>legend alive by practice performing arts centre ltd and the esplanade
>reviewed by kenneth kwok
15 dec 2002
WORKS FOR PAO KUN: LEGEND ALIVE was originally devised during his period of illness "to make Kuo Pao Kun happy in illness" and to let "Singaporeans know how much the Asian Chinese drama circles respect Pao Kun as well as treasure his friendship," says Producer Vivien Ku. Sadly, Kuo passed away before he had the chance to witness this unique production which brought together directors and performers from theatre companies in Shen Zhen, Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong to work on five new theatre pieces "inspired" by his works and his life. However, the production's second objective certainly remained viable. While there is perhaps little need to remind Singaporeans of Kuo's influence not just to the cultural but also social landscape of our little isle, it was indeed inspiring to witness artists from the Chinese diaspora outside Singapore coming together to mark the passing of this local hero as well.
that LEGEND ALIVE was a tribute performance could have made it difficult
to comment on from an artistic point of view. It would seem churlish to
criticise works created purely as an expression of someone's love and
respect for another. Would you point out a grammar mistake in a love letter
you received? Sentimentality and sympathy can excuse many shortcomings.
Thankfully, I believe I am being completely objective when I say that
in terms of production quality, there was little that required this reviewer
to keep one eye closed when reviewing LEGEND ALIVE.
>>' ... [I will remember] Kuo as ... a man with stories to tell that we could all relate to.'
while the intentions and abilities of all directors and performers were
definitely beyond question, I found myself alienated by some artistic
choices. For me, Kuo's strength has always been in his narratives and
the (melo)drama he infuses into those narratives. 'The Night We Go To
Singapore', 'In Search of Modern China (Eunuch)' and 'Spring Wind', however,
employed loose or more abstract narrative structures more typical of devised
theatre (with actors taking on multiple / indistinct roles) and in the
earlier two, heavy doses of multi-media as well. Although these three
pieces were indeed well-crafted and showed much imagination (like the
image of political leaders exchanging heads in 'In Search of Modern China')
in terms of representations of and tributes to Kuo, I personally found
myself more attracted to the quieter, subtler pieces, that had more fully
realised characters and stories - these, I felt, better captured not just
the mind but also the heart of the storyteller.
pieces, more so than the rest, made me remember Kuo as more than a leading
theatre practitioner and a voice for generations of Singaporeans. They
made me remember Kuo as a real person living within the real world, a
man with stories to tell that we could all relate to.