Stan Lai’s (賴聲川) widely acclaimed A Dream Like A Dream (如夢之夢), a major landmark in Chinese-language theater, will take the stage at Taipei’s National Theater from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1.
First staged in Taiwan and Hong Kong in 2002, the epic eight-hour production has returned with a new cast, and features actors Chin Shih-chieh (金士傑), Hsu Yen-ling (徐堰鈴), Hu Ge (胡歌) and Chinese pop star Chris Lee (李宇春). Thirty actors will portray over 100 roles in the show. Oscar-winning designer Tim Yip (葉錦添) created the design for the 300-plus costumes.
Epic, romantic, extravagant, metaphysical and engrossing, Lai’s masterpiece will run for a total of eight shows. The production will have no subtitles.
“This story is about life and people’s choices,” Lai told the Taipei Times in an interview in June. “It’s essentially about karma.”
The plotline tells several interwoven stories with one leading to another. The narrative follows the life of Gu Shiang-lan, who lived through much of the 20th century, first as a prostitute in 1930s Shanghai and then, after marrying an aristocrat, a painter in Paris. Following the death of her husband, she returns to China in the 1950s and experiences the Cultural Revolution.
Lai said he drew on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tiananmen Square massacre and the Cultural Revolution to craft the emotionally complex story.
“The story moves ahead in time while referring to the past constantly, thus forming a unified whole,” Lai said.
To best present this complex story about love, life and enlightenment, Lai conceived a daunting 360-degree, two-story circular stage that surrounds the audience, who sit in the center pool section. Actors perform on the circular stage, sometimes with two or three actors for the same role appearing simultaneously.
What: A Dream Like A Dream (如夢之夢)
When: Aug. 19 to Aug. 21 and Aug. 26 to Aug. 29 from 7pm to 11pm (two consecutive shows) and Aug. 24, 25, 31 and Sept. 1 from 2pm to 11pm for full-day shows
Where: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)
Admission: NT$1,400 to NT$4,200, available through 7-Eleven ibon kiosks or on www.artsticket.com.tw
On the net: www.pwshop.com
“This story came to me organically, “ Lai said, adding that he thought up the story while attending a seminar in India in 1999. During a meditation session in front of the lotus tree where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment, the inspiration surged into Lai’s mind and he quickly scribbled down the plotline. “When you fall into the spell of this show, you won’t feel the length at all,” Lai said of the play’s length.
The performance is divided into two parts and scheduling allows audience members to watch it on two consecutive nights or both parts at the same time.