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Legend Alive

In 2002, Professor Vivien Ku of Taiwan invited an international group of theatre practitioners to come together and create a performance to commemorate the passing of theatre doyen and The Theatre Practice co-founder Kuo Pao Kun. The creative spirit, diverse styles and conceptions showcased in that production has inspired The Theatre Practice to continue this spirit of pluralistic creativity by presenting a second installment of Legend Alive.

In a stimulating collision of multiple perspectives, backgrounds and theatrical styles, The Theatre Practice is joined by Japan’s Black Tent Theatre, India’s Rang Vidushak and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Ensemble for two double-bills, we gather to examine the theme: Urban Taboo.


Double Bill #1

Strange Fruit: Forbidden Access by The Theatre Practice (Singapore)

We must live together

to live on;

We must have forbiddance

to live together;

The question is,

How to live on,

With forbiddance.


The Lineage by Black Tent Theater (Japan)

This play was created through workshops. We collected several stories from folk tales, play books and folksongs. In Northern Japan, there is an antecedent of the women poet and storyteller. She is the Itako – a kind of medium who lives in the high mountains. Families visit her when they wish to communicate with the spirits of the departed.

In each community where we perform, we work with a performer who assumes the role of the women poet. We hold a three-day workshop with them before the performance.


Double Bill #2

Laughter Is Taboo by Rang Vidushak (India)

Laughter is in every sense a celebration of life, its reason, its sense and sensitivity, its endeavour and end. No, laughter is not in being clever, not in being funny, not in producing comedy. Laughter contains both comedy and tragedy. Its dimension is the dimension of being. It summons personal and collective space. It is the symphony of life, inspires life and is inspired by it. Laughter is the essence that might fill the brief interregnum between coming into the world and leaving it. Carefully nurtured, laughter might provide purpose to the interregnum, give it the cloak of wisdom, neutralize cynicism, for a while endeavour to take away from time its perennial ruthlessness.

But what happens when there is a veiled conspiracy against this very human sensibility? How does one go about rescuing laughter that has now reached the market and has been given a market value? What could be worse than the taboo against laughter? The laughter one sees frozen in a statue, squeezed into a toothpaste tube, trapped in shampoo bottles, in pictures of undergarments, in the glitter of jewelry and of course in the mouth-watering delicacies that fast food has to offer – has been robbed of its life. The laughter is there but it is lifeless. One sees it in the hoardings but before we have really woken up to it we have to face the horror of being sold. The urgency of giving Laughter back its silenced sound, the very life it has been robbed of must be realized before it is too late.

A group of clowns is on its way to work. What could the work of the clown be but to make people laugh? Their “work” becomes reason for them to lose their own laughter. What could be worse for a clown to lose his own laughter in trying to make others laugh? So without really realizing it they become untrue to their own philosophy of celebrating the interregnum between birth and death through laughter. It is only when an unknown voice that appears in the form of an unknown identity in the abstract. This unknown identity begins questioning them, their philosophy, their very existence that they are suddenly jolted back to reality and realization.

Rang Vidushak has developed a methodology of training its actors who mostly belong to the urban-rural divide. The methodology is based on a blend of performing and non-performing art forms that are essentially a part of life of people in the areas they come from. Through them an attempt has been made to look for an unseen force between the Chhau – the martial dance form of Orissa, the kathagayaki – the narratives in the singing form of different areas of the country and the martial art forms of the akharas of Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh. Acrobatic feats merged together with childhood games, riddles, story telling, singing, chanting and sound patterns have given birth to a performance idiom that is different from what one usually sees. The aim and objective has been to bring into performance celebration and laughter which seems to be disappearing fasted than one would want it to!


Rule by Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre (China)

One day, a hunter in the woods conceived of a kind of profession – “hunter dog”. He commanded two hunter dogs which hunted rabbits in exchange for bones. The hunter and his hunter dogs enjoyed a sweet but brief relationship before differences arising from remuneration drove a wedge between them. Enticed by the carefree, self-sufficient lifestyles of wild dogs, the hunter dog came to be aware of the harsh realities of pastoral life. Both the hunter dog and the hunter (who had been driven to dire straits by the loss of the hunter dog) simultaneously turned to the Corporation – symbol of higher productivity – and became members of a civilized commercial society. Neither their diligence nor their desire to make something of themselves could save them from suffering the inevitable fate of unemployment in times of financial crisis. Yet, their refusal to remain in impoverished positions translated into a tenacity and clarity of thought which stood them right on the apex of a wave of revolutionary economics. As they changed their own destinies, they also impacted upon others. From employee to employer, employer to employee, hunter dog to hunter, hunter to hunter dog, dog man, man dog …

Date: 18 – 22 August 2004

Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio

Strange Fruit: Forbidden Access by The Theatre Practice (Singapore)

Director: Wu Xi

Playwright: Ng How Wee

Set Designer: Lim Wei Ling

Costume Designer: Huang Yun

Sound Designer: Tan Hui Yu

Multimedia Designer: Mark Ng, Lim Hue Tyng

 Cast: Johnny Ng, Jean Ng, Alvin Chiam, Jo Kwek, Ace Chew


The Lineage by Black Tent Theater (Japan)

Director: Natsuko Kiritani

Producer: Hiroyuki Muneshige

Lighting Designer: Shigeo Saito

 Cast: Naoko Yamashita, Jiro Shigemori, Keiko Yokota, Tsuneo Kubo, Minako Hiraiwa, Nora Samosir


Laughter Is Taboo by Rang Vidushak (India)

Director: Bansi Kaul

Technical Coordinators: Farid Vazmi, Mohammad Waseem Khan, Dwarika Dahiya

Cast: Farid Bazmi, Anjana Puri, Rajkumar Raikwar, Debarati Majumdar, Amit Richhaariya, Mrakash Singh Pattel


Rule by Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre (China)

Director: He Nian

Artistic Director: Lv Liang

Playwright: Yu Rong Jun

Producer: Wong Siu Ngor

Production Designer: Sang Qi

 Cast: Chen Jian Ying, Tian Rui, Wang Heng, Wang Yong