Istana Budaya – celebrating 20 years of success in 2019

On a par with the world’s best, Malaysia’s National Theatre, 20 years after its inception, is still number 1 in Asia, and one of the top few worldwide.

Known locally as Istana Budaya, the state-of-the-art theatre was officially launched by the 4th Prime Minister of Malaysia on September 15th, 1999. It is located in Kuala Lumpur and covers a total area of 5.44 acres with the physical dimensions of the theatre encompassing 21,000 square meters. Its architectural design is based on a blend of various aspects of Malay traditional culture. Malaysia’s National Theatre takes pride as being the #1 theatre in Asia, and one just a few in the world with such sophisticated state-of-the-art stage mechanism for theatre performances, staging musical theatres from drama to comedy and concerts from classical to pop.

Local arts & culture are highlighted, providing opportunities for creative expression and enhancing excellence in performing arts. Istana Budaya’s main function is to provide quality entertainment to the public, in accordance with Malaysia’s National Culture Policy.

Unique Design

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Aerial view – Istana Budaya

Istana Budaya’s unique architectural design is based on a blend of various aspect of Malay culture. The base of the theatre takes the shape of a floating wau bulan (traditional Malay kite). The shape of the building portrays the sirih junjung, a multi-tier floral arrangement of sirih (betel leaves), used traditionally, as a symbolic piece for Malay wedding, festivities and welcoming ceremonies. The logo itself manifests the role of Istana Budaya in welcoming visitors to its theatrical performances of high artistic standards. The tree betel leaves each signify a different meaning: namely, LANGUAGE (Drama), MOVEMENT (Dance) and RHYTHM (Music). These different elements are combined in the fourth leaf, which represents PERFORMING ARTS.

Istana Budaya has two auditoriums. The main auditorium, Panggung Sari, has the capacity to accommodate 1,408 people, inclusive of the Stalls (1st level), Grand Circle (2nd level) and Upper Circle (3rd level). The smaller auditorium, Lambang Sari has retractable seats that can allow 281 people. The pride of Istana Budaya is based on its incredible stage mechanism in Panggung Sari, with which the movements of actors and sets on the stage can be perfectly synchronised.

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Aerial view – Istana Budaya

Istana Budaya continues to upgrade its technologies to be on par with those used by other theatres in the world. These include computer-controlled stage mechanisms, lighting systems, audio visual systems, and special effects. The Panggung Sari stage consists of 4 double deck stage lifts and 5 moving platforms also known as wagons. Double deck stage lift can be elevated or lowered up to 4.5 meters from the stage level. The moving platforms are made up of 4 side wagons and 1 rear wagon. The 4 side wagons are movable side to side and the rear wagon can be moved to the front and back. There are also 61 fly bars and a staggering 169 point hoists. The speed, levels and points of these mechanisms can be controlled individually or in formation. Combined with their network of state-of-the art lighting, audio visual and special effects systems, the stage offers endless possibilities in creating spectacular stage orchestrations for any form of stage productions.

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In-house dancer training at Istana Budaya

Apart from being the National Theatre of Malaysia, Istana Budaya also houses dancers and musicians. The name of its dance group is Artistari – with two groups of musicians, National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and Orchestra Traditional Malaysia (OTM). Istana Budaya produces classical, traditional, modern and contemporary concerts and musicals.