In Liu Liang-yen’s (劉亮延) latest theater piece, two women raise other people’s children for two very different reasons. Marie Educates His Son at Virgin Flower Falling (初飛花瑪莉訓子) is an ambitious blending of genres that combines the Beijing opera classic The Third Mistress Brings Up the Son (三娘教子) and La Marie-Vison, a 1967 theatrical work by Shuji Terayama.
A leading figure of the Japanese avant-garde theater movement during the 1960s, Terayama is often regarded as an idiosyncratic artist. Liu, who studied Terayama for his doctoral dissertation, says the late theater and film director, poet and dramatist drew inspiration from Japanese traditional art forms and was heavily influenced by misemono, a type of crude and sometimes vulgar tent show popular in Japan’s Edo period.
Liu interprets Terayama’s works in Beijing opera format. His play follows the story of La Marie-Vison, in which Marie, a former male prostitute and a homosexual transvestite, raises the submissive young Kinya as his son. Little does Kinya know that feelings of hatred and revenge are the real reason Marie has taken him under his wing.
Liu, an up-and-coming director and playwright, peppers Terayama’s erotically charged script with sections from The Third Mistress Brings Up the Son, which centers on a virtuous concubine who brings up a child abandoned by the wife after the husband is rumored to have died on a business trip. By wedding the two seemingly contrasting texts, Liu wants to raise questions about motherhood.
“Both women say they only want what is good for the children,” Liu says. “But what is actually good for the children? What do the women expect from the children? What is the purpose of bringing up a child?”
WHAT: A Peking Opera: The Poignant Obscene Artifact Part 1: Marie Educates His Son at Virgin Flower Falling (京劇：作淫愁─上部:初飛花瑪莉訓子)
WHEN: Tonight at 7:30pm, tomorrow at 2:30pm and 7:30pm and Sunday at 2:30pm
WHERE: Crown Theater (皇冠藝術中心小劇場), 50, Ln 120, Dunhua N Rd, Taipei City (台北市敦化北路120巷50號)
ADMISSION: Tickets are NT$450, available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com.tw
Attired in a kimono, Beijing opera performer Chien Yu-shan (錢宇珊) from the Contemporary Legend Theatre (當代傳奇劇場) plays the leading role of Marie. At rehearsals on Sunday, Chien drew attention with her professionally trained cadences and movements, which contrasted with the more modern bodily expressions of dancer Wu Chien-wei (吳建緯), who is cast as the submissive son, and theater actor Wu Po-fu (吳柏甫), who plays Marie’s loyal servant and plaything. Meanwhile, Wu You-chi (吳祐祺), a performer of bangzi (梆子) opera, otherwise known as Henan or Yu opera (豫劇), showed off her technique in a couple of singing sessions in her role as a quirky girl who seduces the son.
The production is the first segment of Liu’s two-part series titled A Peking Opera: The Poignant Obscene Artifact (京劇：作淫愁). The second section of the series, The Coy Hunchback Steals His Maternal Decree (猶自羞駝男盜令), fuses the operatic classic Silang Visits His Mother (四郎探母) with Terayama’s 1967 The Hunchback of Aomori. It is slated be performed at the Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre (牯嶺街小劇場) in October, after which the diptych will travel to Beijing.