Imagining the Future in the Anthropocene on the Taipei Stage: What Colour is the Cloud? (2016), Taipei Notes (2017), and 1984 (2017)
Keywords : human extinction; contemporary theatre; Taiwanese theatre; Wang Chia-Ming; Voleur de Feu Theatre
Given our reliance on planetary resources for survival, the worsening global environmental conditions are now becoming a source for artistic reflections. In theatre, curiosity is increasingly turned to the ecological impacts of modern society, especially in regard to the future of humanity. As a form of art that constantly prompts the audience to consider new problems and perspectives, theatre can become a significant vehicle for alerting the general public to our current anthropogenic environmental transformations. Addressing three theatre productions in Taipei, this paper explores how theatre artists in Taiwan have been grappling with planetary environmental crises. The first production is Taipei Notes (2017), the result of collaborations between the Japanese playwright Hirata Oriza and Taiwan's Voleur du Feu Theatre, which presented a revision of Hirata's award-winning Tokyo Notes (1995). Set at a future time that exhibits many similarities to our society, fragments of multiple stories were presented in the lobby at a gallery in Taipei, where famous paintings evacuated from a warring Europe were displayed. The production thus delved into a shifting world order in the aftermath of disruptive patterns of human activities. Next, I examine 1984, The Family Life of Three Sisters, which was the collaborative work of Wang Chia-Ming (Shakespeare's Wild Sisters Group) and Kouhei Narumi (Seventh Theatre) staged in 2017. Evoking the omnipresent surveillance in George Orwell's 1984, this production also paraphrased Chekhov's Three Sisters and explored a futuristic setting in which the scarcity of natural resources easily led to widespread military conflicts and pervasive social control. Finally, the focus turns to What Colour is the Cloud?, another production directed by Wang for the SWSG in 2016. Delivering an overwhelmingly pessimist message concerning the future of the world, this production depicted the survival and destruction of humanity on a damaged earth that had seen vortices of both natural and human-induced disasters. By pointing to a future profoundly unsettled by our ambitions and activities, all three productions offered different cues for viewers to critically consider the question of the Anthropocene.