Erenlai - Diane Vandermolina
Diane Vandermolina

Diane Vandermolina

Diane Vandermolina was born on the 12th February 1976, in Marseille, France. After her Master in Philosophy and Theatre studies, she worked with different theatre in Marseille as an art advisor (Theatre Gyptis, Cameleone Company...) and press relations (for the First African Movie Festival). She also publishes short stories in newspapers and has written theatre plays which will be staged next year in France and Taiwan. Living between Marseille and Taipei, she is very involved in the Taiwan art scene, writing on Taiwanese theatre, dance, movie and design arts - and trying to make them better known in France by creating the first Taiwanese Art Festival in France in 2013. She is currently the chief director of la 'Revue Marseillaise du Théâtre', a French cultural magazine she created in 2004, and the chief organiser of an annual festival in Marseille, les 'Theatralia', the first French theatre festival in a commercial centre. Passionate about photography, she takes pictures of shows for French theatre companies and as a professional journalist (French press card 106063). She specialises in art criticism, but also makes reports on various topics such as society, culture, arts and gastronomy, collaborating with different medias (French newspapers and radios such as 'L’Express', 'Cassandre', 'Marseille la Cité', 'l’Officiel des Loisirs', 'Radio Grenouille'...), teaching Cultural Journalism at the Journalist School of Marseille, EJCM, Aix Marseille University. She is also the general secretary of Marseille Provence Press Club, dedicated to journalists, and works as expert with Marseille City Hall and the French Ministry of Youth and Sports on cultural and theatrical projects.

Friday, 23 July 2010 16:03

Theatre review: He is my wife, he is my mother

He is my wife, he is my mother
By Katherine H. Chou
Inspired from Li Yu’s Silent Opera

This contemporary first production inspired by an ancient text relates to the Chinese Nanfeng Fashion in two different times and places.

What's the Nanfeng Fashion (南風)? It was a custom in fashion from Fujian, the province in South-Eastern China across the strait from Taiwan, where a lot of Taiwanese are originally from. The word 'Nanfeng' (which means wind from south) indicates the homosexual inclination of Fujian's inhabitants. The Fujian province is also known for having allowed homosexual marriages during the Ming dynasty.

In the city of Putian, where a part of the story takes place, Mazu -the Goddess of the Sea- was born. The city became a pilgrimage place for Taiwanese people and believers in Mazu.

So what is this first production telling us?

In a nutshell, it's about the eternal love between Xu Jifang, a young widower, who is a very cultivated landlord recently returned from China, and You Ruilang, a young poor boy blessed with incredible beauty. In 1912 they met each other in Putian during Mazu's celebration, which was exclusively reserved for men. Despite his old friend Chen Dalong's despair, Jifang ruined himself in order to marry the young You, who emasculates himself to prove his love and his devotion to his husband and also that he will never leave him for a woman. Out of jealousy Chen Dalong condemned You to be beaten with sticks but out of love, Jifang will take his place and die asking You to “take care of his young son”.

The second part of the story takes place in 1959, a period during which homosexuality was severely repressed. Ruilang changes his name for Ruinang and migrates to Taiwan. He became a woman and lives with his cousin who travels all year for business. As a mother, Ruinang raises Jifang's son Chengxian, prohibiting him to see other boys to spare him the suffering You knew. Unfortunately the relationship between Chengxian and Chen Nianzu, who is being discovered to be Dalong's nephew, is close to the Nanfeng Fashion for Ruinang's distress. He will be the one to receive the prize of the best mother.

Art Direction

8155cUsing double-scenography, the director shows the two periods “time-space” of the story, with magnificent drapes or interior scenery. Katherine Chu the director and author of the show, imagined a special representation: in the first part, Lee -the artist who interprets Dalong and his nephew- plays “Nanguan”, and we discover with a lot of sensitivity a homosexual love tending to universality, subtly directed – we have to admit the intelligent choice to give You's role to a androgynous woman and Jifang's to a masculine features actor – with love scenes and complicity of a surprising beauty. The aesthetic of this first part is inspired from the traditional and very symbolic gestures, but with a pinch of contemporaneity.

