Review: Taiwan Season Online Performances 2021 – A Glimpse of Taiwan


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Online On-Demand


Ai-sa sa

Tjimur Dance Theatre

“Peel away each layer
And behold what lies behind
Away it goes; tears well in your eyes
Off it falls; you can’t help but smile
Layers collapse; laughing, weeping intertwine”

At the core of Tjimur Dance Theatre’s Ai-Sa Sa is an awareness of balance, of stripping away layers to find the basic balance of things – red apple/green apple, laughter/tears, care/violence. Even in form, with its blend of filmed stage work and made-for-film scenes, Ai-sa sa holds balance at its heart.

No emotion lasts long in its portrayal on stage, and the four strong cast of performers (Ching-Hao Yang, Ljaucu Tapurakac, Tzu-En Meng, Sheng-Hsiang Chiang) flit naturally between contemporary dance, physical theatre and song. With a rapid, but not rushed, pacing, Ai-sa sa brings its audience on a colourful journey through the mercurial moods and shifting relationships of the characters on screen, deftly portraying themes of impermanence, changeability, and equilibrium.

Drawing its name from a modern Paiwan phrase, used as an interjection to laugh at your own attitude, Baru Madiljin’s exuberant work reminds its audiences to get over themselves and go with the flow – “Ai-sa sa, and shake it off!”

The Back of Beyond    

Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre 

Another work which explores ideas of balance and equilibrium, Hsiu Wei Lin’s The Back of Beyond is an intense and absorbing work. Bringing together elements of both Eastern and Western aesthetics, choreography, ritual and spirituality, this work from Tai Gu Tales Dance Theatre composes cycles of birth, death and rebirth.

Opening with the dancers engulfed in shrouds which they will return to and cast off at several points in the performance, like chrysalides, The Back of Beyond takes a pace that is at times meditative, at others almost uncomfortably slow and at yet others, frenetic and unsettling. The company demonstrates skill and focus as an ensemble, sometimes breaking away into individual movement, but often moving as though part of a single powerful organism, lead by the heartbeat of the work’s entrancing elemental score.

Though not a work for those who like a pacy, direct narrative, The Back of Beyond (which was originally designed as an immersive live experience)is a captivating show in which you can lose yourself to the powerful choreography and the design which delves into the spaces between light and dark to mesmeric effect.


Les Petites Choses Production

Based on a classical work of Chinese literature, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Nai-Hsuan Yang’s Fighters is a light-hearted work which examines dancers’ relationships with their bodies and minds in this global time of uncertainty and isolation. Where its source text is famously lengthy and complex, Fighters is a condensed fifteen-minute work which, even though I could not understand the narration or find subtitles, is engaging and accessible.

Staged in spaces that sit between the domestic and mythic, Fighters blends hip-hop and contemporary styles to create an entertaining new depiction of heroism, which many people will recognise after the past year of pandemic-life.


Incandescence Dance

A dance work based on physics, which culminates in a visual art installation was always going to catch my attention, but Hao Cheng’s Touchdown went beyond that and captivated me.

Asking the core question, “How can one entity be recognised as two things at once?,” Touchdown uses a discussion of the nature and action of electrons to delve into deceptively philosophical ideas. By flipping the camera angle, Cheng and the dozens of sticks of chalk around him initially appear to be magnetically attached to ceiling, and this sets the tone for the inversions, diversions and contradictions that will be uncovered in this twenty-minute work.

From using himself as a compass to draw concentric circles, to examining the history of concepts in physics, Hao Cheng draws his mathematical background into his choreography and in doing so finds new avenues of creative exploration, which address age-old questions in innovative ways.

All performances in the Taiwan Season are available online via Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 6th August to 29th August 2021.

The Tempest – Edinburgh Fringe Review

C Theatre

C Venue South Garden




Miranda, The Tempest, 1916 by John William Waterhouse 


I’m no purist when it comes to Shakespeare; adaptation and reinvention are part of what has kept the bard alive for the last few centuries. C Theatre’s production of The Tempest alters many aspects of the play, swapping the genders of certain characters, presenting an unconventional Caliban, and condensing the production into less than 90 minutes.

