the physical theatre of kuo jing hong

kuo jing hong directing muhd ghazali muzakir, hosd fared jainal, emanorwatty saleh, and einie shumastri mashari at the shenzhen university black box theatre.

on september 20 and 21, 2006, the theatre practice visited fat bird, performing “play play”. “play play” was developed through the collaboration of of practice director, kuo jing hong and four actors from singapore’s malay theatre scene: emanorwatty saleh, hohd fared jainal, einie shumastri mashari, and muhd ghazali muzakir. the group was in china to participate in the happy asia theatre festival in shanghai.

a serious attention to experiencing the body defines the physical performance/theatre (肢体表演) of kuo jing hong, who has tried to develop and transmit meaning without referencing concepts or narrative. for example, “play play” opens with the actors looking off to a distant point. they have been directed to feel the corners of their mouths rising to the highest point possible, and then to pay attention to how the corners return to their natural position. kuo neither classifies this movement as smiling, nor claims that it symbolizes happiness. instead she is interested in how this movement feels throughout the body; conceptual and narrative meaning, she insists, happens in retrospect, when actors and the audience members try to make sense out of that feeling.

“it’s like you have to prepare a container for whatever comes,” kuo explained, “and it moves through you, but then you have to let it go. you can’t keep it, but you can’t not prepare the container either.” she paused to take a sip of taiwanese milk tea with red bean pearls and laughed. “but it’s so hard. in shanghai, one of the actors got hurt and it wasn’t sure if i would have to perform for her or not. i was so stressed because the role was developed for her. and yet i knew for the audience it wouldn’t matter who performed, for them it would be that show, whether it was me or einie performing. but that’s not how i experienced it.”

and that’s perhaps the point. what gets experienced during one of kuo’s pieces is highly personal, or “abstract (抽象)” as someone commented during a post-performance discussion. moreover, it’s at that moment that the audience picks up the piece and runs with in, making conceptual and narrative meaning out of the piece.

kuo offered the following example that process. “let’s say you’re in the woods and you see a bear. you don’t stop to think what does my increased heart rate represent. you run away. later, when you tell the story, suddenly your beating heart becomes a symbol–but that’s not what it was when you were running away.”

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