Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 18 News List

Groping around in the dark for insight

By Diana Freundl  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

For the first time in Asia, Theatre Ubu delivers a unique rendition of Maeterlinck's The Blind, at the Experimental Theatre in Taipei.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CKS CULTURAL CENTER

Considering a majority of the productions in the 2004 International Theatre Festival have blurred the division between theater and performance art, it seems fitting that the final piece is one that features no live on-stage acting.

Challenging the traditional definition of theater with its projected video images in place of actors, the Canadian based Theatre Ubu delivers Maurice Maeterlinck's The Blind in an Asian premiere at the Experimental Theatre this weekend. Ubu director Denis Marleau's rendition of the 19th century Belgian play has received international recognition and performed sold out shows at both the Edinburgh International Festival and Festival d'Avignon.

The Blind is a static play with no action. It's about waiting, talking, and just existing. Using actors on stage is one way to present the text, using video is Marleau's, said Stephanie Jasmin Artistic, co-director of Theatre Ubu.

His version of the text, according to Jasmin, is the director's experiment with the playwright's theory of staging a play without actors. Maeterlinck discussed the idea of generating a presence without the physical presence of a person, she said.

The Blind examines the dilemma of 12 sightless men and women lost in a forest after their guide, a priest, has disappeared. As a symbolist, applying suggestion rather than direct statement to convey meaning in his work, Maeterlinck uses his blind and abandoned characters to embody humanity's dependence on the physical senses (in this case sight) in a world with no leader (political or spiritual).

On the director's instructions, only 56 spectators are permitted in the theater during each performance. The close environment is intended to establish an intimate relationship between the images and the audience. It will also limit the number of people colliding as they find their seats in complete darkness, creating a sense of blindness among the viewers.

Unfortunately capping the number of seats also limits the number of tickets, and as of Monday, tickets were all sold out.

The 45-minute show begins when faces projected onto masks move across the stage. Apart from their entrance at the start of the play, no other movement takes place. While Marleau's interpretation of the thought-provoking play quashes the potential for theatrical movement, the lack of action on stage is substituted for with captivating facial expressions and dialogue. The parts of the 12 characters are performed by the pre-recorded images and voices of two actors.

Marleau's disembodied heads will leave the audience to contemplate the themes of physical and emotional suffering in addition to thinking about what exactly it is that defines "live theater."

Performance notes:

Where: Experimental Theatre, National Theatre and Concert Hall, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21-1)

When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7 and 8:30pm with a late performance at 10pm tonight. Saturday and Sunday matinee performances at 2:30 and 4pm

Cost: NT$600. As of press time, all tickets were sold out. However there is always the possibility of no-shows for those willing to go early and wait.

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