Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 18 News List

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Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group stages its Mandarin- and Taiwanese-language production, Where is home? at the CKS Experimental Theater this weekend.


When Alfred Jarry substituted actors for puppets in his 1898 staging of Ubu Rex the replacements weren't well received by the theater-going public at the time. His satire on Shakespeare's Macbeth drew mixed responses: some loved it, most hated it, but nonetheless it was a pivotal moment in the evolution of modern theater.

Although Jarry's legacy lives on in the works of well-known playwrights and philosophers, productions without any onstage acting have yet to be embraced by the public.

Continuing to push the limits of experimental theater in Taiwan, Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group

(莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團) brings to the stage a two-hour production that will undoubtedly challenge the attention span of theatergoers.

Last Sunday afternoon, director and playwright, Wang Chia-ming (王嘉明), took a short break from his editing to explain why he chose to write a script without actors.

"I want to emphasize the importance of sound in theater. The theater community in Taiwan puts too much emphasis on visuals. They try to make the visuals stimulating for the audience -- and so the script suffers. People only need to watch the play, they don't really listen to the story," he said.

Wang also hopes his performance will encourage other directors to take into consideration the importance of a good soundtrack.

Music composition is something he takes seriously in his plays, and while no actors will be treading the boards, he has employed DJ Fish (黃一晉), violinist Tan Zheng (譚正) and local post-rock band 78bpm to perform a live soundtrack during the show.

No doubt initial curiosity and live musical interludes will keep the audience intrigued in the beginning, but is two hours asking too much of his listeners?

"I'm afraid the audience will get bored. This is my first time to write a play with no acting," said Wang, whose last production was part of a visual arts exhibition held at Kaohsiung's Museum of Fine Art earlier this year.

His latest work is a surrealist drama set in Taipei in the year 2015. The story takes place in the only remaining inhabited apartment building after something (the story never explains how it happened) wipes out most of the island.

Like a fly on the wall, the audience eavesdrops on the lives of 26 characters, whose conversations are broadcast through 16 speakers placed around the theater.

During a short preview of the show in Wang's home-studio, a conversation between a man and his mistress played through one computer speaker, while a woman's approaching footsteps could be heard through another.

"That's only a sample. It will be better with lighting, music and surround sound," he assured me. The 20-minute soundbite was surprising captivating, but how Wang's two-hour experiment will fare with an audience of 200 remains to be seen.

Performance notes:

What: Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group Where is home?

When: July 2 to 4, with two shows daily at 2: 30pm and 7pm

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

Cost: NT$400 available at CKS Box Office.

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