The second part's direction is more realistic, less aesthetic, but nevertheless a suppleness and a beauty rise from the moves of the actors, inherited from the artistic tradition. Lightness is also there thanks to the cousin, a funny interpretation by Wu Wei Wei, contrasting with the “straighter” interpretation of the conscientious mother by Hsu Yen ling.

All the roles are performed to a high degree: Yen ling is remarkable for her interpretation of You - by her walk and also by her voice – and excels at playing the joyful mother. Wei Wei is so amusing in his tomboy role: her joy is communicative. Hsu Hua-chien is excellent as a numb and cold lover and as a son repressing his homosexuality. Lee Yi-Hsiu, who's got a beautiful voice, plays his role admirably. And the others actors are as well.

“He is my wife, he is my mother” will be performed again in Taipei from the 29th to the 31st July 2010 at the Metropolitan Hall (at 7:30 PM except the 31th at 2:30 PM and 7:30 PM). Although the question of homosexuality is more or less well accepted in Taipei nowadays, this story in “two times-two spaces” raises interrogations about China's history, its past, its conflicts, its present, its contradictions, with acuity and intelligence. At the end of the show, which we will not reveal, leaves us with a question which will still be powerful when we are out of the politically correct and the lobbies.

Photo courtesy of the Creative Society and K. Chou

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Monday, 24 January 2011 10:31

Birth, Growth, Disease, Separation

La Naissance : souviens-toi et va vers toi !
A Franco-Taiwanese Show for young children (under 3 years old)
By The Company East and West and The Flying Group (Length: 1 h)

Jung Shih Chou, married to a French art director, Franck Dimech, is known in Taiwan for her former collaboration with the Wild Shakespeare sisters’ theatre group. She has lived in Marseille, France, for more than four years and with her last show, aptly named the Birth, she tries to build links between France, her adopted country, and Taiwan, her birth country. Starting with a series of four shows based on the theme of rest and awakening, the young Taiwanese actress is eager to share her Chinese culture with French audiences and vice-versa.

Friday, 20 January 2012 16:32

Taiwan arts in Toulouse

The Made In Asia Toulouse Festival will be held from January 25 to February 10, 2012

Created in 2008, by Didier Kimmoun, and brought to the stage by the Tchin-tchine association, the Made in Asia festival attempts to present Asian cultures in France. This year it proposes to highlight Taiwan contemporary creative works through its most talented artists, Hsu Yen Ling (徐堰鈴) and Wang XinXin (王心心). Events include dance performances, contemporary theatre, puppets shows, concerts, exhibitions and movie screenings!

The origin of the project, a passion for Asia Today

The founder of the festival spent part of his childhood in China: his father was a teacher in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. He has always been attracted to Asian cultures. After several trips to China, he realized early on that Asian people know Western culture better than Westerners know Asian cultures. 'There is a gap between the knowledge in West Asia and Europe. This gap is greater in the cultural field: in Asia, Western culture is part of school curricula, which is not the case in France.' This observation led him to develop the project of a festival dedicated to Asia. 'I did not want an exotic festival for hippies from Yunnan. I wanted people to discover contemporary cultural life in Asia'.

The festival strives to make French people better understand the reality of contemporary Asia, its developments, its contradictions, and to build bridges between East and West.

In 2000, he met the Tchin-Tchine association which organized cultural events to promote Asia. ‘I proposed to develop an annual cultural week about China and opened it to other countries as well such as Vietnam and Korea. I wanted to propose different kinds of shows, including contemporary living arts, which are not so well known here. I had to convince the French programmers who were afraid of the audience reaction and had difficulty to conceive the existence of contemporary creative works in Asia '. Indeed, at this time, only Korea was known for its contemporary dance performances. 'It took time to find financial partners; I had to convince the city hall and government. I finally got a grant from the city hall'. To make up the deficit in the budget, he approached private companies, offering them projects such as the installation of Korean sculptures in a Hyundai shop in Labège from January 25 to February 18.

