Starting tonight, Taipei audiences have the rare chance to watch all four chapters of a landmark drama by one of the masterminds of Taiwanese cinema.
Green Ray Theater (綠光劇團) presents director/playwright Wu Nien-jen’s (吳念真) acclaimed Human Condition (人間條件) series in its entirety at the Metropolitan Hall (城市舞台) from May 20 to June 12. Part one premiered in 2001, part two followed in 2006, part three in 2008 and part four in 2009.
As an iconic screenwriter in Taiwan’s new wave cinema movement, Wu has won the best screenplay category at the Golden Horse Awards five times for films such as Song of the Exile (客途秋恨). Wu is also known for co-writing director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) Dust in the Wind (戀戀風塵) and A City of Sadness (悲情城市).
Wu, who was born into a coal miner’s family in Rueifang Township (瑞芳), New Taipei City, is acclaimed for his uplifting depiction of grassroots characters.
“I write about working-class people because these are the people I know,” Wu told the Taipei Times on Tuesday. “Early Taiwan was an immigrants’ world in which caring for and supporting people was our second nature.”
Nicknamed “Creative Uncle” (創意歐吉桑), Wu made his first foray onto the stage when he wrote and directed part one for Green Ray Theater in 2001.
“When I decided to go into theater, my first concern was to broaden my audience base,” Wu explained. “Theater should not be an elite art form. I wanted to tell a story that audiences from all walks of life could relate to.”
Dubbed by the local media as “citizen drama” (國民戲劇), the four parts of the wit-packed and heart-warming Human Condition are connected by Wu’s thematic concern for working-class people, rather than a strong plotline.
WHAT: Human Condition series parts I to IV (人間條件系列一到四集)
WHEN: Human Condition (人間條件) today at 7:30pm, tomorrow at 2:30pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2:30pm; Human Condition II: Those Men in Her Life (人間條件二：她和她生命中的男人們) on May 27 at 7:30pm, May 28 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm, and May 29 at 2:30pm; Human Condition III: Taipei ‘Round Midnight (人間條件三：台北上午零時) on June 3 at 7:30pm, June 4 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm, and June 5 at 2:30pm; Human Condition IV: The Same Moonlight (人間條件四：一樣的月光) on June 10 and June 11 at 7:30pm and June 12 at 2:30pm
WHERE: Metropolitan Hall (城市舞台), 25, Bade Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市八德路三段25號)
ADMISSION: NT$600 to NT$5,000, available through 7-Eleven ibon kiosks or at www.tickets.com.tw
ADDITIONAL SHOWS: For shows in Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan from June 24 to July 23, visit www.greenray.org.tw/greenray.htm
Part one tells the story of a deceased grandmother who possesses the body of her granddaughter in order to communicate her last words to her former lover. “I wanted to start the show with lots of laughs and then close it with powerful emotions,” Wu says of the play.
The second part takes the 228 Incident as a backdrop to recount the story of two women who hide three fugitives.
Part three switches to the male perspective by telling the story of three young men from Taiwan’s south who move to Taipei to work and fall for the same girl. “Leaving your hometown to come work in Taipei is a shared experience for many people of my generation,” Wu says.
The fourth part tells the story of two rival sisters who nevertheless care for one another. “I decided to venture further to criticize intellectuals who sneer at their working-class counterparts,” he says.
Throughout the Human Condition tetralogy, pop songwriter and producer Kay Huang (黃韻玲) and award-winning actress Lin Mei-hsiu (林美秀) join theater veteran Luo Bei-an (羅北安) to portray the key characters in the stories.
“Wu’s dialogue reads like poetry; it has its own rhythm and vibrancy,” Huang told the Taipei Times. “It’s an honor to have the chance to work with this master and voice his lines.”
Asked why she thinks the series is so popular, Huang answered matter-of-factly: “It’s so close to us. They’re our own stories. We all share these life details and historical background.”
The series will be performed in Mandarin and Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese).