The Riverbed Theater’s (河床劇團) A Secret for a Secret (只有秘密可以交換秘密) at the Experimental Theater on Friday night was a fine introduction to the work of Taiwanese poet Hsia Yu (夏宇), capturing the lyricism of her wordplay by actors singing the verses, rather than speaking them.
As the audience took their seats, three people were already on stage: a woman sitting on a chair in the back, a woman sitting on a low, square box on the floor, and a man perched atop one of the 12 large wooden boxes that formed a semi-circular wall. The actual play began with the woman on the box blotting her face as she gazed into a mirror, but instead of cleaning her face she was adding black streaks, while in the back, a man with a large face mask entered, wearing rubber gloves with the hands bloodied. Were they linked? It is never easy to tell with Riverbed, you just have to let the images sink into your brain. Actors emerged from below the floor or disappeared into the mattress of the tilted bed, they entered and exited slowly, occasionally wearing rabbit masks or dressed in a giant panda costume.
With Riverbed productions, the set is often as engaging as the human actors. It may have appeared rather simple, but there were layers upon layers: the large walls in the back slid apart to reveal a red-velvet-curtain draped stage; a tilted bed came rolling out of a box, lifting the lid on the flat square box on the floor revealed a small grass lawn, which in turn had a square opening to allow a puppet (a Muppet dressed as a cheerleader) to emerge.
Hsia was at Friday night’s show and pronounced herself well pleased with what director Craig Quintero and his team had created from 10 of her works, which included Written for Others (寫給別人), Hug (擁抱), Dancing Without You (背著你跳舞) and Ventriloquy (腹語術).
My one complaint about the show was that at just over an hour it was too short. I did not want to leave the world created by Hsia and Quintero. However, the disappointment was tempered by the knowledge that Riverbed is today starting to set up another production/exhibition that will be part of the Are We Working Too Much? (我們是否工作過量？) show at the Eslite Gallery (誠品畫廊) on the fifth floor of the Xinyi store, which opens on Saturday for a five-week run before transferring to Greater Taichung.
On Saturday afternoon at Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914文創園區), Le Ballet du Siecle de Taipei (世紀舞匯) gave a very pared down staging of the divertissements from Act II of the The Nutcracker with just nine dancers — seven women and two men.
With so few dancers, almost everyone danced more than one role, with the Nutcracker/prince doubling as a partner for the Spanish dance, Clara dancing the Dance of the Reed Pipes — which is usually a pas de trois — as a solo, and the two girls who dance the Chinese dance taking key roles in the Waltz of the Flowers. Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy did very well, given the limited space they had to dance in, but they will have to remain unknown except to family and friends since the program did not provide any names.
What the show lacked in scale, the dancers made up for in enthusiasm — and the proof was in the little girls who crept out of their seats and/or their mothers’ arms as the show progressed so they could sit on the floor and get as close to the dancers as possible. The true magic of The Nutcracker is best seen through the eyes of the very young.