A festival of sharing and artistic exchange

Didier Kimmoun does not want the festival to be the only egg in his basket and so he develops artistic residencies and exchanges between Asian and French artists, in order to create bridges. That is why this year he welcomed the wonderful Wang XinXin, specialist in Nanguan, for a period of residency in collaboration with a baroque orchestra. Throughout the year he has also invited artists for residencies like in last November, when he invited an experinmental Japanese group led by Oriza Hirata, who presented 'Sayonara' played by Geminoid F. The next countries that will be featured at the festival will be Japan - due in part to the events that occurred in Fukushima - and also Singapore. In 2014/2015, there will be contemporary Chinese Opera. This year, the guest is Taiwan. Why Taiwan? Because 'this year was the centennial of the Republic of China and the Taiwanese artists, guardians of hungry Western ways of life and ancient Chinese culture, are very good at crossing between East and West, tradition and modernity ', he says.

Theatre, music, dance

The french audience will be able to admire the extraordinary performance of Hsu Yen Ling, one of the best Taiwanese actresses, in 'Remix - Hsu Yen-Ling x Sylvia Plath, the Monodrama of HSU Yen - Ling', written by Chou Man-Nung and staged by Baboo. Produced by the Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group, it will be performed on January 25 and 26, at Théâtre Garonne. Another great performance will follow, dedicated to a younger audience: 'The Birth'*, produced by the East and the West and the Flying group, performed on February 4, in Mediatheque José Cabanis. This show mixes puppetry, shadow theatre and theatre: the first part of a trilogy, he takes the children and their parents into the dream of a little girl who, still in the womb of her mother, discovers the world. This dreamy and poetic trip is interpreted by the talented Chou Jung Shih, accompanied live by Wang Yu Jun, a gifted young musician. Besides this, the festival also welcomes Shang Chi Sun, a young choreographer and talented dancer with 'Traverse' on January 27 in Espace Bonnefoy, and the fabulous Wen Chi Su with 'Loop me', a multimedia dance performance signed by Yilab. The Ten Drums Art Percussion Group, from the South of Taiwan, based in Tainan, composed of 10 amazing percussionists, will perform 'the charm of Taiwan', a tribute to spiritual Taiwanese traditions, on February 3 at the salle Nougaro. The XinXin Nanguan Ensemble, led by the majestic Wang XinXin, will present ' the Passions', a musical dialogue between Nanguan, a Chinese traditional instrument, and Baroque music, in collaboration with Passions Orchestra - Orchestra Baroque of Montauban, under the direction of Jean-Marc Andrieu. This concert where Chinese and Baroque music are revisited will allow the audience to discover all the vocal and instrumental virtuosity of Jiang Nan and Wang XinXin on February 8 at the Capitol Theatre.

TEN-DRUMS2

Focus on REMIX: Hsu Yen-Ling + Sylvia Plath, A red-hot mono-drama

Remix, Hsu Yen Ling's mono-drama, is inspired by fever 103, a poem written by Sylvia Plath and deals with the last moments of Sylvia Plath’s life. This last was an American poetess haunted by the idea of death, who killed herself, despaired by love, when she was 30. Hsu Yen ling, fascinating and disturbing, plays magnificently and brilliantly Plath's character: she becomes completely this hurt woman, wild animal tortured by abused love and sickness. She's belching, yelling, sighing, murmuring with fervor, violence, and despair the poetess' words, rewritten by Chou Man-Nung – young Taiwanese author. This poetical rewriting shows the extent of the talent of the young actress, here, in one of her best performances. Baboo's art direction is very rhythmic and spread intelligently and soberly the poetic whisper of this tortured writing. It swings between foolish and indolent scenes, showing the ambiguous relationships between Plath and her father, Plath and her husband, both beloved and hated men of her life. The spectator becomes the witness of the actress' inner truth revelation: Ms. Hsu defends body and soul this American author unknown in France. Ms Plath used to live in her husband's shadow, a famous poet, and suffered from the cruelty of a patriarchal society. We warmly recommend it to the audience.

