Mr. Tan Written and directed by James Lee
2000 Lips to Lips Scrabble Man Written and directed by Amir Muhammad
1999 Anna and the King Second Judge Directed by Andy Tennant, starring Jodie Foster (Twentieth Century Fox)
Entrapment Trader #1 Directed by Jon Amiel, starring Sean Connery (Twentieth Century Fox)

Television[edit]

Kee Thuan Chye has appeared in many television dramas, including:

Year Title Role Remarks
2018 The Fifth Floor Wong Meng Teck Singapore TV series
2017 B R A Senior Doctor Singapore TV series
My Mother's Story Father-in-law Singapore TV miniseries
2016 Fine Tune Roger Wong Singapore TV series
2015 Code of Law (Season 3) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
The Circle House Tan Hock Chuan[5] Singapore TV-movie
2014 Mata Mata (Season 2)[5] Tan Eng Chye Singapore TV series
2013 Code of Law (Season 2) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2012 Code of Law (Season 1) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2011 The Pupil (Season 2) Justice Peter Loh Singapore TV series
2009 10 (Sepuluh) Liew 8-episode TV drama series
Mr Siao's Mandarin Class Robert Toh TV sitcom
2008 Sense of Home: Kampung Kid Marcus Owyang Lead role in Singapore TV-movie, shot in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Secrets of the Forbidden City Xia Yuanji Role of Minister of Revenue to Emperor Yongle, in the dramatised documentary for the BBC and the History Channel
Bilik No. 13 Ah Keong Lead role in one episode of Malay miniseries
2007 Marco Polo: Discovery of the World Chief Map Maker Hallmark TV-movie
Sadiq and Co Judge Guest role in Malay TV series
Gol & Gincu (Season 2) Mr Wee Guest role in TV series
2006 Realiti David Yeoh TV series
Impian Ilyana Ilyana's boss Guest role in Malay TV series
2004 Singapore Shakes! David Setoh 'Seventh Month' episode of the Singapore series
Perceptions Victor Wong Main-cast member in the 13-episode Singapore series
2003 Each Other Ronnie Ng Semi-regular role in the 13-episode drama series
2002 Kopitiam Kok Hui Guest role in one episode of the 3rd season
Love Matters: The Marriage Factor Daddy Singapore telemovie
2001 Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd Lim Pek Kong Guest role in one episode of the Singapore sitcom
2000 Teh Tarik Dot Com Vince Main cast member of the 13-episode sitcom
1999 Kopitiam Major Lim Guest role in one episode of sitcom (2nd season)
1996-1997 City of the Rich Han Lee Main cast member in the 200-episode series
1984 Maria Peter Malay TV-movie
1977 Bailey's Bird Ming Ho Guest role in German-Australian TV series

Plays[edit]

Writing and Directing for Theatre[edit]

Year Title Role Remarks
2017 Swordfish + Concubine Producer, writer-cum-director Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac)
2016 The Swordfish, Then the Concubine Writer Translated into Mandarin, directed by Loh Kok Man
1984 Here and Now Writer Translated into Mandarin, directed by Loh Kok Man
2011 Swordfish + Concubine:
The Fall of Singapura
Writer Directed by Jonathan Lim, Young 'n' Wild, Singapore
2008 The Swordfish, Then the Concubine Writer Directed by Ivan Heng, premiered as the opening play of the Singapore Theatre Festival 2008, organised by Wild Rice Productions.
2006 The Swordfish, Then the Concubine Writer The play made it to the Top 5 out of over 600 entries to the International Playwriting Festival, organised by the Warehouse Theatre in Croydon, United Kingdom, with excerpts presented at the festival in November 2006
2005 The Big Purge Writer Selected for Typhoon 4, a playreading festival organised by the Yellow Earth Theatre and presented in Soho Theatre, London
1995 We Could **** You Mr. Birch Writer-cum-director The play was invited to the Festival of Asian Performing Arts in Singapore (performances on 5 and 6 June at the World Trade Centre Auditorium).
1994 We Could **** You Mr. Birch Writer-cum-director Performed for two seasons in June and December.
1993 The Birch and the Rod Director A play written by K.S. Maniam, which premiered at the Australasian Drama Studies Association Conference in Perth, Western Australia
1992 Macbeth Director A Shakespearean play
1990 Madame Mao's Memories Director A play written by Henry Ong
1988 The Big Purge Writer-cum-director Staged at Essex University Theatre, UK
1984 1984 Here and Now Writer Staged in 1985 by Five Arts Centre, directed by Krishen Jit
1981 Narukami Director Adapted from the Kabuki theatre
1977 Eyeballs, Leper, and a Very Dead Spider Writer-cum-director -
The Battles of Coxinga Director A play adapted from the Bunraku theatre
1976 Narukami Director Adapted from the Kabuki theatre
1975 Rhinoceros Director A play written by Eugene Ionesco
1974 The Situation of the Man who Stabbed a Dummy or a Woman and was Disarmed by the Members of the Club for a Reason Yet Obscure, If There Was One Writer-cum-director -
1973 An Old Man Died Today Writer-cum-director -

