Dance Base, Edinburgh
August 11, 2019
White is the colour in Monster (怪獸) by Dua Shin Te Production (大身體製造), just as it is in Dance Base’s other Taiwan Season work, Floating Flowers (浮花), although the two pieces could scarcely be any more different. A show about the monster within us all, creator Liu Yen-cheng (劉彥成) freely admits it’s an experiment. The trouble with experiments is that, like this one, they don’t always work.
A plethora of warnings outside the studio is presumably a joke since only the one about the use of smoke is remotely accurate. Yes, there is a moment of nudity, but there is nothing here that’s going to offend anyone.
Inside, all is hazy. More smoke is pumped in from time to time from what is one of the noisiest smoke machines I’ve ever heard. Deliberate? Liu Yu-fan (劉語凡) stands centre, holding a pole with a microphone attached. Always there, almost always still, faceless and in white, she’s an enigmatic presence and an important part of the work, doing much while doing little.
An inordinate amount of time is spent setting the stage, in particular shifting a screen from the floor to being hoisted on chains. If you wanted the audience to switch off, it’s hard to think of a better way of doing it. That screen is home to various, often philosophical messages. It’s not a huge leap to translate those about weather in the mountains to life in general. Those, and later ones about time, do deepen meaning, but feel heavy-handed. It’s better than the recorded text, though, which is echoey and hard to hear.
There is very little action. Liu’s training and background suggests he can actually dance, but here, when he finally moves (and boy does it take a long time coming), it looks anything but. I guess monsters within reveal themselves in different ways but this dance just feels awkward and clumsy with no feeling.
Elsewhere, there are moments of humour and irony, but all are drowned by the ponderous nature of what surrounds them. The end, a slow taking off of clothes to Saint-Saens’ Dying Swan is very effective, but by then, it’s way too late.
Monster is no doubt deeply felt by its creator, but is a show still seeking clarity and direction.
Monster is at Dance Base to August 25. Visit www.dancebase.co.uk for details and tickets.