Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral
August 1998, the 15th International Summertheatre Festival 1998 at Kampnagel staged the european premiere of Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral by Theatreworks from Singapore.
Impressive pictures show the conflict of a society between yesterday and tomorrow:
businesspeople, archetypes of today's east asian emerging economies, follow a mysterious priest and delve into the glorious time of the chinese Ming-Dynasty.
A chinese Columbus, the admiral and eunuch Cheng Ho, is their idol, and, like in trance, they experience his travels and adventures anew.
They compare the mutilation of their personality, when fighting for their career, with the castration, which in times of the chinese emperors, was offered of the few chances to gain influential positions at the court.
In a world of anonymous, all dictating numbers the overwhelming discoverer becomes the symbol of promise, because Cheng Ho, a eunuch, escapes from the imperial court and the restricting conventions.
Traveling to unknown worlds, he wins power and reputation and finds himself.
The play by the singaporean play writer Kuo Pao Kun was realised by Ong Keng Sen,
a renowned and ambitious director, who succeeds in combining asian imaginery and aesthetics of western dance-theater.
Descendants of the Eunuch Admiral won awards in Singapure in 1995 and in Cairo in 1996 and was presented in Europe for the first time in 1998.
By this, the south-east-asian theatre enters our outlook and offers a first glimpse into the productions of this theatre-region. We notice a figurative language and a style of movement, formed by asian traditions, blended with
styles in the steps of Robert Wilson.
We learn about the mental landscape: about the daily fight for survival in a global, capitalistic environment and about the recourse to asian, chinese myths. The myth of an admiral, who by castration outgrows the limitations, offers an idea for live, when loosing the ground in the arena of the stock markets.
But dance-theatre not only consists of dance, movement and the plot, music also is important.
And unfortunately this performance shows the typical lack of dancetheatre: directors and actors have only a restricted understanding of music (or miss time, money or what else....) and so, music depraves to a sampled background, short pieces from different music-cultures are juxtaposed, lined up. The stylistic conciseness is damaged by this, the high volume of the loudspeakers underlines this dilemma in a sharp way.
Ong Keng Sen propagates his ideas with the international theatre - projekt Flying Circus on a wide basis:
What sets the Flying Circus apart is that it is an artistic initiave uniquely focused on inter-Asian exchange from a completely Asian perspective.
To examine how contemporary arts can benefit through a juxtaposition with traditional cultural forms in fruitful and powerful ways.
To examine how these traditional arts can withstand the progress of modernity without lapsing into "musean art".
Find out more about Theatreworks and the Flying Circus at their Web-Site.
Photo #1 comes from the press-material of the Sommertheater Festival, the other photos are taken from the WebSite of Theatreworks.
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