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SAF 2012: The Wind-up Bird Chronicle

June 4, 2012

Photo credit: Tom Kincaid

Event: ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” by Stephen Earnhart & Greg Pierce (US) (as part of Singapore Arts Festival 2012)
Venue: Esplanade Theatre

Run: 25 & 26 May 2012

What struck me first, even before the show started proper, was the musical set up and instrumentation, not to mention the live musician, Bora. With water tanks, bowls, and other interesting devices, together with piano, Bora created a soundscape, as well as immersed herself in the production as her movements and sound works blended and became as one with the performance. And there, we were introduced to a mystical landscape where the aural experience was equally important to the immersion of oneself in the play as the story played.

The story tells of the unemployed Toru Okada who loses first his cat and then his wife, Kumiko. As one of the characters, May, pointed out, it was indeed strange that he did not report to the police even after his wife had disappeared for four days. It makes one wonder that though he was worried, he subconsciously knew the reason?

What followed was a fully surreal experience with multimedia, bunraku-style puppetry, shadow play and soundscaping, as we were brought into an alternate reality, dream-like. We watch the characters intersect and commune, how some mysteries might have been better left unsolved. How someone whom you thought was closest to you wasn’t really whom you thought she was, or how you had seen the signs but ignored it. And how there were many subtle references and layers, as memories come and go, of relationships, history, society and politics.

It was interesting that after all that, the whole production was brought back to reality as we see settlement at the end for Toru, and even May. The atmosphere change was distinctly felt and we are released from the transfixion of what passed. You begin to wonder if what transpired was real, or which part was reality and which part was dream. And if it was only a playing out of Toru’s own random thoughts. The old soldier, the bat, the well…were they metaphoric in a way as well?

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle was spellbinding in a way that it held the audience captive by design, especially through our senses. In a way, I felt it winded up making us pretty wound up in a mind of speculation.

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