Acting in Theatre[edit]

Year Title Role Remarks
2015 Public Enemy Actor (as Martin Kwek) Play written by Henrik Ibsen, directed by Glen Goei, and staged at W!ld Rice Productions at Victoria Theatre, Singapore
2014 2 Houses Actor (as Heah) Directed by Lim Yubeng, premiered/commissioned at George Town Festival
2012 The Flight of the Jade Bird Actor (as The Narrator) Directed by Mark Chan, premiered and opening show for the Singapore Arts Festival 2012, staged at Esplanade Concert Hall
2011 The Baling Talks Actor
(as Chin Peng)
Played at the Singapore Arts Festival 2011 for Five Arts Centre
2008 The Baling Talks Actor (as Tunku Abdul Rahman) Played for Five Arts Centre at the Annexe Gallery, Kuala Lumpur
2002 Beautifully Read Actor (as one of the readers) A performance sponsored by the US Embassy, directed by Karin delaPena, Artistic Director of Speaking of Stories, based in Santa Barbara, California
1999 Expat Comes to Town Actor (as multiple roles) A cross-cultural comedy, performed in Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang
1998 A dinner-theatre murder mystery Actor (as Datuk) Played at the KL Ritz-Carlton Hotel
1997 Honour Actor (as Gus) Play written by Joanna Murray-Smith
1991 A Man for All Seasons Actor (as Cromwell) Play written by Robert Bolt
1990 Gulls Lead actor (as Bill) Written and directed by Robert Hewett
The Proposal Actor
(as Chubukhov)
Play written by Anton Chekhov
1989 Death of a Salesman Actor (as Willy Loman) Play written by American playwright Arthur Miller
1988 The Big Purge Actor (as Father) Also wrote and directed
1987 Anak Tanjung Actor
(as Ah Heng)
A Malay play written by Noordin Hassan
1986 The Cord Actor (as Muthiah) Played at The Drama Festival, Singapore
The Coffin Is Too Big for the Hole Actor (one-man performance) Play written by Kuo Pao Kun
1985 1984 Here and Now Actor (as various roles) Also wrote. Staged in 1985 by Five Arts Centre, directed by Krishen Jit
Yap Ah Loy - The Play Actor
(various roles)
Play written by Chin San Sooi
1984 Long Day's Journey Into Night Actor
(as Jamie Tyrone)
Play written by Eugene O'Neill
The Cord Actor (as Muthiah) Play written by K.S. Maniam
1981 Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Actor
(as Claudius)
Play written by Tom Stoppard
Narukami Actor (as Danjo) Also directed the play
1977 Antigone Actor
(as Creon)
Play written by Jean Anouilh

Scriptwriting for television[edit]

  • 2009: Writing storylines for Auntie English, produced by Astro
  • 2004: Co-writing the script for one episode of Singapore Shakes! with Remesh Panicker, followed by another episode, singly
  • 1998–1999: Writing storylines for the 150-episode Idaman II
  • 1997-1998: Writing storylines for the 150-episode Idaman

Published books[edit]

