Last Sunday afternoon I went to have a sneak preview of the bamboo installation that would become the Bridge of Sound. By daylight it’s a magnificent art statement.
At night, subtly illuminated, unpopulated and before the sounds erupted (take away a lime-green crescent moon and clouds of white balloons), it was breathtaking.
It has a host of exciting, even mystical, connotations and as I wandered through it I mentally conjured: bamboo jungle, construction site, roller coaster ride, the best kids’ playground ever, magic castle, carnival, cityscape, et al, et alii, et aliae and et alia.
After witnessing two performances of Bridge my overwhelming impression is that it was a stage set in need of drama and direction.
The opening night was earth thumpingly, gorgeously loud; almost spectacularly colorful; and delightfully onanistic. As much as I willed myself to become engrossed I felt deflated with it as a complete concept.
At times it almost grabbed the wild tigers by the tails and became excitingly dramatic but the tame choreography couldn’t compete with the noise compositions. Perhaps it needed aerialists to charge the atmosphere with needed adrenalin.
The bevy of camera men and photo-journalists seemed to have had a more creative choreographer designing their role and were at times more exciting to look at as they climbed the set and poked lenses into all sorts of orifices. On the second night I was perplexed to find that their role had been deleted and a far more minimal, and more arresting performance resulted.
The performers were obviously, in the main, aiming at an improvisational approach and this was sometimes a bit like giving a group of beginning drama students free rein during workshops and not bothering to refine them for actual performance. Occasionally, as in the semi break dance sequences, there was frission, but I would have appreciated less of the Giacometti figure in the white body suit, or a more structured role for him and his distinctive jaggering movements that were as if he were manipulated on invisible strings by a puppeteer in the sky. On the second night I was astounded to see that improvisation almost meant his impalement on red and white bamboo stakes. I was relieved for the second performance the Isadora Duncanish, chiffon drape was left at home.
Most of the contemporary sound compositions were exciting but for an audience and an ongoing performance, some were too long to sustain attention and became a bit tiresome. A lot of the onlookers on the second night sort of gave up after a while and conversed, even turned their backs, while some, like me, searching for visual and intellectual stimulation, became frustrated. After the well balanced music of Ngoc Cai and Kim Ngoc on stage one from 8 to 9 pm the noise from Stage two was really energetic and exciting but seemed to have more volume than dramatic tension. Even the vocalists, as famous as they are, gave away subtlety and drama for complete vocal chord straining effect.
The vertical face of stage set one was fairly fully utilized (oh for some characters on bungee springs or high wires!). But stage 2 with its height and depth and visual intensity was sadly under utilized. And oh what a set it is waiting for a grand opera, a ravishing ballet troupe, or a circus.
The finale to the performance gave us a hint of what may have been. On the opening night the whole structure was rimmed with ribbons of fire but this was omitted on the second showing.
I like to think I was witnessing early dress rehearsals and that the public performances are still in the offing… and that it would be cut to a 75- 90 minute running time.
I am eagerly anticipating the final part of Dao Anh Khanh’s trilogy in October.
Many will use the onanistic metaphor – or perhaps even amuse themselves with a more frottaged simile to describe my opinion piece. And why not!
|Not a reviewer, not a critic, “Kiếm Văn Tìm” is an interested, impartial and informed observer and connoisseur of the Hanoi art scene who offers highly opinionated remarks and is part of the long and venerable tradition of anonymous correspondents. Please add your thoughts in the comment field below.|