The recreation an outdoor battle featuring an historic skirmish between Taiwan and France more than 100 years ago took place at the site of the former battlefield on Saturday in New Taipei City (新北市), captivating an audience of 5,000.
“The Legend of the Sino-French War in Tamsui” is adapted from the “Battle of Hobe,” which took place in northern Taiwan during the Sino-French War between 1884 and 1885. The battle was triggered by a French invasion of Keelung, which forced the Qing army (deployed in Taiwan) to retreat to Tamsui, further up the coast, where it regrouped and fought off the French.
Held in a park in Tamsui, the was a re-enactment of a rare victory in the fight against the French would-be colonialists. The hard-won success came after strong resistance by the Qing troops and local residents.
Another special feature of the show was that the cast of 250 performers was mostly made up of ordinary people of different ages and from all walks of life, said Leonson Ng, the director of the re-enactment.
“Most of the non-professional performers are Tamsui residents,” Ng said before the show, adding that having them tell the story made the performance more moving.
The historical production, now in its third year, is the highlight of the New Taipei City Tamsui International Environmental Arts Festival. Unlike previous shows, this year’s play added more emotion to the story and incorporated special sound and lighting effects to create the impression of a real battlefield, the director said.
The stunning atmosphere kept the audience on the edge of their seats during the 80-minute production that included drama, dance and music, and concluded with the actors circling the stage in a celebration of peace.
The production also involved at least a couple of foreign nationals.
“I just really enjoy the opportunity to act,” said a Canadian who played the leader of the invading French forces and identified himself only as “Paul.”
What he likes about the play is that although it is about war, Taiwan learned a lesson from it, said Paul, a missionary who has lived in Tamsui for more than 20 years.
“Taiwan’s been a very peaceful country for so many years,” he said.
A second showing of the production was set to take place last night at the same venue.
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