Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Review on "Oe Oe" by Joe Ruelle

While experimental theatre is no stranger to the Bar Barracuda – “Do I look like I wanted to danced with her, come on baby stop worrying!” – patrons were treated to the real thing last week in what was a sharp and stimulating show.

Put on by Samestuff Theatre, a newly-formed group Vietnamese artists in their late teens and early-twenties, the show lasted for about an hour and drew a respectable audience of close to fifty.

The onstage action was limited to a single actress playing a baby in the womb, one of those theatrical conceptions that can easily lead to disaster if not done properly. Fortunately, however, the group pulled it off with smoothness to spare.

The setup was pretty simple: a small stage, a white sheet backdrop, a few flashlights, some masks, and some well-mixed sounds provided by director and group founder Ly Y Phan.

Sole stage performer Nguyen Vy Dung spent the show tied to the sheet backdrop by a small rope (i.e. the umbilical cord), while the rest of the actors ran around behind the backdrop, jumping, pounding, shadow-making and trying to pull the baby off stage (i.e. birth), an effort which was repeatedly – and often humorously – opposed.

There was some adept miming, a great bit in which mum and dad zapped the baby with an ultrasound (done with coloured lights and clever sound), some slick dancing and a lot of other cool ideas.

In truth, however, it becomes quite hard to describe these things as they were – one is tempted to use a lot of wispy adjectives and fluffy constructions that could apply to anything artistic, really – and so sometimes it’s best not to try.

Perhaps more telling than the show itself was the reaction of the audience. As I, the reviewer, watched the show I was actually shushed by a group of Vietnamese, which doesn’t happen very often, and was quite pleasing in a way, and I should add that I fully deserved the shushing, having been chatting too loudly during one of the moving bits.

All in all, it was a well-rehearsed and very professional show, and I was thoroughly impressed by how young and how good these kids are. Dung, especially, gave an well-timed and sharply crafted performance worthy of a fully-trained actress in any part of the world.

Of course theatre is a luxury for most Vietnamese actors – they all have jobs outside their art – and it’s hard to know where the group will go from here. But in the end some of us regular folks had a real experience, and as a theatre group, experimental or otherwise, that’s really all you can ask for.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

SameStuff Theatre on Time Out

After our performance on 11 February 2006 at Bar Barracuda, we received many positive comments from the audience. Thanks to the efforts of 7 members in SameStuff Theatre, besides performance work we had to run up and down taking care of every single thing.., huge amount of work.. but the result was worth the effort! Also thanks to everybody at Bar Barracuda for being so nice and helpful to us! The amount we raised is not much but enough to cover all the innitial investment of SameStuff Theatre, and enough for us to cover basic logistic needs without being too worried about the financial situation.

Our excitement was limitted because Dung, a very dear member to us, had to go and live abroad 3 days after the show.

Officially we now have 5 members.

Following are some comments from the audience:

"This is the first time I see something as fresh and real in Vietnam"

"it was really amazing to see so much going on in such a small space"

"It was very strong, I even dreamt about it that night"

"It's such a cool way to deal with the issue of gender preference"

" My organisation brings many artists and performers from Europe to Vietnam, but I like this better than all of them, much fresher! "

"We were suprised and confused because we couldn't believe a Vietnamese's show could have such expression, very daring, Vietnamese audience likes it!"

"I can't believe this is your first performance and that you just formed last month! I think you should try for Fringe Festival in Edinburgh"

"I rate this performance 8 out of 10, the idea of baby in the womb is not new, but the way you develop that idea is very creative"

You can read more about us in the current edition of Time Out Hanoi

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

You are invited