  • The People's Victory (Marshall Cavendish, 2019)
  • Swordfish + Concubine, play-text (Gerakbudaya, 2018)
  • You Want This GOONvernment Ah? (Gerakbudaya, 2018)
  • Unbelievably Stupid Too! (Gerakbudaya, 2015)
  • Unbelievably Stupid! (Gerakbudaya, 2015)
  • Can We Save Malaysia, Please! (Marshall Cavendish, 2014)
  • We Could **** You, Mr Birch, 20th anniversary republication (Gerakbudaya, 2014)
  • The Elections Bullshit (Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2013)
  • Ask for No Bullshit, Get Some More! (Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2013)
  • No More Bullshit, Please, We're All Malaysians (Marshall Cavendish, 2012)
  • March 8: Time for Real Change (Marshall Cavendish, 2010)
  • March 8: The Day Malaysia Woke Up (Marshall Cavendish, 2008)
  • 1984 Here and Now, play-text and introduction by Helen Gilbert (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • The Big Purge, play-text and introduction by Shirley Geok-lin Lim (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • We Could **** You, Mr Birch, play-text and introduction by Robert Yeo (Marshall Cavendish, 2004)
  • We Could **** You, Mr Birch, play-text and introduction by Robert Yeo (self-published, 1995; reprinted, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 2000)
  • We Could **** You, Mr Birch, play-text and theatre programme (self-published, 1994)
  • Just In So Many Words, collection of selected writings in the press (Heinemann, 1992; reprinted, 1993)
  • Haunting the Tiger and Other Stories, edited (Berita Publishing, 1991)
  • Old Doctors Never Fade Away, a biography (Teks Publishing, 1988)
  • 1984 Here and Now, play text and post-performance reviews (K. Das Ink, 1987)

Other Publications[edit]

  • Extract from play We Could **** You, Mr Birch included in An Anthology of English Writing from Southeast Asia edited by Rajeev S. Patke, Isabella Banzon, Philip Holden and Lily Rose Tope (National Library Board, Singapore, 2012)
  • 'The Boy who Saved Singapura' in the anthology Malaysian Tales Retold and Remixed (ZI Publications, 2011)
  • 'Just Another Empty Slogan?', an essay in the book No Honeymoon: Najib's First 100 Days (Gerakbudaya Enterprise, 2009)
  • Ideals and Principles, a 10-minute play, in 10 X 10: 100 Minutes to Change the World (Kakiseni, 2008)
  • 'Towards the Impossible Dream', an essay in the book Tipping Points (The Edge, 2008)
  • Poems, extract from A Sense of Home, and play script of We Could *** You, Mr Birch included in anthology Petals of Hibiscus edited by Mohammad Quayum (Pearson Books, 2003)
  • Another extract from A Sense of Home included in the anthology The Merlion and the Hibiscus (Penguin, 2002)
  • Extract from screenplay A Long Way from Hollywood included in Silverfish New Writing 2 edited by Satendra Nandan (Silverfishbooks, 2002)
  • 1984 Here and Now included in Postcolonial Plays - An Anthology edited by Helen Gilbert (Routledge, UK, 2001)
  • Extract from a novel in progress entitled A Sense of Home included in the anthology New Writing 10, edited by Penelope Lively and George Szirtes (Picador, UK, 2001)
  • Poems included in bilingual anthology of Malaysian poetry Suara Rasa (Maybank, 1993)
  • Several poems included in bilingual Anthology of Malaysian Poetry/Antologi Puisi Pelbagai Kaum edited by K.S. Maniam and M.Shanmughalingam (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1988)
  • Numerous poems published in Malaysian newspapers and journals Masakini and Southeast Asian Review of English, and in magazines and journals abroad - Asiaweek (Hong Kong), Focus, Sands and Coral, Solidarity, Ideya (Philippines), Pacific Quarterly Moana (New Zealand), Ariel (Canada), Kunapipi (Australia).
  • Numerous radio plays broadcast over Radio Malaysia.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Star: Malaysians trust Nicol the most: Reader’s Digest poll
  2. ^ a b c Lim Kit Siang.com: Hero worship
  3. ^ a b c d Lim Kit Siang.com: Kee Thuan Chye unmasked
  4. ^ "Goodbye and thank you". The Star. 22 May 2009. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 13 August 2009.
  5. ^ a b "Kee Thuan Chye". IMDB. Retrieved 4 April 2016.