August 10, 2018
After their powerful Heart of Darkness (噬) last year, Sun Son Theatre (身聲劇場) from Taiwan make a welcome return to the Summerhall and the Fringe, but with something a little lighter. Once Upon a Daydream (在自己的房間) brings together physical theatre, animation and live music as the dreams of a young woman are vividly brought to life.
Told with a light touch and occasional humour, it’s a tale of love, but also one of longing and loneliness. It’s difficult not to feel for the central figure, played beautifully Chuang Hui-yun (莊惠勻), who we guess is stuck in a boring job and who goes home each evening to an empty flat.
Looking for relief from her life, Chuang sings using a plunger as a microphone. Cue the appearance of a backing group in black curly wigs. It’s as nuts as it sounds but highly amusing. Interacting with the animations, she tries on clothes. In a moment of great feeling, pink heart-shaped balloons float past only to pop; and there are an awful lot of them. A particularly poignant moment sees her sit with a toy roundabout of ballerinas.
With real-life and fantasy increasingly blurring, the young and bored heroine turns to computer dating. Her home may be small but her dreams are huge. As the failed hits mount spectacularly, the problem is, where is her superman? Without giving too much away, it turns out to have been just around the corner all along.
The acting is exaggerated and lively, and accompanied by great colourful animations by the show’s creator and visual artist Liu Wan-chun (劉婉君). These include a goldfish swimming in a bowl (boredom, perhaps) and a face with a tear slowly rolling down the cheek (sadness, maybe). Best, though, are the townscapes that hint at the truism that huge crowded cities can be the loneliest places of all. Liu also takes the lead role at some performances.
One of the big plusses of Sun Son is live music, and Chen Zi-yin (陳姿吟) and Ivan Alberto Flores Moran kept up a stream of great sounds and sound-effects from regular, traditional and no so traditional instruments.
Once Upon a Daydream is described as a “fairytale for adults”, but typical of Sun Son’s work, there is plenty here for children too. Don’t be in any doubt that it is suitable for the whole family. It’s not high-tech but it doesn’t need to be. Just take along a dash of imagination.
Once Upon a Daydream by Sun Son Theatre is at Summerhall to August 26. Visit tickets.edfringe.com for details and tickets.