There was a lot of finger pointing tonight. And I mean a lot.
In the Zuni Icosahedron-Drama Box collab going by the clunky title One Hundred Years Of Solitude 10.0 – Cultural Revolution, the index finger became loaded – an accusation, a dictatorial command, a gentle signpost.
And in a (relatively) wordless performance on a cavernous stage with a big ensemble cast, this simple gesture is magnified.
HK director Danny Yung’s latest-but-not-really work (it’s the tenth installment of a series from `82) is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. He doesn’t just work the stage at The Esplanade Theatre, he works the stage. Every single inch was used as the show extended all the way to the back. All the lights were also utilised in one way or another, it seemed, including as prop (ceiling lights lowered down doubling up as images of bells). Curtains and backdrops went up and down continuously.
He also works his cast comprising 12 Singapore theatre practitioners and students from Hong Kong and our very own SOTA, creating intricate scenes with a whole bunch of things going on all at once that catch your eye– lots and lots of walking across the stage slowly, veiled folks, children stumbling across with walking sticks as if blind, more finger pointing.
Combine all these into different configurations and what you get is something quite hypnotic, revealing Yung’s sharp awareness of space , of the dynamic interplay between shadow and light, stillness and movement (there’s a regular start-stop rhythm to the piece), loud and soft (at some point, it descends into an abrasive industrial music track ala Nine Inch Nails) and lines and curves (the predominant stiff, regimented movements of the majority contrasting with the delicate softness of Kun Opera performer Xiao Xiangping).
If I’m going on about how gorgeous and aesthetically complex the piece is and haven’t actually touched on what it’s about, well, that’s because, that’s the not-so-good part.
Cold intellectually-overreaching stuff wrapped in beauty – that seems to be the general observation I’ve seen online regarding some of Yung’s works. I’m thinking the same as well.
It’s got enough elements for you to pin it down as actually relating to the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Internationale is played a couple of times, the silhouette of Mao Zedong pops up, the bold poses struck come straight from the handbook of Maoist (Soviet?) art. A sense of transformation occurs (there’s a “journey” bit as well, as the piece is bookended by clarion calls and ship horns and more people walking across the stage).
But again, without the benefit of surtitles (no dialogue but text was projected — Ack, I was duped!), I relied mainly on the gestural tropes to get some sense of progression. Maybe it was just me, but I was emotional detached from the piece.
But who’s to say that’s a bad thing? I found a certain satisfaction from simply looking at One Hundred Years Of Solitude 10.0 – Cultural Revolution. I might have missed some important element leading up to the part where Xiao does his Kun moves to the tune of Nat King Cole’s I Love You For Sentimental Reasons, but that didn’t stop me from relishing the beautiful disconnect.
Plus, it deserves props for allowing the SOTA kids to be a part of it, not just as token “kids” but really, an integral part of the crowd.