Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Telling it like it is

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER


This sounds familiar: You've come to Taipei to see the sights, but end up seeing a lot of rather unsightly things. Playwright-director Chen A-mou (陳梅毛) takes a look at the capital city through the eyes of a visitor in Taiwan Walker Theater's (台灣渥克劇團) newest production, Wrong Tourism of Taipei (台北錯誤旅遊), at the National Taiwan Arts Education Center this weekend.

As with past Taiwan Walker Theater productions, Wrong Tourism takes a left turn before reaching conventional theater. Asked what the storyline of his latest script is, Chen said simply that "There is no story."

Rather, he said, it's a series of vignettes "part camp, part social commentary -- that juxtapose the way Taipei residents see their city with the way they're seen by travelers from abroad."

Lessons are learned about the nation's education system in a scene that takes place in a bushiban, local night life is tasted in a night market scene. Throughout, a tourist from Hong Kong snaps pictures of things that aren't normally considered photo opportunities. The acting is camp and the settings are kitsch, but it can be funny.

"I drew the material from my own history living in Taipei and the experiences of several foreign friends," Chen said during a rehearsal earlier this week. "People that come to Taipei -- especially from another country ? -- have no shortage of stories to tell. Many of them are very poignant. We have a lot to learn by comparing how others see us with how we see ourselves."

It's not the first time the prolific Chen will have had audiences laughing with his unique blend of social commentary and sarcastic wit. Last November he staged Love to Die (愛我就去仆街再仆街 ), a comedy that looked at how Chinese lovers often demand that their other half demonstrates their love "often in absurd and unnecessary ways." The show's Chinese title, for example, translates as, "If you love me, go lie down in the street."

Demonstrating both his versatility and prolificacy as a writer, he and his troupe followed that show the next weekend with Pie in the Sky (少林派武當派蘋果派還有兩個左派 -- 蔣經國與謝雪紅), a tale about how former ROC president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) gradually lost the left-leaning politics of his earlier years.

As with that show, Wrong Tourism offers something of a history lesson between the laugh lines, through the use of multimedia.

"I've learned a lot about Taipei's history from the show," said cast member Andrew Ryan, an US national and long-term resident of Taiwan. "We use a lot of photos of Taipei dating back to when it was a lake," showing how the city has grown to be the Taipei we now know and, perhaps, love.

Performance notes:

Who: Taiwan Walker Theater

What: Wrong Tourism of Taipei (台北錯誤旅遊)

Where: National Taiwan Arts Education Center (南海路藝術館)

When: Tonight through Sunday at 7:30pm. Matinee shows tomorrow and Sunday at 2:30pm

Tickets: Cost NT$300 and are available online at, or at the door.

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