Five Arts Centre

Conference of the Birds

a workshop performance

The Birds are Coming!

Get ready to be entranced by the original sound and movement of the Conference of the Birds. From November 20th - 22nd, the birds will be alighting on the Wawasan Open University stage in Penang, and will entertain and provoke you with their journey to enlightenment.

Conference of the Birds is a contemporary operatic interpretation of a poem written in Persian by the 12th century poet, Farid ud-Din Attar.

The poem describes the search of a group of birds for a leader: it is an allegory of a Sufi sheikh or master leading his pupils to enlightenment.  This production is a loose interpretation of the poem, using sound and movement to tell the story. 

“The idea of a journey as a process of searching, attracts me as a simple but a powerful one that is universally understood.  To journey to another place in search of a better life or condition is one of the fundamental motivations of our human condition.  It transcends place, time and culture” (Chee Sek Thim, director).


Details (3 shows):

20 - 21 November 2009 @ 8:30pm
22 November 2009 @ 3.00pm
Venue:  Wawasan Open University, Theatre 1, Level 5, Pulau Pinang.

Entry by donation:  RM20 (adults) & RM10 (students).

Available from Sentuhan, 90 Armenian Street (016-4733483); Penang Heritage Trust, 26 Lebuh Gereja (04-2642631); or James Lochhead at 016 4846042.

For more information, please have a look at the project blog at

Creative + Production Team

Composer & Musical Director:  Johan Othman, Universiti Sains Malaysia

Director:  Chee Sek Thim, Five Arts Centre

Libretto:  William Radice, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Performed by Tan Jin Yin, Sharlene Rani Kumaravellu, Girlie Tan Swee Im, Elsie Chin, Lim Chai May, Loke Shiuk Tung, Oh Pei Ying & Philip T C Yeoh.

Graphic Designer:  Goh Hun Meng

Executive Producer:  Marion D'Cruz

Penang Producer:  James Lochhead

Production Manager:  Adrian Teh Eu-Weng

Publicity Managers:  James Lochhead & Mark Teh

Press Preview Stories

"Trilling flight of Persian poetry" - Rachel Jesudason, New Sunday Times, 15 November 2009.

"Conference of the Birds in flight" - Nick Choo, The Nut Graph, 19 November 2009.

"Language of the Birds" - Rizal Johan, The Star, 20 November 2009.


Press Reviews

"On a deeper level" - Rachel Jesudason, New Sunday Times, 14 December 2009.

"An enlightened journey" - Lena Lie, Off The Edge, March 2010.