Young Taiwanese creation in the fields of cinema and fine arts

Many exhibitions complete the program: elaborated in collaboration with the Cultural Centre of Taiwan in Paris, under the advice of its Director, Mr. Chen, specialist in Fine Arts, former Professor and artist himself, the audience is invited to various places in Toulouse to have a look at contemporary Taiwanese art. This is the opportunity to meet Yong - Ning Tzeng, with two exhibitions from 25 January to 11 February, in Espace Bonnefoy - opening January 27 - and from 31 January to 5 February, at Place Commune, opening on February 2. Gallery Lemniscate will host from 26 January to 26 February - opening January 26- Mia Liu Wen Hsuan with her paper sculptures. Char Wei Tsai, for his part, will explore the process of transformation. Chi-Tsung Wu who experiments with simple processes in the manufacture of images in reference to traditional painting work will be in residency from January 15 to February 1 and will present his work from 2 to 25 February in Maison Salvan in Labège - opening February 2 at 19: 00. Young Video maker Cheng Ta Yu interested in the human body will be from the 2 to February 25 in Pavillon Blanc- Colomiers - opening February 2 at 7 pm. This palette of artists unveils the creative diversity of the Taiwanese artists in resonance with current issues.

The surprise of the Chief: Mister Candle

In the heart of the Asian village, one could try martial arts, kitchen workshops, and Asian food and attend the parade of the New Year with the dance of the dragon, accompanied by drums and a release of lanterns on 28 and 29 January. This will be the opportunity to see a young Taiwanese artist, the enigmatic Mister Candle, Huang Ming-Cheng, in residence in the village. Mister Candle is the last discovery Didier Kimmoun made during his recent trip to Taiwan. This young Acrobat has a delirious project and will work with circus artists from Toulouse and Barcelona. His artistic project is to take a photo of himself in the position of the candle in various places of the island, in a market or on a moped, bringing a particular look at the fragility of the world he looks backwards and wants to make a 15 year world tour. A gallery of his suspended photos will be shown during the festival. Didier Kimmoun is interested in his artistic posture, his authentic approach in acquaintance with his very lifestyle. Enjoy it!

 


 

*More on the Birth, follow the link: http://www.erenlai.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=4307%3Athe-birth-a-franco-taiwanese-show-for-the-young-&Itemid=164&lang=en

More detail on http://www.festivalmadeinasia.com/

 

 

Monday, 01 August 2011 14:07

Modern Drama in Taiwan: A Mirror for Taiwan’s paradoxes

Born out of 1980s’ Taiwan, modern drama nowadays is often based on Western theatre, including French, English, German and American contemporary drama. The work of playwrights such as Kantor, Koltes, Duras, Bond and Müller has been adapted to the Taiwanese stage over the course of the last few years. Experimental performances, dealing very openly with themes like sex and violence, love and loss, and homosexuality reveal the paradoxes that are lived by Taiwanese society, struggling between tradition and modernity.

Social issues in Modern Theatre: the weight of tradition on the individual

Modern dramatists born before the 1970s worked more with social issues than the younger generation. Chen Chia Yin [鄭嘉音], director of Puppet & its Dubble, who is involved in theatrical workshops for children in Tainan, explains that ‘the older artists were more concerned with political issues because they lived under martial law and did not have as many rights as artists today. […] So, in their artistic work there were attempts to claim more freedom and struggle for social change, which made it a lot more provocative. After Taiwan became a democracy there was a significant shift in the role of the social dramatist’. Since the 1990’s, theatre in Taiwan has increasingly represented the ordinary lives of common people; performances attempt a realistic rendering of the effect of history and social changes on Taiwanese families over the course of the last century, rather attempting to tackle contemporary political social issues.

