Literature on the stage

Love, loss and loneliness are the themes of Greenray Theater’s latest production inspired by modern Taiwanese literature

BY Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Mar 08, 2013 - Page 12

Greenray Theater (綠光劇團) has had a remarkable track record of appealing to a broad spectrum of audiences. Their ability to combine social issues, radical politics, high literature, celebrity culture and tear-jerking melodrama into a sparkling, frothy cocktail of live theatrical entertainment has been honed over many years, and with the premiere of Temperature of a Single Man (單身溫度) on March 15 already sold out, it has proved it can buck the trend of young audiences abandoning the theater for the cinema or games console.

Temperature of the Single Man is written by Wu Nien-chen (吳念真) and is directed by Ko Yi-chen (柯一正), a dynamic duo of the contemporary theater scene who have helped build a tradition of social issue-based theater in Taiwan. Their Human Condition (人間條件) series of plays have been a huge success, running to five original productions over the last 12 years.

Temperature of the Single Man follows on from the success of At the Time of Memorial Festival (清明時節), and is the second in a new series of plays launched by Greenray under the umbrella of Taiwanese Literary Theater (台灣文學劇場). At the Time of Memorial Festival (清明時節) was based on the works of Cheng Ching-wen (鄭清文), arguably the doyen of modern Taiwanese letters. On this occasion, Wu has worked together with author Wang Ting-jun (王鼎鈞), a writer best known as an essayist.

A statement by Greenray Theater said that the Taiwanese Literary Theater project was an attempt to inject new life into the great works of literature from the modern period and bring an awareness of this generation of writers to a broader audience.

The novel Temperature of a Single Man follows a character, Huadi, through a number of separate stories, in some of which he is the protagonist, while in others, he is peripheral, and which deals with various aspects of human relations, particularly love and loneliness.

Wang’s novel, published in 1970, was a work in which he was experimenting with a variety of literary styles. Wu said that he had found this one of the most difficult and frustrating theatrical adaptations he had ever worked on.

In the play, the central character, Huadi, recalls his life from the bed of a nursing home, remembering all the women in his life, the flings, the romances, the rare moments when love blossomed, only to be thwarted, a history that leads him to where he is now, still single, alone and dying.

“People born in Taiwan often do not understand the profound sense of alienation and loneliness felt by those who were forced [by historical circumstances] to come here,” Wu said.