Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rare theatrical experiences sum up exciting offerings by masters at Taipei Arts Festival

By Nancy T. Lu

Theater productions by three masters, namely Robert Lepage’s “Lipsynch,” Heiner Goebbels’ “Stifters Dinge,” and Romeo Castellucci’s “Hey Girl!” promise to take the public down an exceptionally exciting road in performing arts during the 2010 Taipei Arts Festival from August 3 to September 12.

The festival being presented by the Taipei City Government through the Taipei Cultural Affairs Department and the Taipei Culture Foundation will feature nine programs, including three important works by internationally acclaimed masters and six local productions by outstanding talents and groups in Taiwan.

“Hey Girl!” -- the talk of the Avignon Festival in 2007 – opens the Taipei Arts Festival now on its 12th year. The Taipei crowd, in fact, is being treated to a cutting-edge and hallucinatory experience made possible by Italian director Castellucci’s remarkably rich artistic vision.

Stopped by the red traffic light one day, Castellucci found himself overwhelmed by the sight of blooming Italian girls aged 16 to 18 walking by and he went on to use this inspiring encounter to create a successful production in celebration of women immortalized in history and literature because of their great love, courage and power, said Victoria Wen-yi Wang, executive director of the Taipei Arts Festival for the third consecutive year.

The 4D theater of Castellucci’s making visually excites no end starting with the opening scene which depicts the birth of a woman, according to Wang. A female form breaks free from a resin layer and dramatically steps out to face life. She next emerges in t-shirt and denim. The image of Chanel No. 5 perfume announces her maturity.

In seeking to dedicate his production to the future of the adolescent girls who stopped him in his track, Castellucci resurrected three easily recognizable figures. Juliet from Shakespeare’s love tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” Joan of Arc known as famous maiden from New Orleans and Queen Elizabeth who guided England to dominate the world as a maritime power all help tell the lifetime story of a woman and ultimately the tale of humanity, explained Wang. The crucifix appears as a symbol of Christianity and sacrifice. The sword suggests courage.

Forty male performers recruited locally serve as a reminder that men still dominate society.

“Hey Girl!” is a 75-minute production being staged at 7:45 p.m. from August 5 to 8 at the Taipei Brewery at 85 Bade Road, Sec. 2, in Taipei. Matinee shows on August 7 and 8 start at 2:45 p.m.

Castellucci is also showing his installation art inspired by the philosophy of Emmanuel Kant from August 3 to 29 at the Central Hall 6 at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park. Admission is free.

The artist reflects on the question: “What is going to happen to nature and what is going to happen to human beings if people stop thinking?” Visitors enter a dark room and see through a crack on the wall a forest behind the house.

Are you ready for a marathon performance lasting eight and a half hours, including breaks and intermissions? Robert Lepage’s “Lipsynch” will have nine actors reprise over 10 roles and bring to life a total of nine stories over a 70-year period. English, German, French and Spanish languages are used in this evolving production. Voices, whether it be jazz singing, radio broadcasting, taping, or lipsynching, get introduced as scene after scene unfolds in the exploration of sound by the director from Quebec.

“Lipsynch” will be staged in its entirety starting at 1 p.m. on August 21, 22 and 28 at the Metropolitan Hall in Taipei. Part 1 will be presented at 7:45 p.m. on August 24, Part 2 at 7: 45 p.m. on August 25 and Part 3 at 7:45 p.m. on August 26.

Meanwhile German director and composer Heiner Goebbels proposes to combine music, theater and installation art to create a theatrical experience without actors. In fact, “Stifters Dinge” is described as “a composition written for pianos without pianists.” It is also “a performance without performers.” Pianos play by themselves. A song by a Papua New Guinea aborigine will be heard.

This intermission-free 70-minute program with English handouts and French subtitles will be shown at the Taipei Brewery where seats are limited to 200 at 7:45 p.m. on August 11 to 14. There will be matinee performances at 4:45 p.m. on August 12 and 13 as well as at 2:45 p.m. on August 14 and 15.