Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 13 News List

Taipei stages become battlefronts

From a marathon French production of Shakespeare’s “Richard III” to a Jewish girl’s harrowing tale of hiding from the Nazis and a Taiwanese take on a Spanish absurdist’s anti-war classic as well as a look at the toll cyberbullying and trolling is having on society, there is a lot to digest at the city’s theaters this weekend

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

La Piccola Familia will perform director Thomas Jolly’s production of William Shakespeare’s Richard III at the National Theater in Taipei this weekend as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

Photo courtesy of Nicolas Joubard

Great theater can open audiences to new realms, delight and entertain, awe and inspire, draw tears, tickle the funny bone or deliver a hit straight to the solar plexus. The best challenge their viewers to follow them as their tales unfold, no matter where that might lead.

Four plays being performed around Taipei this weekend will certainly provide four different challenges.

‘RICHARD III’

The biggest, brashest — and the longest — is La Piccola Familia’s production of founder and director Thomas Jolly’s Richard III at the National Theater, the final play in this year’s Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

The 36-year-old Jolly has been making a name for himself at home in France with his unabridged and avant-garde takes on William Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays, including a marathon staging of all three plays at the Festival d’Avignon, in 2014 that lasted 18 hours.

The following year saw the premiere of his Richard III, the final installment of Shakespeare’s first tetralogy of English history and one of the Bard’s longest works.

Jolly’s production, in which he stars as the ambitious and Machiavellian Richard, duke of Gloucester, who battles his way to the throne by killing all family members and others who stand in his way, lasts about four-and-a-half hours, including a 30-minute intermission.

Jolly, who is also credited as the designer, has staged it as a Goth rock concert, filled with black costumes and whiteface make-up; the final performance of a doomed star.

Richard III will be performed in French with Chinese surtitles, and comes with an advisory about the smoke, lighting effects and blood.

‘PICNIC ON THE BATTLEFIELD’

Upstairs in the National Experimental Theater will be a show about a different war and a different kind of family.

Dark Eyes Performance Lab (黑眼睛跨劇團) has revived director Hung Hung’s (鴻鴻) 2015 interpretation of Spanish playwright/author and filmmaker Fernando Arrabal’s classic one-act anti-war play from 1961, Picnic on the Battlefield (戰場上的野餐).

Many of Arrabal’s works were centered on the horrors of fascism and World War II.

Picnic is about a rather clueless young soldier left on his own in the trenches, whose overbearing parents decide to visit to cheer him up with a picnic, despite the ongoing firefight. The family gathering is interrupted by the arrival of an equally clueless enemy soldier that no one quite knows what to do with.

Hung was invited in 2015 to join directors from Japan, South Korea and China in directing versions of Picnic for the annual Asian Theater Directors’ Festival in Toga, Japan. It was the first time Dark Eyes Lab was invited to perform overseas.

Hung and his troupe set their play in Asia, and make one of the soldiers Taiwanese and the other Okinawan, which allowed them to tackle issues raised by Japan’s colonial rule of Taiwan as well.

The company offered a three-tier ticket plan, with the limited number of top-priced tickets coming with picnic foods and floor seating on picnic mats. Those options have already sold out.

‘THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK’

Over at Huashan 1914 Creative Park, the Butterfly Effect Theatre Company will also immerse its audiences in wartime horrors and family dynamics, with Wendy Kesselman’s version of The Diary of Anne Frank.

The company premiered the production at The LAB Space at the beginning of December last year, but the five shows sold out weeks in advance and drew a lot of interest from local schools, prompting director Brook Hall to look for a bigger venue where he could stage additional performances.

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