Fri, Jul 12, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Highlight: Under a big top, an exploration of funeral folklore

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Thunar Circus will give four performances this weekend of its newest production, Melancholic Mambo, in a tent erected in front of the National Theater’s Aiguo E Road entrance.

Photo courtesy of Thunar Circus

One does not normally think of circuses and funerals together, although throughout the centuries there have probably been a lot of funerals that descended into a circus.

Lin Cheng-tsung (林正宗) has spent more than a year exploring the relationship between the human body, acrobatic performance and folk funeral rituals. With Melancholic Mambo (悲傷ㄟ曼波), he aims to develop a new way of looking at the past and future of life and funeral customs.

Lin, along with Frenchman Valentin Lechat, is a cofounder of the three-year-old Thunar Circus, an international contemporary circus collective to bridge Western and Oriental circus traditions. The duo met eight years ago, when Lin was a student at the National Taiwan College of Performing Arts (國立臺灣戲曲學院).

The following year, Lin asked Lechat to give him and some of his classmates lessons on contemporary juggling and circus, and in 2010, Lin was one of the Taiwanese performers in Lechat’s Five Hands, 8 Planets and Memories show, beginning a long and fruitful collaboration.

The collective have created five programs, beginning with 2016’s If Here You Stayed and FLYWAY, Kaxabu! A Language No Longer Spoken? and FACES in 2017 and Hung Tung’s Fantasy last year.

Lechat served as director for the first two years, but last year turned the reins over to his one-time pupil.

For this year’s Melancholic Mambo, Lin collaborated with photographer and video artist Chen Chang-chi (陳長志), while Yang Shi-hsien (楊士賢) consulted on funeral traditions.

The production mixes the acrobatic and juggling skills of circus performers with multimedia technology and video installations in an exploration of traditional Taiwanese folk customs and funeral rituals.

The troupe earlier this week erected a long striped, blue-topped tent in front of the National Theater’s Aiguo E Road entrance. It might not be the big top that Western circus fans are familiar with, but it’s certainly a familiar sight at Taiwanese funerals — and weddings.

The video exhibition opens 45 minutes before showtime, and the performance runs about 60 minutes.

There is no seating, as audience members are expected to move — and periodically interact — with the performers.

■ Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, tomorrow and Sunday at 2:30pm in front of the Aiguo E Rd entrance to the National Theater, 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

■ NT$900, available at the NTCH box offices, Eslite ticket booths, online at and at convenience store ticket kiosks. The only seats left are for the matinee performances

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