TIDE WAITS FOR NO MAN Episode Grace
04/12/2018 - 08/12/2018
How do we bridge the gap between where we come from and who we have become?
“Your name is given to you before you are born, to make up what you’ll lack and therefore – complete you. My name is Grace.”
Grace [雅安] is a modern Taiwanese artist who has grown up in Aotearoa. Tailoring her life to be as Kiwi as they come, an unexpected call from her homeland sends Grace into a tailspin. A surreal battle of ancient culture and modern identity unfolds, as she grasps for answers among her Ye-Ye’s patriarchal teachings.
An ensemble of three Kiwi-Asian women use shadow puppetry, object puppetry and movement to ask the question; when finding acceptance means bending our beliefs, what do we sacrifice?
*This is a non-verbal show
BATS Theatre: The Heyday Dome
4 – 8 December 2018
Full Price $20
Concession Price $15
Group 6+ $14
*Access to The Heyday Dome is via stairs, so please contact the BATS Box Office at least 24 hours in advance if you have accessibility requirements so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Read more about accessibility at BATS.
Writer/Director: Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant
A development season by Spooky Antix and Proudly Asian Theatre
Dramaturg/Script advisor: 陳宇泱 Ellison Tan (SINGAPORE)
Choreographed by: Marianne Infante
Performed by: Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant, Chye-Ling Huang, Marianne Infante
Theatre , Puppetry , Physical ,
Unpredictability keeps audience engaged and in suspense
Review by Hye Ji Lee 18th Jan 2019
Bold, unapologetic and raw, Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace is a beautiful and triumphant experiment in performance art. Told through the narrative of Grace, a Taiwanese New Zealander woman, the show touches on culturally specific themes such as filial piety, resonant for the audiences of the Asian diaspora, as well as a complex set of more universal themes including identity, intergenerational conflict, love, loss and mourning.
This unique, non-verbal performance meticulously orchestrates sound, lighting, puppetry and dance to deliver Grace’s deeply personal journey of self-actualisation. The journey is prompted by the death of her Ye-Ye, a steadfast, rigid patriarchal figure with whom Grace’s relationship is fraught with contradictions. Grace struggles with the gendered expectations of how a woman should be; ‘Clean’, ‘Silent’ and ‘Calm’ – the three parts of the show. Yet there is no doubt of Ye-Ye’s unconditional love for Grace, albeit hidden between the lines of his actions.
The show is rich with powerful symbolism, every scene offering a potent vista for the audience to savour. Some familiarity with Chinese characters adds much depth to the show, as well as the awareness of the colour white being associated with death and mourning in East Asian cultures. In the backdrop of the ocean tide sounds, that returns to the stage time and time again, a sense of inevitability is evoked: the inevitable return of life lessons to be learned, nudging at us till we address our internal conflicts.
Many elements of the show are unpredictable, keeping the audience engaged and in suspense. This speaks to the exceptionally inventive and creative forms of expression Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant has put together. She throws herself completely to the performance and the effect is visceral. We feel what she is feeling and we are captured in the magic that is her faithfulness to Grace. The supporting performers, Marianne Infante and Chye-Ling Huang, only strengthen this entire repertoire with sharp concentration and fierce dedication to their roles, as both mourners and puppeteers.
The musical accompaniment is at times haunting and creates for an intensely immersive experience. Tu-Bryant’s involvement in the sound design demonstrates her wide range of talent and devotion to her art. The precise technical coordination of the sound and lighting operators are truly impressive (Wendy Collings on sound and Nic Cave-Lynch on lighting). Not a single glitch occurs to detract our attention away from the show.
The production is a moment to celebrate for the Asian New Zealander community. It is a compelling portrayal of much of the confusion, ambivalence and conflict we experience as a result of existing between cultures and generations. There is no clear cut solution offered for these internal struggles but rather the merit of the narrative lies in Grace’s acceptance of this very ambivalence and allowing herself to exist in those in-between spaces. There is empowerment in representation and this show offers exactly that. It is an absolute must-see, there is something in it for everyone.
[Note: this production plays at Auckland’s Basement Theatre from 19-26 February 2019, 6.30pm – details & booking here.]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Inventive use of dance, movement and puppetry
Review by Tim Stevenson 05th Dec 2018
Complex, personal, beautifully executed and drawing on a rich and diverse palette, Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace presents a narrative about a young Taiwanese artist raised in Aotearoa grappling with the conflicting calls of love, self-realisation and traditional cultural imperatives.
The conflicts which Grace (Nikita 雅涵 Tu-Bryant) must deal with are brought to a head by the death of her Ye-ye*, a patriarchal figure who will appear throughout the show in different guises – benign and protective, overbearing and hostile, even aggressive. We can guess that Grace’s Ye-ye also personifies the rule makers who lay down the expectations for women – ‘Clean’, ‘Silent’, ‘Calm’ – which break up the narrative into sections.
The complexity of the culture or cultures within which Grace is trying to live and grow is also mirrored in what we see on stage. What appear to be traditional Taiwanese/ Chinese elements come to the fore here, including the white costumes of the two mourners (Chye-Ling Huang, Marianne Infante) who also appear as part of the narrative, and the figure of Ye-ye himself. However, we are also shown contemporary/ traditional and old/ young divisions, and the show’s conclusion is expressed in part by Grace dressing in an outfit that integrates all elements.
Tide Waits for No Man: Episode Grace uses a variety of theatrical modes to deliver its narrative, and it stands out for its inventive use of different forms of dance and movement, shadow puppets and three-dimensional puppets in combination. This approach means that the action on stage is constantly shifting in mode and also location, which makes for a more varied vocabulary but also places particular demands on the performers. It’s a triumph of this production that the different modes are woven together so seamlessly and skilfully.
This is a striking-looking show which demonstrates a keen sense of visual impact. The bridge / path projected on the backdrop in particular – like an image from a traditional Chinese silk painting – is both dramatically effective and beautiful. The first appearance of Ye-ye on stage (as opposed to on the backdrop) is a highlight.
The production has a very strong cast who have obviously worked hard and closely together to create a unified narrative out of so many moving parts. Tu-Bryant’s performance is a tour de force: powerful, flexible, committed, expressive. Huang and Infante display skill and versatility in their dual roles as mourner and puppeteer. Infante has also done the choreography, drawing on an impressive and eloquent range of styles.
Variety and cultural diversity are also a feature of the highly effective sound effects and musical accompaniment, designed by the versatile Tu-Bryant.
The sound and lighting operators (Nic Cave-Lynch, lighting; Wendy Collings, sound) deserve the enthusiastic applause they receive at the end. A production like this, which switches modes so frequently, relies on technical effects being delivered dead on cue every time, and Cave-Lynch and Collings never drop a stitch.
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*Google translates ‘Ye-ye’ as ‘grandpa’ in Mandarin. Your reviewer notes that Google doesn’t always get translations right and apologises for any offence given.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer