Wed, May 03, 2017 - Page 13 News List

Review: Interior views and natural wildness

Two productions at the National Theater as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts set new standards for their genres, while a mix and match show in the Experimental, while good, failed to meet a high bar

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

British director Katie Mitchell’s production of Miss Julie for Berlin’s Schaubuhne theater, performed at the National Theater last weekend, emphasized a behind-the-scenes view of the play’s story.

Photo: Courtesy of Chou Chia-Hui / NTCH

For theater and film buffs, British director Katie Mitchell’s production of Miss Julie for Berlin’s Schaubuhne theater at the National Theater last weekend was a treat.

Mitchell’s retelling of Swedish author and playwright August Strindberg’s 1888 classic one-act play about class, gender and rebellion focuses on a behind-the-scenes view of Miss Julie, servant Jean and Kristen, the cook and Jean’s fiancee.

Not only does she tell the story through Kristen’s eyes and ears, the audience sees the action from behind doors and through windows as well, as live theater is combined with video footage, both live and prerecorded, helped by Leo Warner’s film direction.

The set is a mix of walls, windows and doors — with the walls moved back and forth to create small rooms, corridors, outdoor walkways — as well as two sound booths, props and shelving and a table where the sound foley crew of Maria Ueberschaer and Lisa Guth work their magic so that the audience can hear what Kristen and the other actors are doing.

In addition to Jule Bowe as Kristin, Tilman Strauss as Jean and Luise Wolfram as Miss Julie, the audience could watch Cathlen Gawlich as Kristen’s double, camera operators Andreas Hartmann and Krzysztof Honowski and cellist Gabriella Strumpel.

Everybody helps out. When not required for a scene, the actors help the film crew shift the walls, cameras and lighting equipment. It is a modern-day take on Strindberg’s stage directions that everything in a performance is done as naturally as possible.

Mitchell does not tackle the entire play; she takes it as a given that the audience knows the basic story outline so she can focus on the small, everyday things, with the video providing an intimacy that usual stage productions cannot give.

In the videos, the audience sees Kristen washing and slicing a kidney for Jean’s meal and later serving it to him with extra helpings of gravy, or using a glass pressed to the floorboards to listen to a fight between Miss Julie and Jean in the room below — actions that would have otherwise been hidden by the set walls or too far away for most audience memebers to see.

The dialogue was minimal, with surtitles projected as part of the video, and the acting restrained.

The overall effect of Mitchel’s vision was beautiful, and for those who are interested in the technical side of stage and movie productions, seeing it was a delight akin to being a child let loose in a sweet shop. However, like sweet shops, the visual stimulation in the end was overwhelming: There was just so much to look at that in the end you feared that you might have missed the best bits.

The visual delights of Miss Julie, brought to the National Theater as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts, were equaled the preceding weekend by another program in the festival’s line-up, the Rocia Molina Company’s Bosque Ardora.

Conceived by, directed by and starring Molina, the production promised something more than the usual flamenco show and it delivered.

The show opens with a beautiful short film of nature — beautifully colored dawn sky, verdant trees, a lake or river, insects and animals into which the baying sounds of hunting dogs and a galloping horse’s hoofs can gradually be heard.

Then glimpses of a horse and female rider; the hunted or the hunter? There is no way to tell before the rider, Molina, is unceremoniously dumped into the water by her horse, which gallops off.

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