Tuesday, September 14, 2010

One week in

The show has been playing for a week now - two previews, press night and the first "real" shows. The press night was a wonderful evening - a real pay-off after such a long process of creation. Everything melded very beautifully, and the audience response was ecstatic. Quite a few people on their feet. My friend Stewart, who runs the Barbados Festival, said it was like the best meal he'd ever eaten - there were so many different dishes, so beautifully blended.

The first reviews are out too. There are brilliant ones on Londist and spoonfed, suggesting (as I suspected) that this is work with a strong appeal to younger, web-savvy, cosmopolitan people. There are some great comments in the newspapers too - The Guardian calls it "Impressive, bold in ambition and fluid - like Robert Lepage on a teeny budget" and The Times talks about the way "Lives and cultures collide — sometimes violently — in this kaleidoscopic drama.... intersecting stories set against a backdrop of hectic, often striking visuals."

As sometimes happens, some of the most illuminating comments are actually ones which are intended negatively. The broadsheet critics are clearly coming from a tradition of lit.crit., and are looking for well-made plays with psychological, naturalistic solutions. Which isn't quite what we do! In The Times, Sam Marlowe says that "The characters are manipulated by the multi strand plot, like lifeless puppets." She doesn't mean it as a compliment - but it's exactly right. Indeed, at times we clearly show the characters as puppets - as in this photo of Hui! The point is that people are not always autonomous individuals in control of their own destiny, as western thought would like us to believe. They are very much at the mercy of history, of culture, of structures. In the Asian theatre, actors are always manipulated in some way - by puppetry, by masks, by the form. In drawing off these traditions, we're finding a more radical way of looking at the world.

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