China Daily 5-9-2014
Multimedia play has charm of old movie
Watching Ghosts 2.0 is like enjoying a black-and-white silentmovie.
The big projector screen in front of you shows the close-ups ofthe performers live onstage. You can see their lips moving butwithout sound, and you can only watch the subtitles.
Ghosts 2.0 is the latest work of avant-garde theater directorWang Chong from Beijing-based Theatre du Reve Experimental.It is an adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen'sclassic work. The original play tells the story of a woman'sdesperation when she finds her son has inherited her deadcheating husband's syphilis-a harsh commentary on 19th-century morality.
"I hope audiences will be introspective about humanity afterwatching it. As the opening subtitle says, there are many ghostsin the world. Nobody is innocent," says Wang, who has used livevideo of performers onstage in several of his adaptative productions, such as Chineseplaywright Cao Yu's Thunderstorm 2.0 and Woody Allen's Central Park West.
Ghosts 2.0 premiered recently at the Asia Theater Directors Festival in Seoul, and Wang willtake it to Denmark in June and bring it to China in September. Three versions of Ghosts fromdifferent countries were performed in the festival, and it's the first time Wang has worked withKorean performers.
"I like the lively atmosphere of South Korea's theater. Also, theperformers in my play are very diligent and punctual. They like totake notes such as their inner feelings and will do more researchafter rehearsals," says Wang, who spent more than 40 days inrehearsal.
The play is about ordinary people's stories, and the charactershave no names. All performers' faces are painted white withblack-rimmed eyes, except the 10-year-old kid, so they look likeghosts.
"Black-and-white silent film has its own charm. When you seethe actress in red clothes onstage, you will also see her in theblack-and-white video. It shows you a kind of special beauty," hesays.
The work also delves into the definition of media, he says. "Youwatch the lips of performers and the subtitles on the projector;their movement and sounds are separated."
Wang strives to transform Ibsen's more descriptive lines into intelligible performances andscenes. The play is full of conflicts, and the key is to display them without talking and make aproduction that's appealing to audiences. The onstage actions are a bit exaggerated.
"I'd like to make some performances more like movie scenes. For instance, in a traditionalplay, the priest would pace back and forth after the fire in a flurry, but in our version, he heldhis shirt tightly and stood still," he says.
Although it's a play written in 1881, it retains meaning in today'ssociety.
The original work discussed syphilis and the tragedy of thefamily, while in Wang's work, it is AIDS because syphilis is notan incurable disease now while AIDS is fatal.
"The original script is about a doomed marriage. Traditionalmarriage is also in a critical state in our era. Advancedtechnology offers various ways of cheating such as the Internet,"Wang says.
The maid, the father and the son all use modern technologygadgets such as the iPhone and iPad. For example, the maidtakes self-ies with a wineglass in hand when the mother is not athome.
The ending is a sequence of more than 20 edited images,including the kid's eyes, the father's smile, the doctor and a pill melting in a glass of water. Atthe same time, the mother is holding her dying son and screaming, and the son says hewants to end his suffering by morphine.
"It hints at the possibility of euthanasia. It's a play with advanced thoughts at that time, as italso tackles venereal disease and sarcasm towards the so-called model family," Wang says.