Fri, Nov 21, 2008 - Page 14 News List

Out of the shadows

STAFF REPORTER

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Akiko Yosano’s Midaregami (Tangled Hair) caused a sensation when it was published early in the last century. Critics praised the Japanese poet’s deft lyricism while women lauded its feminine themes, leading one later reviewer to call her the Mary Wollstonecraft of Japan.

Local poet and filmmaker Hung Hung (鴻鴻) revives the work this weekend at Guling Street Theater (牯嶺街小劇場) and will direct Yosano’s words in a performance of music and acting. Billed as a shadow play, the show serves as the coda for this year’s Taipei Poetry Festival (臺北詩歌節).

“Tangled hair,” said Hung Hung, also the festival’s curator. “It’s a great image.”

In early 20th-century Japan the words “tangled hair” conjured up images of confusion, chaos and even madness. The phrase, however, is also an opaque reference to the state of a woman’s hair after making love — a sense of freedom that in Yosano’s deft hands grows to include the emancipation of women from a strict patriarchal society.

The “poetry performance,” as Hung Hung calls it, also incorporates poetry written by Hakka poet Tu-pan Fang-ko (杜潘芳格) who, similar to Yosano, explores female independence in traditional societies.

Hung Hung’s team of poets distilled Tu-pan’s work into a piece that seeks to preserve the lyricism of the original while adding musical and theatrical elements that visually highlight the original themes of “intimacy and [women’s] complicated external situations.”

The poetry for Midaregami is based on a script compiled and edited by local poet Hsia Hsia (夏夏) of Poetry in a Matchbox (火柴詩) fame and will be read by experimental theater actor Wu Kun-da (吳昆達). Two musicians will also perform live: accordion player Wang Yang-meng (王雁盟); and Wang Wen-hsuan (王文萱), who will play the samisen (a traditional Japanese three-stringed lute used to play folk music) to complement the spoken poetry and shadow puppetry. The shadow puppets were created by shadow puppet director Shih Pei-yu (石佩玉) of the Flying Group Theater (飛人集社劇團).

Midaregami will be performed tonight at 7:30pm and 9pm, tomorrow at 3:30pm, 5pm and 6:30pm and Sunday at 4pm and 5:30pm at Guling Street Theater (牯嶺街小劇場), 2, Ln 5, Guling St, Taipei City (台北市牯嶺街5巷2號). NT$150 tickets are available through NTCH ticketing.

— NOAH BUCHAN

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