[ONE BELT ONE ROAD EXPERIMENTAL THEATRE] THE INTERRUPTED DREAM: CHINOIS DREAM AT CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES (DISRUPTED HISTORICAL RECORDS IN A MUSEUM) | Hong Kong, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Grand Theatre

Founded in 1982, experimental Hong Kong arts collective Zuni Icosahedron is renowned for cross-cultural and cross-arts performance. The title of their new show refers to Louis XIV “chinoiserie”, which projected intertitles describe as a hysteria for the exotic styles of the orient in 17th century France. Audience members are ushered through the stage door and told to sit on the stage, looking out onto an empty auditorium.

Where one might expect a barbed or satirical jab at the long-term damage of European colonialism, instead we get something altogether more fragmented and disquieting: traditional Chinese opera sung live (Shen Yili) over recorded baroque orchestral music, along with traditional Chinese and Javanese choreography (Didik Nini Thowok) performed in wide, European-style hoop skirts.

Somehow, it all feels like it is building up to Nget Rady’s solo towards the finale: the dreamer finally wakes, in fits and starts, a tense and tortured solo that feels like the emotional centre of the work. Makoto Matsushima takes over, imitating the attempt at a triumphant fist in the air, only to be knocked to the ground again and again by unseen forces. Although neither performer is from Hong Kong, it’s hard not to see the resonances with the current protests.

In addition to the pan-Asian ensemble and the colonial influences, the work also appears to directly reference the Hong Kong Cultural Centre itself, where the company has been a venue partner for a decade, through distributed “Welcome Notes” that repeatedly welcome the audience and thank them “for your cooperation”. Unsettling and unforgettable.

Find out more about Zuni Season at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and other venues.

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