The older generations of dramatists focus more on the subjectivity of a Taiwanese specific history, which had often been oppressed and ignored by the KMT military dictatorship. Playwright Wang Chi Mei [汪其楣], a retired professor at the National Taiwan University of Arts in Guandu, who has worked a lot with the deaf, focused her own theatrical research on Taiwanese women who had fought for civil rights and liberty. Her latest performance relates the story of the first Taiwanese woman who was both a feminist and a communist, the mother of Taiwanese independence, Hsieh Hsueh-Hung [謝雪紅]. She studied communist philosophy in Russia and fought the Nationalists in Taiwan but had to flee to China because of the military regime. Professor Wang’s struggled to find further information about Hsieh’s life and she has stated that ‘these are important parts of Taiwan history put to one side by scholars, it is Taiwanese artists that had to find out about her and tell her story’; For Wang, ‘the most important thing is to discover Taiwanese roots and not just mimic Western drama. Taiwanese artists need to be aware of the specificity of their own situation.’ She once attempted to stage a Western play but found the experience unsatisfying: ‘the Western way of thinking is different, more conceptual than the Chinese one and Taiwanese adaptations are rarely successful in rendering these concepts. It was only when she concentrated her research on Taiwanese history that her she was able to progress as Taiwanese artist. There are many figures from Taiwanese history that can act as examples to the younger generation in their attempt to assert their own rights.

However, in recent years few dramatists are committed to social or political issues or portraying the lives of historical figures: they are more interested in the more mundane themes and the history of everyday life. The Village, produced by Stan Lai [賴聲川], tells the story of those Chinese soldiers who followed Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in the 40’s/50’s. Posted in Taiwan “temporarily”, they spent decades waiting for their homecoming to China, and lived in ‘villages’, attempting to recreate their imaginary of China in Taiwan. Through the depiction of three generations living in this village, Stan Lai poses questions about this way of life, by showing how the younger generation’s choices lead them to more freedom than their parents. Many Taiwanese have Chinese ancestry and so can identify with the characters in the play. Although this play can be classified as ‘realistic theatre’ in that the art direction is very ‘sensitive and emotive’ and the actors embody the characters in a very natural way. The realistic narrative is underwritten with the experience of Taiwanese society making the audience focus more clearly on the emergence of the individual and his place in contemporary society.

The connection between society and the individual is a significant subject for the generation of dramatists currently in their 40s. The Creative Society’s last show Have Wok, Will Travel, presented last winter at the National Theatre’s Experimental Theatre, tells the story of director Katherine Hui-ling Chou’s [周慧玲] mother. She focuses on the main character’s emotions, letting the spectator feel the bold joy of her mother when she worked for the Army and contrasting this with the gloomy unhappy temper she keeps in her married life. To portray this change of temperament, which parallels the two distinct periods of Taiwan history, Chou incorporates dance into her performance based on martial arts, directed by her choreographer in a very poetic and sensitive way. This is interspersed with more realistic dialogue, which break through the magic of the dancing parts. The play poses seems to question if our life choices are dictated by the society we live in or if true self determination is possible. Her plays often combine tradition with modernity, as far as the stories she writes deal with changing times and places and how this affects the psyche of the characters. In He is my wife, he is my mother, based on an ancient story, Chou relates episodes of a man’s life, set in the periods before and after the Communist Revolution, in China and Taiwan respectively. The play is composed of two parts, a very dreamy first part and a very realistic second part to which seems to work to present what is strange as normal. She questions the weight of a social tradition that pushes one to live a conventional life. The protagonist, a man who casts off his masculinity to become both a “wife” to his lover and a “mother” to his lover’s son, chooses finally to let his lover’s son live in a homosexual relationship against established convention. This can be seen as a parallel to determination of the eponymous protagonist of Sophocles’ Antigone to bury her brother in contravention of King Creon’s command. In both plays the will of the individual acts in direct opposition to convention.

