[TAIWAN – AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE]
by Matt Saunders.
Music, installation, theatre and audience participation will come together at Nexus Arts with Dear John; an experimental work from Taiwan’s M.O.V.E Theatre. Led by Artistic Director Fu Hong-Zheng, the company has woven music, dance, theatre, and visual art into expressions of humanity and explorations of social issues for nearly a decade.
Dear John is inspired by John Cage, whose unconventional composition techniques led to musical and theatre works incorporating ambient sounds, and who pioneered the concept of happenings, a loosely-scripted sort of participatory performance art. Accordingly, Dear John will invite the audience to experiment in an immersive sound lab, including a deconstructed piano, where lights, music, and theatre will combine to create a unique experience.
Artistic Director Fu Hong-Zheng joins us, via email, to shed some light on this innovative performance experience, and begins by sharing what OzAsia Festival 2015 audiences can expect from the show.
“Our performance is a combination of original music, sound installation and physical theatre with no fixed seating. From the moment that we deconstructed the piano, we have let our curiosity to guide us through the creative process. We would like the audience to also keep an open mind, and let their own curiosity lead them to explore what they hear and what they see.”
Tell us about the audience participation aspect of Dear John.
“As there is no fixed-seating in our performance, the audience is free to move around and choose their own viewing angle. Some people might choose to follow a particular performer, while others might decide to sit and just listen. The audience might even become one of the performers in some part of the performance. There is not a single way of participation, but your choice will shape how you perceive the performance.”
Are you excited to see how the audience influences the performance?
“Of course! Especially since most part of our performance is structured improvisation, it’s very important for us to stay spontaneous. I ask the performers to be focused yet be aware of the surroundings, and as the distance between the performers and the audience is very close, the reactions of the audience have a strong yet delicate influence on the decision-making of the performers at every moment.”
Do you have a favourite moment that the audience participation has provoked in past performances?
“Some parts of our performance take place underneath the piano; there were always kids who discover the source of the sound and bent over to see what’s going on. I find it very amusing.”
Working with music, dance, theatre and multimedia must involve a lot of collaboration and many different ideas. How do you decide what ends up in the performance?
“I ask the performers to live in the moment by listening to the sound and listening to each other. I think that is the principle that guides us. For me, sound, including silence, has a much stronger power than language and brings us together in every moment.”
This performance is both inspired by and dedicated to the unorthodox composer John Cage. Tell us how Cage’s work informs Dear John?
“We tried to have a conversation with Cage by understanding his ideas and then creating a new work of our own. We keep discovering new ideas and allowing new possibilities to reshape the work, I think in this spirit we learnt a great deal from Cage.”
M.O.V.E. is a collective theatre with artists from various disciplines. Last year you held a workshop on conveying emotion through movement, building personal awareness and breaking habits. Tell us a bit about how M.O.V.E.’s artists train?
“We all come from different artistic backgrounds and training. Over the years we learn from each other by listening and understanding our similarities and differences, and we experiment by collaborating on different projects.
“As for my own workshop, I have different designs and focuses depending on the different nature of each project.”
In addition to the performance, is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here in Adelaide?
“We will let curiosity take us around!”
Dear John performs at Nexus Arts, Lion Arts Centre, from 7.30pm on Fri 2 Oct until Sat 3 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.
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