King Lear at PuSh Festival: When the mind is free, the body is delicate
More than 10 years ago, Taiwanese producer and choreographer Lin Hsiu-wei found herself in Paris and in a comparable position to the title character in her adaptation of a famous Shakespearean play.
“I felt like King Lear,” she said. “I lost my play company. I wandered alone in France and felt the pain of being exiled”
On February 1 and 2, Lin’s unique, globe-travelled version of King Lear will be entertaining Vancouver audiences at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts as part of the PuSh Festival.
“We feel that the PuSh audience will really appreciate this piece because they’ve always been into the boundary-pushing contemporary performing arts,” said Charlie Wu, managing director of the Asian Canadian Special Events Association. Wu was instrumental in bringing this production to PuSh, “and this particular piece is revolutionary in that it’s not a traditional Peking Opera, by any means, and with the connection to Shakespeare, you’ve got something with a lot of imagination.”
Lin admitted that she identifies with Lear at a pretty comprehensive, personal level.
“I felt that through those words of sorrow and loneliness the play expresses a profound nature of human beings — love,” she said. “Love is human nature; it makes me feel that life has gone back to the beginning. It made me recollect my childhood when I had no father’s love. My personality comes close to that of King Lear — stubborn, capricious, dominant and short-tempered. I do what I want to do and don’t care about other people’s opinions.
“Since I started my performance career, I always played such leading roles as a king and a general. The stage was my kingdom. To fulfill my dreams and to attain my goals, I would overcome all difficulties that I come across. King Lear also reminded us to respect elders. When I was in school, my teacher was like my father. When I saw King Lear’s tragic ending, I took pity on him; and it inspired my imagination.”
Wu feels that in some ways, this production is reflective of Vancouver’s multicultural personality.
“We felt it was a good idea to have a piece that engages our cultural diversity, our cultural groups, including people that probably wouldn’t come see Peking Opera and people who aren’t familiar with Shakespeare’s works,” he said. “So it’s truly a cross-cultural, cross-over piece that may inspire new ideas for Vancouver’s cultural identity.”
While Lin is an admirer of Shakespeare’s overall, she appreciated King Lear more after seeing a famous version in London and also because of the complex emotional subtleties that torment the king.
“When I first read the script, I felt it is not a very dramatic story. It has no spectacle of war, no dramatic event to generate exciting emotions,” Lin explained. “The only thing I could feel about this 80-year-old man is his stubbornness. Through Shakespeare’s words, I felt King Lear’s stubbornness already reached the level of being hysteric. Because of his wrong decision, he loses his kingdom and power. After being driven out by his daughters, he cannot accept such a cruel result. Ten years ago, I saw Laurence Olivier’s performance of King Lear. Being deeply moved by his performance, I fell in love with the play.”
King Lear runs Feb. 1 and 2 at 8pm. For more information go to PushFestival.ca.