For members of the older generation of art directors, traditional Chinese culture and the daily realities of family life seem to be the starting point in describing the changes in Taiwanese society, and the paradoxes inherent in a modern society that still espouses some very traditional social and family values, as well as the difficulties for that an individual experiences in trying to live their own life according to their own values: this realist modern drama accurately depicts how difficult it is for Taiwanese to cast off the burden of traditional values that they never chose to carry, but which are still, whether consciously or not, anchored deeply in the Taiwanese sense of self , despite the yearning for a shift in these values.

Emotions and Entertainment in Modern Taiwanese Theatre

It is human relationships rather than social issues, however, that capture the attention of the younger art directors such as Baboo Liao [廖俊逞] or Hsu Yen Ling [徐堰鈴] from the Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group [莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團]. These younger directors often adapt German, English and French Literature. Themes such as love, sexuality, violence, intimacy and gender predominate, reflecting the concerns of the younger generation. Avant-garde theatre deals with individual issues more than with social issues as confirmed Chen Chia Yin has confirmed: “The young artists don’t ask the same questions as the older generation: they are used to living in freedom. For them the ego is more interesting as a subject matter than society at large.” The politics of modern drama are less assertive and pushy than before; acting has come to the forefront with more surrealist and burlesque styles of theatre becoming more popular. Derrick Wei × Der Schönste Moment [魏雋展獨角戲《最美的時刻》] adapted from the novel by Michael Cornelius and directed by Baboo Liao [廖俊逞], a younger generation director, for example, although it confronts some social issues, with its ironic presentation of the modern way of life and its veiled criticism of the Taiwanese work ethic, it focuses mainly on the inner questioning of the protagonist. Alone in his toilet, which seems to represent for him a cage, he recreates the world of his thoughts, making love with a puppet or imitating Michael Jackson. The puppets, made with latex, were created by Chen Chia Yin, and represent the different parts of the anti-hero’s psyche. The stage design symbolizes the main character’s loss of self. The director gives a very modern treatment to the theme, in that as well as the dialogue it is the physical movements of the actor that give life to the play. Realism is abandoned for a more figurative representation, combining fantasy and humor, making the play closer to Avant Garde Theatre. In comparison with Modern Drama from the West, theatre in Taiwan is not as conceptual: retaining very visual stage techniques based on emotion and feeling. Western literature appears to be a good source material for Taiwanese artists in understanding and exploring the complexity of human nature. Hung Hung [鴻鴻], a contemporary director and poet explains “it is very thrilling and interesting to work on Western literature because it deals with deep emotions and inner feelings”. Western literature leads Taiwanese directors to ‘express their feelings in a new way’ even if in some of their adaptations, they face difficulties in showing inner violence or intimacy between characters because of Chinese culture.

Ann Lang [郎祖筠] adapted Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues last summer in an attempt to make Taiwanese women more aware of their bodies, in particular their vaginas, and asked renowned artists to take part in the performance. She asked Lai Pai Hsia [賴佩霞] to roam about naked on stage and that was a challenge for the naturally timid singer to act this part. In Taiwanese education, ‘one never talks about sex, many women don’t like their vagina and don’t know their body: they even don’t know how to get pleasure in their sexual relationships’ says Ann. As Chia Yin clarifies, ‘the parents raise their children to be hard workers and respect their familial and social duties. In family, we don’t speak about such affairs. Sex is taboo.’ This gives one an insight into why many young directors explore the Western literary canon. Baboo Liao has staged Heiner Müller’s Quartett, a play based on Dangerous Liasons written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, which tells the story of two libertines, Madame de Merteuil and Valmont, and their sexual search for pleasure as well as their perverse relationship with each other. Even though the show was not well received, its interest lies in the presentation of their complex Sado-Masochistic relationship with each other: although they compete to prove whether man or woman is more capable of being a true libertine, they both fall into the trap of love and suffering. It shows the deep intricacy of human nature, its desires and contradictions. Many young artists seem to be interested in understanding this topic, all too often absent in Chinese literature or in everyday life.

