Fri, Sep 16, 2005 - Page 15 News List

Cosplayers take aim at the heart of reality

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

PHOTO COURTESY OF RIVER-GAUCHE THEATER

In its 20 years of existence River-gauche Theater Group (河左岸劇團) has provided some of the best experimental theater in Taiwan. Age doesn't hinder the troupe from keeping up with the times though.

In its latest production Road Movi-ng (公路.電.影), the company looks into the sub-culture of "cosplay," and takes a virtual Japanese sex star and a Taiwanese puppet doll to the stage of the National Experimental Theater.

The play opens up with a tribute to French director Jean-Luc Godard: a projection of images mimicking the first shot of the auteur's Contempt, where a camera on stage closely tracks the protagonist, and suddenly turns toward the audience to point out that the subject under observation and analysis is in fact the audience itself.

As a versatile artist who has taken up the roles of filmmaker and producer, festival and exhibition curator and critic, Mia Chen has made another crossover by starring as a

mannikin.

Chthonic (閃靈樂團), the heavy-metal band keen on drag, also joins the troupe to compose original music for the play and make its debut in theater as guest actors.

The story evolves in the shape of a copy editor from a bookstore who is lost in the twilight zone between virtual reality as seen through the monitor, and the real world.

As a post-modern loner, she engages in the practice of cosplay: putting on the costume of the glove puppet character, Su Huan-chen

(素還真). Her reverie is upset one day when she sees the 9/11 incident on TV and decides to leave her room and go out into the world to search for peace.

"The play is an adaptation from the universal manga storyline where a hero tries to save the world from doom," Chen said. "I want to show that the actuality of human life is that we all live in a plot, in the theater, where reality loses all its substantiality and assimilates into fantasies which in turn feed on the reality it helps to create."

"I can't allow myself to create an art work that will only become another illusion. Fantasies and illusions are in fact our daily life. But when you aim at the status quo of the human condition and deconstruct it, people will have difficulty understanding what you try to address in a world that has been heavily entertainmantized," Chen said.

"Aren't we all happily consuming the disasters and human tragedies on the TV screen?" Chen said, "The September 11 terrorist attack seems just like a scene from the HBO channel. The wars become virtual and are fed into the dramas on the omnipresent monitors, and all we have now is the power to consume rather than to think and make changes to the world."

This is a play of enlightenment created by a woman director who has the integrity to refuse to make art just art's sake.

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