Some of these changes were very successful, with Prospera and Ariel commanding the stage and delivering strong performances, and the same actor who played Miranda doubling as an entertaining Trinculo. However, other changes did not sit as well with the production, leaving questions as to the reasoning behind the director’s decisions. One such change was the portrayal of Caliban as more of a petulant teen than a bitter and angry subject of Prospera’s rule. Singing his anger as he strums an electric guitar takes away much of the credibility of the character; when he, Trinculo and Stephano plot to murder and usurp Prospera as she sleeps, it does not feel like a plausible threat to Prospera’s life. Similarly, though some comedic additions to the productions were effective, there were numerous others that detracted from the power of the story. The sight of Miranda and Ferdinand grappling with enormous novelty chess pieces does not exactly evoke the romantic ending of Shakespeare’s script. The ending   was also weakened by the changes made to Gonzalo’s character which rendered him a shallow and uncertain character whose relationship to Prospera is not portrayed with any definition.

However, there were some strong points to the production worth mentioning, including the imaginative design and staging which made full use of the garden it was staged in. With Ariel and her spirits flitting amongst the audience, it is hard not to get caught up in the magical world of Shakespeare’s final play.

Though visually charming, C Theatre’s production of The Tempest unfortunately sacrifices the strength of  some of Shakespeare’s original script in favour of contemporary references and easy laughs.

The Giant Jam Sandwich – Edinburgh Fringe Review

The Giant Jam Sandwich

Pleasance Courtyard



Based on the classic children’s book of the same name, written by Janet Burroway and illustrated by John Vernon Lord, The Giant Jam Sandwich is the hilarious and madcap story of the town of Itching Down and how its residents tackle an invasion by four million bees.  Written and directed by Jack McNamara, with music by James Atherton, this production is a high quality, entertaining piece of musical theatre for young audiences.

Appealing to an age group of 3-7 year olds, the production takes many opportunities to educate as well as entertain, involving the audience in a song about how bread is made, talking about pollination, and delivering lessons about teamwork. However, there is never the sense that the production is playing down to its audience, or sacrificing any technical or artistic quality in favour of dispensing information. From the opening scenes, in which the narrator lays out the setting in storybook style as the characters mime, The Giant Jam Sandwich establishes itself as a well-crafted, sharp production that proves entertaining and delightful for children and adults alike.

The three performers, Sarah Ratheram, Christopher Finn and Paul Critoph, all deliver strong performances, with no qualms about playing directly to, and engaging with their young audience. Finn is a particularly versatile performer, and switches between numerous entertaining characters with ease and spot-on comic timing.  Between the performers’ abilities and the clever direction, which maintained the storytelling style of the picture book while still allowing the piece to blossom into a musical, this is a strong and engaging piece of family theatre. With a direct approach that ensures the children in the audience are on a level with the performers, and a well rounded balance of classic comedy, contemporary references, music, and storytelling, The Giant Jam Sandwich is a perfect introduction to theatre for young audiences.

The Giant Jam Sandwich runs at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28th August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Vagina Dialogues – Review

(Preview Performance)

Theatre N16, Balham



vagina dialogues

Image by Celine Sophie FP


The Vagina Dialogues, a title more than a little reminiscent of Eve Ensler’s oft-performed 1996 work The Vagina Monologues. However, as soon as the audience enters the auditorium, in which the cast is standing in a circle humming a low, insistent tune, this piece written and performed by The Völvas, asserts itself as a fresh and urgent piece of feminist theatre for 2017.

With each section of the piece written and performed by members of the company based on their own personal experiences or interests, The Vagina Dialogues is an engaging exploration and celebration of diversity and intersectional feminism. From the light hearted segments, such as the breasty ballet (my phrase) at the opening of the piece and an hilarious and all-too-relatable song  about drunken-flirting written and performed by Jazmin Qunta, to the more serious pieces about sexual assault, racial identity, and bodily autonomy, this show  addresses an impressive range of current feminist issues. Nancy Ofori Geywu provides side-splitting comedy with a serious message in her piece about an internet-troll, Tosh, who suggests that a woman would be more beautiful if she lightened her skin. She also appears with MJ Ashton in an entertaining, recurrent exploration of the female orgasm, which the audience soon becomes invested in, as though waiting for a winning World-Cup goal. Alongside these comic pieces, some particularly note-worthy sections bring the audience to breath-held silences, as Qunta discusses a woman’s choice to have an abortion (a particularly hard-hitting piece to watch from an Irish perspective), and Ashton and Sarah Jeanpierre perform a beautiful, bittersweet movement piece.

These artists bring a contagious unadulterated anger, pride, determination and passion to the stage, reminding me of bell hooks’ words, “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”  The Vagina Dialogues is an honest, empowering piece of theatre in which the creators lay themselves bare in front of the audience, and in doing so lay bare the enormous issues still faced by women in our society, and that’s something.

The Vagina Dialogues runs at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 17th-27th August.