Thursday, February 16, 2017

華藝節 ::《暗戀桃花源》三十週年演出

At the curtain call of the Singapore show.

Bravely attended 'Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land'《暗戀桃花源》at Esplanade's Huayi Festival. Staged by Taiwan's Performance Workshop (表演工作坊), this well-loved classic written by Stan Lai (賴聲川) was first performed in 1986 (when Taiwan is still under martial law and has been separated from mainland China for 40 years), and has had a number of film adaptations made since.

Esplanade has also brought in this play a decade ago for its Singapore debut. Of course I know nothing about it. 2017 is my first time watching the much-raved-about play. This 30th anniversary version is directed by super-talented actress, director and playwright Ismene Ting (丁乃筝). The girlfriend wanted to know the title of the song the actor sang right at the start. I assumed it was an original song written for the anniversary edition of the play, but an initial google search turned up nothing. It sounded familiar, so some furious googling the next morning led me to 蔡琴的《追尋》.

Two plays within a play. Of two bickering drama troupes that somehow booked a rehearsal space at the same time and date, creating loads of arguments and conflict. They eventually halved the space, and in a magical twist of brilliant scriptwriting, the actors began to complete one another's lines in spite of them rehearsing completely different plays set in different eras and storylines. Basically, it's really about separation and reunification. To choose to remember or forget, to live in the present or hold on to the ghosts of the past. There must be a political comment in there somewhere about Taiwan and China. Of which I refused to delve into. I didn't need the English surtitles since not much Min Nan (閩南語) was spoken.

The play even bothered to use local references and even a mention of the actors acting in local film-maker Jack Neo's madcap shows as a...corpse. 😂 I rolled eyes at that. Some bits were seriously lame and super corny. There was a random character walking around looking for another equally useless person. I thought that was completely unnecessary. I only wished that the scenes with both plays interacting on their halves of the shared stage were increased. That was witty.

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