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Hsu Yen Ling [徐堰鈴], in her shows, deals essentially with feminine issues. In Tracks on the Beach and Drifting, adapted from Duras’ Le ravissement de Lol V. Stein, she focuses on Lol, an eccentric woman that cuts herself off from life after her lover abandons her for another woman and she falls into apathy’. Hsu Yen Ling, also a famous actress in Taiwan, asked the actors to ‘search the feelings in the deep of their heart and express them in new ways’. This way of teaching, allows actors to act in a more corporal way; which is really different from French acting. French directors focus more on acting with words than on acting with the body. Take Care, her last show, which was performed in July 2011 at the Guling St. Avant Garde Theatre, questions the increasing number of abandoned animals in Taiwan and asks us how to take care of the other, telling the story of a lesbian couple, one a veterinarian, the other a teacher, and the difficulties they face in their jobs and in their sex life. The play is a comedy, and comedy seems like a good approach to help us reflect on these issues. Taiwanese directors do not appear to draw a dichotomy between comedy and tragedy. They often include funny elements to relax the atmosphere and combine tragic moments with humoristic ones. In France, humor is often considered as material for low class theatre audiences and this is confined to a very comedic style. Bluesy Lee – Welcome to the 70s [李小龍的阿砸一聲], performed by Shakespeare Wild Sisters’ Group in May 2011 at the National Theatre, relates the 70’s in a very visual way, with surrealist screenings and grotesque acting. It mocks the bad acting of the superhero and soap opera style movies on TV, as well as portraying with delicacy the beautiful love story between 7 and 11 and the tragic one between deaf Teresa and her lover in a very Taiwanese style.

The main difference between French and Taiwanese Modern Theatre reflects a deep cultural difference: French culture distinguishes and separates comedy and tragedy and is based around a thought out idea; on the contrary, Taiwanese Theatre incorporates different styles and its focus lies on feeling. Taiwanese modern drama is more emotional, either it is realistic or surrealist or deals with social or individual’s issues. Directors and actors have a more sensitive and expressive working behavior. Amazingly, the strength of their shows resides in the powerful feelings they dare to express on stage, a strength of feeling that is seemingly absent from their own lives. This creates a paradox, wherein Taiwanese modern drama is freer than Taiwanese modern society. Another main difference is that the audience and artists are more curious and open about certain issues when they are portrayed on the stage, especially homosexuality. To conclude, even if Taiwanese artists use western writings as material to understand human nature in a deeper way, they don’t need to copy Western arts, as sometimes their work can appear less structured and overdetermined. In France, we have lost this strain of emotional thinking and Taiwanese modern drama still touches one’s heart: yet if one does not speak Chinese, one still can garner an understanding of the plot of most Taiwanese shows.

Thursday, 07 July 2011 16:47

A review of the play 'Take Care'

Directed by HSU YEN LING
Taipei Blooming production
Length: 1 hour and 30 minutes

‘Take Care’ is the first production of TAIPEI BLOOMING, a theatre group founded by Hsu Yen Ling last year. The show will be performed at Guling Avant Garde Theatre from July 1 to July 10 2011. The main question raised in this new production deals with abandoned and injured animals through the story of a lesbian couple; one is a veterinary surgeon, the other a teacher. Italso raises the question of the complexity of the relationships between human beings, between human beings and animals, and between animals.

