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Beyond Time

Richard Watts

Meditative and meticulously constructed, the slow, sparse nature of this Taiwanese production may prove difficult for some.
Beyond Time

Photo credit: Toni Wilkinson, Perth Festival.

Blending dance and drumming, digital projection and ancient philosophy, this Taiwanese production is meditative and meticulously constructed – though its slow, sparse nature may prove difficult for some.

Beyond Time is the sort of work one must surrender to; adjusting to its rhythms takes time, but it rewards the dedicated with moments of grandeur and beauty: a single drummer dwarfed by his massive instrument as vivid patterns evoking star trails or tree rings or the swirling void are projected onto the stage; the deep resonance of gongs ringing out through the theatre as they are struck collectively and with perfect control; the swirl of a white robe as a body spins; the controlled poise of a thrust leg, the foot fully extended.

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Created by Taiwanese company U-Theatre, Beyond Times draws on a range of traditions, including tai chi, meditation and the philosophies of Armenian mystic George Gurdijeff. The resulting work explores the relationship between the individual and the universe. Even at its most abstract, the aesthetic throughout is strikingly refined.

Cyclical in nature, the piece begins and ends with the sound of falling water, like raindrops dripping from the trees after rain; elsewhere, we hear wind and waves and see digital echoes of the performers shimmering above them, as if the backdrops were rockpools in which the troupes’ reflections were dancing as the water ebbs and flows.

Musically, Beyond Time draws heavily on Chinese traditions: besides dramatic drumming, we also hear throat singing, the plucked notes of a guzheng, tinkling bells, the clash and crash of cymbals.

Brasher notes are carefully muted, cymbals swiftly silenced mere moments after they have sounded, a further example of the care with which the production has been crafted.

The dancing, too, while occasionally explosive, featuring sudden kicks and spins, also demonstrates exquisite control – a foot carefully placed here, a powerful crouch there. Lines of bodies advance and retreat; a bare-chested dancer stands in a corridor of light; a wooden staff is swung like a weapon.

Surtitles projected above the proscenium add to the sense of dense poetry unfolding on stage: A shadow that comes from a distant past/Sweeps through timeless space…

At all times one has a sense of striking discipline and layers of meaning which, while sometimes indecipherable for the uninitiated viewer, force one to consider and contemplate every aspect of this poised, polished and striking work.

4 stars out of 5

Beyond Time
U-Theatre
His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth
9-11 February 2018

Perth Festival
www.perthfestival.com.au
9 February – 4 March 2018

Richard Watts travelled to Perth as a guest of Perth Festival.

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's Performing Arts Editor and Team Leader, Editorial; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R.

The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, Richard currently serves on the board of literary journal Going Down Swinging and on the Committee of Management for La Mama Theatre. He is a former member of the Green Room Awards Independent Theatre panel, a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and in 2017 was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend.

Follow Richard on Twitter: @richardthewatts

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