Actions in a parking garage reflect contemporary social and political issues
LIKE MY FELLOW critics who regularly spend evenings in the theatre, I always jump at the opportunity to watch a performance that’s not in the conventional rectangular hall.
So when a Taiwanese acquaintance told me that his Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group’s (SWSG) – the name is taken from character in a Virginia Woolf novel –“Caged Time” was to be staged at 10.30pm in the parking garage of the National Theatre and Concert Hall (NTCH) in the Taiwanese capital, I grabbed a flight from Hong Kong where I was attending a dance festival in the SAR to experience it.
I even took an afternoon nap to ensure I would have the energy to go “Wild” that cool autumn evening. It’s also noteworthy that this group, unlike many others, is not limited to any specific theatrical style or dramatic content, although its name does suggest an experimental spirit.
Conceived by veteran director Baboo who collaborated with virtual artist Chou Yu-cheng during his artist-in-residency at NTCH, “Caged Time”, in the group’s words, is “a continued exploration of landscape narrative in which the motion of performers, deployment of props, sequencing of events and utilisation of space deliver a mixed picture of normality and anomaly, present and past, sight and spectacle, reality and representation, and, overall, a theatrical space and a reflection of social events”.
Audience members were guided from the registration table near a Japanese hamburger shop, where we received the programme leaflet and instructions, to a parking entrance ramp and then onwards to many points in the almost empty garage. Spoken words, physical movements – including that of a driven car – and music told many juxtaposed stories as some audience members stood, others found a sidewalk to sit on and a few walked around to find their personal, if not favourite, viewpoint. Deftly choreographed, some actions were meant to be viewed from afar, like a long shot in a movie. The 4D experience was almost like attending a visual art exhibition, save for the fact that we were only allowed certain amount of time to view and take in each art work before being instructed to move to another point.
“Caged Time” ended almost at midnight, just in time for me to catch the last MRT train back to my hotel. I sometimes use this parking garage as a walkway between the National Theatre and the Concert Hall, and now that these characters and their stories are firmly imprinted in my mind, I will never look at it the same way again.
And while “Caged Time” is site-specific, it’s not site-responsive to the contextual meaning of this specific parking garage, meaning that this performance can be replicated, with some alteration of course, at similar sites, and I’m sure it soon will.
The writer wishes to thank SWSG’s Yang Po-han for all kind assistance.
SWSG’s “Blood and Roses Ensemble”, inspired by Shakespeare’s War of the Roses history plays will be part of the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay’s annual “Huayi-Chinese Festival of Arts” in Singapore from February 23-25.
It’s in Mandarin with English surtitles.
Find out more at www.HuayiFestival.com or book your ticket at www.Sistic.com.sg
Exactly one month later, the group’s “Dear Life”, an adaptation of a short story by Nobel laureate Alice Munro, will be part of NTCH’s annual Taiwan International Festival of Arts.
Check it out at www.TIFA.NPAC-NTCH.org. For tickets, go to www.ArtsTicket.com.tw.