Hsu Yen Ling, well known as an extra gifted performer, presents her fifth show as art director: “I tried to find a new way to write a script. Before, I was used to writing it first and then ask my actors to perform it. For this production, we started from improvisation and wrote the script together; talking about the issues we wanted to focus on, and cutting or rewriting some parts.” This collective work is based on the main characters’ lives: the vet, the teacher, the businessmanand the student. She aims to show their relation to their particular jobs and to one another, usingvery ordinary dialogue, classical stage design and everyday life costumes to stick to the reality she wants to portray.

“How can we take care of the other?” This is the underlying question in the story told by Hsu Yen ling. “I wanted to talk about the animal issue too. In the big cities, many abandoned cats and dogs can’t take care of themselves alone. We have to pay attention to them and take care of them.” This issue leads her to think about animal relationships more based on touch. “I also ask the actors to play the animals in order to focus more on the touching; work on the emotion, the movement and gesture. We often pay too much attention to the sight or the talk. But there are other senses we can use to have contact with the other and in Taiwan, few people touch each other; Taiwanese are not used to physical contact.“ For example, when we say "goodbye" in Taiwan, we never kiss the other on the cheek. In this show, the animals talk and could be seen as examples that the main characters could follow in their own life, they even advise their masters when they face difficult situations in everyday life and relationships.

To embody one of the animals, she asks Fa Tsai to join her production: Fa Tsai, a famous talented artist had already played with the most famous art directors in Taiwan and we can assure you that his performance in this show is excellent and very detailed. Hsu Yen ling, in her role as art director, works on every detail with her actors, even with the non-professional ones such as Liu Nien Yun. She used to be Hsu Yen ling’s producer in ‘Sister Trio’ and ‘A date’, two successful shows she presented a few years ago in Taiwan.

“When Yenling asked me to be her actress in ‘Take care’, I could not refuse it: I was reallyinterested in the topic and wanted to support her production. I’ve known her since I was in senior high school, before I began to study women’s working conditions at university: she was the teacher in our theatre club. I also wanted to try to be an actress even though I sometimes feel alittle scared. For me, it is difficult to act a relationship, but I really want to work more on theatre projects, because since I began working for the labor organization* I have not had much time for theatre.” Her role is to be the vet and take care of the injured animals and the people who bringthem to her office.

“When Yen Ling told me the story she wanted to write, I found a connection between my actual job and the character of the veterinary. In my job, I have to take care ofinjured laborers – women who used to work for RCA (Radio Corporation of America), an American electric company sold to Thompson, more than 20 years ago and who later got cancer.They have been fighting for 10 years to get compensation. Many questions come to my mindwhen I am tired: why do I want to be an organizer? My character has the same questioning andfeeling.” One may have seen Liu Nien Yun on TV, the morning the Legislative Yuan passed thebudget for Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant; she was one the persons thrown out by thethstpolicemen in front the Legislative Yuan. As an activist, she is involved in the anti-nuclear andlabor movements, yet, all the while she is deeply implicated in her work, listening to the harmedpersons and helping them as best she can.

So, if you want to know what lies behind ‘Take Care’, we recommend you have a look at the show, partly presented as a comedy...an ordinary life comedy we should say.

* Taiwan Association for Victims of Occupational Injuries, based in Taipei City. www.hurt.org.tw
(Photo courtesy of  D. Vandermolina)

Thursday, 30 June 2011 15:17

Taiwan's 5th appearance at local Avignon festival

For the fifth consecutive year, Avignon Off Festival, located in the South of France, welcomes several Taiwanese groups. Among the invited companies are WC Dance Company created by Lin Wen-Chung, who used to work with the famous Taipei Folk Dance Theatre, and the internationally recognized Ten Drum Art Percussion Group, led by the talented percussionist master Chiu Ya-Hui. This year, for a better understanding of the shows by the French audience, the Cultural Center of Taiwan focused on dance and music. The previous year, they presented more theatrical performances, which though beautiful one, were however more difficult for non-Chinese audiences.

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