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October 1, 2011 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Big Love

Clashing Aeschylus with modernity and Asian theatre inflection, THEA 303’s Big Love attempts to discover stage-worthy responses to Charles Mee’s terrifying dramaturgical provocations. Upon meandering into the theatre the audience is greeted with a runway/catwalk linking a small ‘hot-tub’ nearest to the door and a staircase on wheels leading to the balcony at its opposite end. This staircase was flanked by two ceiling-height rice paper screens and pushed deeper into the theatre were a series of smaller versions.

The show follows the story of fifty sisters seeking refuge from an unwanted marriage. The fifty suitors then arrive and to take their brides. Tension escalates as both sides prove unwilling to relent, yet one couple in the midst of the struggle seem to find genuine love. The story culminates with a mass murder and the reveal of the one sister who actually wanted a husband. The audience claps out the cast as part of the marriage ceremony with the final message “love is the highest law; man or woman it cannot be wrong”.  This play delivers on many different levels (no pun intended [but actually yes because the balcony is used to differentiate character status]); there is a nice harmony in the technical, acting and direction. Due to the size of the cast, speaking roles are divided between two actors creating an interesting dichotomy of character. This allowed for interplay between the characters as each half could show a separate emotion from her other self or unite to amplify their reactions to other characters.  Linked in this duality by the repetition of each other’s dialogue, these actors worked in pairs to show us the diversity of a characters personality.

Asian influences are used to dramatise emotion through movement. As the women denounce their ties to their betrothed and label the male as “a biological accident” they throw themselves bodily to the ground in anger repeatedly to heighten the emotion of the scene and gave each actor a new platform to emotively express their character situation. The music was incredibly informative of the pace and tone, denoting the gravity of a speech through the tsuke or a gong leading up to a climax or punctuating the movement sequences, such as the women’s anti-men dance. The stage was set in traverse which perfectly linked the growing and then climactic conflict to the audience, heightening the movement of an impressive fight scene. For a group whose goals were to embody a ‘replication’ of senses through movement and rhythm and to do this by interweaving Asian and Western theatrical forms, I say this is a success.

Big Love
By Charles Mee
October 4 – 8 at Studio 77


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