30 years of growing together as friends and artists.
|Category||Score (out of 10)|
|Direction (Edward Lam)||9|
|Performance (Chen Wu-kang and Su Wei-chia)||9|
|Choreography (Chen Wu-kang and Su Wei-chia)||9|
|Music (Lee Shih-yang)||9|
|Lighting Design (Chen Chao-chun)||8|
|Video Design (Sun Ruey-horng)||8|
|Stage Design (Liao Yin-chiao)||8|
|Costume Design (Yu-fang Teng)||8|
After meeting as fellow dance students at the National Taiwan University of Arts, Chen Wu-kang and Su Wei-chia somehow ended up the best of friends, their lives intertwining beyond school into their personal and professional careers. 30 years on, the two men’s friendship remains more than intact, surviving ups and downs, from having started their own families, to a global pandemic.
Reuniting once again in middle-age, the two men come together to present Two men, ten years later, a spiritual sequel to their previous work 2 Men, as they examine their friendship over the years and ponder over the way their lives have intersected. Co-created with Edward Lam, with a score and live performance by pianist Lee Shih-yang, the production is an intimate, interpretive look at the origin of their friendship. At times comedic and others deeply surreal, 2 men, ten years later is an almost absurd blast to the past as the two men navigate their ageing bodies and ageless friendship through speech and movement.
Right from the beginning, the men make it clear that this is their show and their story, and they will be telling it how they want to, with Wu-kang providing the pre-show voiceover and welcome, as well as controlling the lights and sound from his console, while Wei-chia reacts and responds. There is a deliberate sense of performativity to their actions, as they pull microphones across the table, or drag a barre handrail across the floor, purposefully making us hyperaware of these noises, before they begin telling their story.
Starting from their time as teenagers at university, the two think about how much time has passed since then, alongside escapades and intimate situations between them in their days of being wild. As age catches up to them, so do more problems, such as Wei-chia’s near death experience; as he tells his tale, while he appears composed, there is emotion brimming behind his eyes each time he talks about coming so close to seeing the light, until he is finally brought back to life.
Although a dancer’s time is limited, the two men won’t let age get to them, as they show off their newfound style and movements, reacting to each other’s grunts while keeping tempo. Wei-chia in particular, despite his body shape, loves ballet amidst the many dance forms he’s learnt. Together, the two of them egg each other on, understanding each other’s limits while also being a constant source of care and encouragement. As Wei-chia use a metronome to keep time, a projection plays behind them, as they dance and talk about how important it is to them, these emotions coming through clearly and sincerely.
For the men, recreational sports form a key anchor for their relationship, depicted in one scene, where the two begin playing badminton. As the shuttlecock flies back and forth, they begin conversing about life and death. Sports no longer serves the sole purpose for keeping fit, but also as an opportunity to catch up and spend time with each other. As they share more about their lives, each response warrants a step forward, as if marking each significant point of progress.
Two men, ten years later also enters more interpretive performance, as they begin talking about the props onstage, such as an Esplanade da:ns Crew shirt, a metronome from Japan, and a stool they obtained in Hualien, an artefact that has remained with them from the very start, safely wrapped up and maintained as it travels with them on their journey. At this point, the entire production team and their own families gather onstage, and it hits us then – they’ve reached a point in their lives where they are cherishing every moment together, never knowing if any one performance would be their last, and recognising all these lives they’re become involved with, the ones who will remember them even when they’re gone.
Lee Shih-yang begins to play what sounds like a sonata, the mood shifts, and the men begin interacting with two large white balloons. There is a new lightness to their movements, as the music and their surroundings seem to rapidly shift, representing the constant change they experience in life threatening to tear them apart. