Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre, Stan Lai and Performance Workshop In collaboration with Wang Wei-Chung
Reviewed 25 October 2019
A play of epic proportions, The Village tells the historic 50-year story of families displaced by the Chinese Communist Revolution. It is an emotional tale that emphasises the importance of family and the changing concept of ‘home’.
As the production begins, a narrator steps into a spotlight and introduces the audience to the chaotic situation that has created The Village. It is 1949 and the Communist Party of China has just defeated the Kuomintang Nationalists, leaving families from all around mainland China with no option but to leave their homes and flee to Taiwan. As lights illuminate the rest of the stage, a line of fleeing families is shown attempting to prove their identification as they’re moved into a Military Dependent’s Village in Chiayi, Taiwan. Here, the audience meets the three families, Zhao, Zhu and Zhou, whose cross-generational lives they’re about to be engulfed in.
The makeshift houses of Formosa Village #1 are where these families temporarily settle, eagerly awaiting the news that they can return to their mainland homes. To fill the time in their ramshackle surroundings, the families interact with those in the houses around them and community gossiping, the sharing of recipes, joined celebrations and the mutual longing for home begins to bring these strangers together. After some time, it becomes clear that, despite their longing for the familiarities of their original Chinese homes, what was only meant to be a temporary refuge has now become these families’ new homes.
As the play continues these families become more interwoven through their second generations. Alongside young love and its battle with the restrictions of strict societal standing, other issues arise such as the reality of defectors and those they leave behind in shame, the threat of Communist spies and unwarranted interrogations, and the choice between poverty or the relinquishment of moral standing to provide for the family.
A creation of China’s most revered playwright and director, Stan Lai, The Village beautifully displays the progress of displaced and homesick strangers becoming neighbours, neighbours becoming friends and friends becoming family. The play is cleverly broken up into various acts which span over 50 years within Formosa Village #1, from 1949 to 2006, and across three generations of the families whose lives are now forever intertwined.
The entire three-hour-long performance is performed in Mandarin (with some Taiwanese included), but surtitles in English are presented on either side of the stage. Unfortunately for the opening night there appeared to be technical issues where the text failed to keep up with the dialogue on stage which meant non-Mandarin-speaking members of the audience missed certain exchanges. Although this did not ruin the show, it did mean that at times frustration could be felt in the audience as obviously what was being communicated could not be understood.
The Village, at three hours long, definitely requires an audience with patience and dedication to this interesting, historic story, but for this persistence they will be rewarded with an informative, emotional journey of epic proportions.
Reviewed by Georgina
Rating out of 5: 3.5
Venue: Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide, 5000
Season: 25 – 26 October 2019
Duration: 3 hours 10 minutes (20 min interval)
Tickets: $68 – $89