Fri, May 23, 2008 - Page 13 News List

When fact and fiction blur

Theater groups from China and Europe present a range of performance styles at the 2008 World Drama Series

NOTE: The Taipei Arts International Association informed the Taipei Times today that Needcompany, which was to perform Isabella’s Room tonight and tomorrow at the National Theater, has canceled the Taipei leg of their Asian tour. The TAIA says that the second and third companies in this program will perform as scheduled.

By Diane Baker  /  STAFF REPORTER

Scenes from Boris Godunov.

PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAIA

The Taipei Arts International Association (TAIA) has come up with an original bill of fare for its 2008 World Drama Series, with three plays that blur the lines between history and reality, and actors and the audience. The series is titled The Fiction of Lives, which is appropriate considering we live in a world where fiction is paraded as fact by politicians, talent-less heiress make millions while gifted artists are ignored, and people commit crimes just to be able to send a clip to their friends’ cellphones or post them on Youtube.

First up, beginning tonight, is an innovative troupe from Belgium, Needcompany, and their 2004 production, Isabella’s Room, which TAIA has labeled a White Story.

Isabella’s Room was the first part of director and company co-founder Jan Lauwers’ trilogy about human nature called Sad Face/Happy Face. The inspiration for the work came from the ethnological/anthropological collection Lauwer’s father left him after his death.

The nine actors explore key events of the 20th century (the end of colonialism, World War II, Hiroshima, modern Africa) as they tell the story of a character called Isabella Morandi, who was born at the beginning of the 20th century, through the objects in her room. The play mixes text, dance and songs.

The second part of the Sad Face/Happy Face trilogy was The Lobster Shop, created in 2006, and the third installment, The Deer House, premieres this summer. Let’s hope that Taipei audiences will one day get the chance to see these as well.

Next month brings a bit of cross-strait cultural exchange as the Shanghai Dramatic Art Center (上海話劇藝術中心) troupe opens at the National Theater on June 5 with their three-year old production, The Scholar and the Executioner (秀才與劊子手).

Performance notes

WHAT: Needcompany; Isabella’s Room CANCELED

WHERE: National Theater, Taipei City

WHEN: Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm; Sunday at 2:30pm

TICKETS: NT$500 to NT$3,000; available through www.artstickets.com or at the NTCH box office

WHAT: Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center; The Scholar and the Executioner

WHERE: National Theater, Taipei City

WHEN: Thursday through Saturday, June 5 to June 7 at 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and June 8 at 2:30pm

TICKETS: NT$500 to NT$3,000; available through www.artstickets.com or at the NTCH box office

WHAT: La Fura dels Baus; Boris Godunov

WHERE: National Theater, Taipei City

WHEN: Friday and Saturday, July 25 to July 26 at 7:30pm; Sunday, July 28 at 2:30pm

TICKETS: NT$500 to NT$3,000; available through www.artstickets.com or at the NTCH box office


This contemporary black comedy examines the changing society of the late Qing Dynasty through the fates of two men, a scholar named Xu, who keeps failing the imperial examinations, and an accomplished government executioner named Ma, who has developed several techniques for beheading his prisoners. The two men find themselves confronting the same dilemma, obsolescence, after the government does away with the examination system and the death penalty.

All the characters in the play, with the exception of Xu, Ma and Xu’s wife, wear masks, giving them the look of human puppets, presumably a metaphor for the lives of Xu and Ma, who are caught up by forces beyond their control. In the end the men discover that even though they come from very different worlds, they must overcome their fears if they are to survive.

The play won several awards in China for author Huang Weiruo (黃維若), a professor at the Central Theater Academy.

TAIA’s drama festival concludes in July with the globetrotting Spanish troupe La Fura dels Baus, which turns 30 next year.

The Barcelona-based troupe has become know for its unusual settings, urban themes, willingness to cross between audience and actors, and use of mixed media. It was supposed to make its Taipei debut last year but had to cancel after one of the actors fell ill. However, they did make an appearance in Kaohsiung in December for a New Year’s Eve festival.

With its most recent work, Boris Godunuv, La Fura dels Baus takes the 1825 play by Alexander Pushkin and gives it a contemporary twist by setting it in the Moscow theater that was seized by armed Chechen militants on Oct. 23, 2002 during a performance of the play Nord-Ost. More than 800 people were taken hostage and the militants demanded Russia pull its forces out of Chechnya. Russian Special Forces stormed the theater on Oct. 26, and the official death toll from the four-day drama was at least 33 terrorists and 129 hostages killed.

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