Thu, Nov 29, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Crossing political and cultural divides

The Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s ‘Kings of War’ is drawn from five of William Shakespeare’s history plays, while Taiwan’s Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group and Japan’s Dainanagekijo are wrapping up their three-year Note Exchange collaboration with ‘Cafe Lumiere’

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Internationaal Theater Amsterdam’s production of Ivo van Hove’s Kings of War opens tonight at the National Theater in Taipei for a three-show run.

Photo: Jan Versweyveld

The International Theatre Festival comes to a close this week with another mammoth production by Belgian director Ivo van Hove and the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam, Kings of War, at the National Theater.

The company is making its third visit to Taipei, although on its earlier visits it was known as the Toneelgroep Amsterdam (TGA). The name change came at the start of this year when TGA merged with the Stadsschouwburg Amsterdam, the city’s municipal theater where it was the in-house troupe.

While the company’s name is new, Van Hove’s predilection for long, elaborate productions and William Shakespeare is not. His 2014 Kings of War is a compilation of the bard’s Henry V, the three Henry VI plays and Richard III, with a touch of Henry IV, Part II.

The play runs for about four-and-a-half hours, with a 20-minute intermission.

Van Hove was interested in exploring the impact of a country’s leadership on the nation as a whole.

His play depicts a nation being torn apart at the seams through the ego of its leaders and would-be leaders, factionalism, cynicism, corruption and sex.

By eliminating huge swathes of history, he leaves the focus of the show on the machinations of power, bids for the crown and the waging of wars, but set in a claustrophobic throne room and among family and friends instead of on the battlefield.

Kings of War might be based on centuries-old plays, but the set features a variety of giant screens, cameras and telephones, using technology to air recorded and real-time video footage, including a lot of close-ups.

Most of the cast play multiple roles, including Ramsey Nasr, who portrays Henry V, Eelco Smits (Henry VI) and Bart Slegers (Edward IV), but Hans Kesting has just one, Edward IV’s brother Richard III, and he dominates the latter part of the play.

Van Hove’s frequent collaborator Jan Versweyveld designed the set based on former British prime minister Winston Churchill’s war room, while the score was composed by Eric Sleichim, who also scored the company’s production of The Fountainhead.

Given the play’s length, the performances of Kings of War tonight and tomorrow begin at 7pm. The play will be performed in Dutch, with Chinese surtitles.


At at the Cloud Gate Theater (淡水雲門劇場) in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水), the Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters Group (莎士比亞的妹妹們的劇團) has taken up residence for the Taiwan debut of Cafe Lumiere (珈琲時光), its final collaboration with Japanese theater troupe Dainanagekijo. The play was written by Shakespeare’s Wild Sisters director Wang Chia-ming (王嘉明) and directed by Wang and Dainanagekijo founder Kouhei Narumi.

Both the 23-year-old Taipei-based troupe and Dainanagekijo — which is resident company at Theatre de Belleville in Mie Prefecture — have built their reputations on unconventional works that cross cultures and artistic genres and explore the universality of societies and people.

It is no surprise that their three-year Note Exchange project launched in 2016 aimed to push theatrical boundaries.

The project resulted in one new work each year, performed at the Theatre de Belleville and elsewhere in Japan as well as in Taiwan.

Cafe Lumiere, which premiered at the Tokyo Festival last month, is a fitting coda, as it pays tribute to an earlier Taiwanese-Japanese collaboration — director Hou Hsiao-hsien’s (侯孝賢) widely lauded 2003 film of the same name.

This story has been viewed 3448 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top