Fri, Apr 07, 2006 - Page 14 News List

Ping-Fong's new 'Hamlet' is orgasmic

By Joey Chung  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

A very Taiwanese looking Hamlet.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PING-FONG ACTING TROUPE

This year marks the 20th anniversary for Ping-Fong Acting Troupe and to celebrate they're rolling out a new version of one of their most lauded stage pieces. Shamlet, obviously a spin on Shakespeare's Hamlet, be taked to stages islandwide beginning this weekend at Taipei's Metropolitan Hall.

Since its creation in 1986, Ping-Fong has gone on to become one of the best-known theater groups in Taiwan. With the goal of establishing a core audience, numerous "core plays" are reintroduced to the stage every few years in different variations. With 36 stage productions, 1,154 performances and a total audience attendance of over 910,000, it's safe to say that Ping-Fong has succeeded.

Shamlet first made its debut on the stage in 1992, and since then there have been a total of four incarnations, fittingly dubbed the "Debut Version," "Revised Version," "Ecstatic Version," and finally this year's "Orgasmic Version."

The story? A theater group by the name of Fong-Ping goes on an islandwide tour with a play Shamlet. After their debut in Taipei to a very lukewarm reception, they vow to strive harder as they travel south, but are plagued by problems among the cast. The play dissolves into a chaotic mess as real-life relationships descend into personals vendettas. By the time they hit the stage in Tainan and later Kaohsiung, the crew is bickering and back-stabbing, which results in countless accidents that quickly result and farce.

Among the performers, Hugh Lee (李國修), head of Ping-Fong and writer/director of Shamlet, along with Kuo Tze-cheng (郭子乾) of the hit political satire TV show Everyone Speaks Nonsense (全民大悶鍋) and acclaimed TV show personality Tseng Kuo-chen (曾國城) return once again to the play that they first created together 14 years ago. Furthermore, one of the supporting actors will be a foreigner making his own stage debut as the director thought it would be wildly interesting to add the complications of seeing a foreigner on stage in Taiwan with Taiwanese actors struggling with his Chinese lines while performing in a traditional English play. A cue for further chaos.

What has made the play endure over 14 years and 57 performances?

"The play aims to be entertaining," explains Jessie Hsiao (蕭淑玫), marketing manager for Ping-Fong. "But performances are done dead pan, mirroring real life, but expressed in a play. The actors (of the Fong-Ping troupe) are not being deliberately funny, but circumstances and bad luck just constantly get in their way much like real life, so the audience can really relate to the real life social, relationship and work dilemmas that they face. The cast, considered the best and most experienced to have performed this play, and changes to the dialogue to reflect the times, mean is this virtually a new play. Yet in the end, it's simply a funny play about what happens when a group of third-rate performers try to take on a first rate classic."

Performance notes:

What: Ping-Fong Acting Troupe's Shamlet (屏風表演班: 莎姆雷特)

Where: Taipei Metropolitan Hall (城市舞台: 台北市八德路三段25)

When: Islandwide tour starts in Taipei tonight and runs through through Sunday, and takes to the stage April 14 through April 16

Tickets: Tickets cost between NT$500 to NT$2,500 and are available at Arts Ticketing, visit www.artsticket.com.tw or call (02) 3393 9888 for more information

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