An excerpt from an interview with Taiwanese theater playwright and stage actor Wu Hsing-kuo aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Aug. 21, marking the second time Taiwanese culture has been featured by the British cable news channel.
Wu is the artistic director of Contemporary Legend Theatre, a Taipei-based performance troupe that participated in the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival with assistance from the Ministry of Culture.
Wu’s first performance on Aug. 10 was widely reported by major British media, including The Times, The Guardian, The Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph. BBC’s Arts Editor Will Gompertz interviewed actor at the King’s Theatre after his final performance on Aug. 12.
The interview was broadcast on BBC News, BBC’s most-viewed channel, marking the second time Taiwan’s culture was reported by BBC following its exclusive interview with Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai in February. Wu also had an exclusive interview by BBC’s Chinese edition at its London headquarters on Aug. 21.
In the two-minute news item on Edinburgh International Festival, Wu’s interview and a clip of his performance in “Metamorphosis” ran 40 seconds. When asked why his theater stages mostly classic Western plays, Wu said “It really depends on the art agents. They need to be really brave. We’ve done that before. We’ve brought our own stories to the West, but most agents pick the Western works.”
Gompertz expressed his concern about the possibility of returning to Orientalism when Western producers insist on companies from the East performing classic European works. In response, Johnathan Mills, director of the festival, said “I think there is a danger of that. And I would hope we haven’t fallen into that trap. I’m just pleased that at the moment there is as much focus on Asia in Europe as there is because I think those things will come.”
Although Contemporary Legend Theatre’s “Metamorphosis” received mixed feedback from the British press after its world premier at the Edinburgh festival, this is because his reinterpretation of German literary icon Franz Kafka’s novel challenges a lot of conventions, said Wu.
The company’s works have been well received by most audiences, critics and journalists outside Europe, he added. While play-reading and realistic drama remain the mainstream in Europe, “Metamorphosis” is a work that uses poetic, multi-level and imaginary symbols to present the problems closely related to the modern era.
For Europe, it might take some more time to understand, he noted, citing the company’s “Kingdom of Desire,” a production that also received mixed feedback after being staged at Britain’s National Theatre 23 years ago. However, renowned British theater producer Theama Holt praised Wu for being a trailblazer of Eastern theater and told him the process of carving his own path would be tough.
Wu thanked the Ministry of Culture for its support in bringing “Metamorphosis” to Edinburgh, saying he couldn’t help but feel that the West still knows little about Eastern cultures.
Asia, on the other hand, understands Europe and the United States fairly well, he noted. More people need to join in such cultural exchanges, for the government and the private sector already have their work cut out, he concluded.
Watch the interview here.