Pretty much everything that a director can do to a playwright, both good and bad, has been done to Shakespeare over the centuries.
The Shakespeare in Taipei series of performances at the Experimental Theater of the National Theater is no different from many modern performances that have preceded it in wanting to take the classic plays and use them for their own expressive purposes.
While the work so far presented has been interesting, with some of it, such as last week's Off Performance Workshop, (
While not wishing to denigrate the artistic achievements of other theater groups, Lu Po-shen (
Many consciously alternative interpretations of Shakespeare focus on a few particular aspects of a complex work and through the use of modern dramatic devices, impose new interpretations on the play. Sonata, although unashamedly alternative and experimental in its presentation, is relatively restrained in this respect.
The 13 scenes used to make up Sonata are direct translations of the English text, without omission -- or more importantly -- addition of the director's own dialogue.
"More than anything else, Shake-speare is about language," Lu said. "I wanted to create something that presented the sounds of Shakespeare's language to a Taiwanese audience."
What: Sonata of the Witches: The Macbeth Verses
Who: Tainan Jen Theater
When: The Experimental Theater, National Theater, Taipei
When: Today to Sunday 7: 30pm, tomorrow and Sunday 2:30pm
For this reason, he is happy to be working in Taiwanese rather than Mandarin, for this enables him to make use of the richer tonality of the Taiwanese language.
Tainan Jen brought in Chou Ting-bang (
What is possible is simply to enjoy the unfamiliarity of the sounds as they expound the all too familiar story. And this goes for both locals and foreigners. In order to reproduce the rich language and melodies of Shakespeare, Chou draws heavily on the literary tradition of Taiwanese, and Lu admits that even people who speak Taiwanese in daily life might not be able to understand everything.
"But that is no different from English people watching Elizabethan drama," Lu said. Lu, who spent much time watching Shakespeare in various European languages while studying drama in the UK, added that with the classics, it doesn't really matter if you don't understand the language. The poetry of bodies in action and words in flight is more than enough for him.
Although Lu places an emphasis on the audio component of drama, disparaging the distractions that TV and cinema trained directors now bring to the stage, or of the reliance on physical theater by many contemporary groups, his own creation is not exempt from this influence.