>THE WATER CARRIERS by Theatre Talipot

>reviewed by kenneth kwok

>date: 16 jun 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: world trade centre auditorium
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>hot water

THE WATER CARRIERS tells the story of a community that suddenly finds itself bereft of water. Not only have the rivers dried up but subsequently, so too do the emotional lifeblood of the village and the spiritual growth that it nurtures. Desperation, nightmare and dream break loose and the random pictures they create are presented for us in all its primal force through dance, movement, music - and magic! - by the internationally acclaimed Theatre Talipot from Reunion Island.

The absolute control over their bodies which the four (male) performers possessed - fired by a powerful energy, and most captivatingly, a sense of sparkling humour - enabled them to bring to life the different forms they took on to tell their story: monkeys, women … and personified symbols of sheer madness. And for those people who believe that abstract, or indeed, performance, theatre of this form has little to do with modern concepts of "acting" (luvvie, darling), there was much here to change their minds. The fear and desperation etched on the performers' faces contrasting alternately with the orgasmic joy with which they celebrated the water they had finally found, or at least, believed to have found, in some cases, was one reason, perhaps, that THE WATER CARRIERS was classified as Theatre not Dance. These were "actors" as much as they were dancers or performance artists. As they thirsted, you really felt the dryness in their mouths, the scorching of their skin ...

>>'please don't bring little children to a show like this and then spend the whole evening trying to explain every little detail to them loudly'

Each performer brought a cleanness and sharpness to his performance that revealed a total sense of knowing what was going on at all times even if you, the audience, couldn't always see through the symbols of each particular movement or gesture that they presented. In all the chaos and supposed randomness, there was always a greater sense of order overarching the entire production.

Visually, then, it was totally breath-taking. You could just sit back and literally, enjoy the show, so simple, so sparse and yet so incredibly rich. Sit back and soak in the beauty of the images presented before you. And aurally … there are few words to describe the poetry of their music, their voices coming together in open harmony, each rich with the sound of yearning and desire, and also play; and set against the beautiful drone and pull of the drums, sticks and "pipes" they used.

All in all, the whole was a tremendous experience that left you spellbound.

And the audience loved it! Really, really loved it! I cannot begin to count the number of people who came up to me after the show just to say to me, wasn't that incredible? Wasn't that awesome? Wasn't that like, the best thing you've ever seen?

And while I did thoroughly enjoy the show, I do have certain reservations. I actually preferred Les Fura dels Baus' "Ombra" that I saw only the night before, for example, because, although similar to THE WATER CARRIERS in that it told a story by presenting only flashes of images to create a landscape against which the story could be projected rather than the story itself, it had much more of an edge. I loved the way it infused traditional forms with a pop-art modernity, it juxtaposed images of great beauty with images of dark morbidity. It was big, brassy and loud.

Whereas Theatre Talipot's performance was deeply rooted in the traditional (in this case, East African), albeit with references to the influences of modern theatre styles, and for me, had a more exotic, picture-postcard charm than the emotional, almost cathartic, engagement that I had with "Ombra" or say, Asia-in-Theatre Research Centre's "The Painted House" earlier this year.

This is, of course, a purely personal opinion. And arguably, the performances are, after all, dissimilar with different objectives and target audiences.

Another personal opinion is that I would like to take every one of the many, many people who "forgot" to turn their pagers and hand phones off last night and skin them alive.

(Can I have one more? - please don't bring little children to a show like this and then spend the whole evening trying to explain every little detail to them loudly.)