Fri, Jan 20, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Wherefore art thou terrorist?

By Steve Price  /  STAFF REPORTER

One of these characters harbors evil intent towards the president's daughter.


Given that the concluding two-thirds of the Tainaner Ensemble's latest production has yet to be penned, the name K24 (Chaos) covers all the bases, as the play could turn out to induce a state of confusion in the audience, or refer to the unpre-dictability of a work in progress. However, this is experimental theater and the suspense of leaving it open-ended may enthrall audiences in Taipei, as it did in Tainan.

Tsai po-chang (蔡柏璋), the show's director, ?modeled the play on a television series format, so that the entire work is split into six episodes with the first and second installments, titled "Alias" (雙重身份) and ?"Show Time" (好戲上場), respectively, to be staged this weekend.

"This is the first of three parts. Why do audiences have to see the conclusion of the entire work at the end of each performance?" said Lu Po-shen (呂柏伸), the show's artistic director and a lecturer in theater arts at National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung. "We want to make the audience eager to see what's going to happen in the next installment."

Tsai took inspiration from the popular TV series Alias, a tale of espionage, skullduggery, deception and the hunt for an undercover agent. Transplanting the idea to the stage proved popular with Tainan audiences when the play premiered there in September last year, Lu said.

K24, which sounds like the Chinese for chaos (混亂), is set in an unspecified country, and without revealing too much of the plot, the story unfolds when the national theater prepares to stage Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet -- a reference to the troupe's previous works which have included the translation of the bard's work into Mandarin and Taiwanese.

The president's daughter is cast in the part of Juliet, and the K24 Bureau of Investigation discovers several clues which suggest terrorists are planning to assassinate the first daughter. The plot thickens when two weeks before the opening night one of the cast's actors disappears and the search for a replacement begins.

Intelligence agent Mario endeavors to be selected for the part so he can protect the president's daughter and uncover the identity of the terrorist.

This play within a play is more of a who's-about-to-do-it rather than a whodunit? The suspense comes from guessing which character in Shakespeare's play is planning to dispatch the president's daughter, and the identity of the dark forces behind the dastardly plot. And, as with many a good detective tale, love complicates matters somewhat.

Tsai is currently serving out his national service and is expected to complete the third and fourth episodes next year.

"K24 (Chaos) makes members of the audience feel like they are detectives. The first two episodes are a story in themselves and are humorous," Lu said.

Whether the penultimate and final instalments turn out to be tragedies, comedies of error, or satires remains to be seen.

Founded in 1987 under the name Hwa Deng Arts Center, the Tainaner Ensemble claims to be the first modern theater group in Tainan and has produced some 40 plays to date, many of which have received critical acclaim. From 1997 until last year the troupe was known as the Tainan Jen Theatre, thereafter it began using the name Tainaner Ensemble.

Just the facts:

What: K24 (Chaos) by Tainaner Ensemble (台南人劇團

Where: The Experimental Theater, National Theater, Taipei (國家戲劇院實驗劇場)

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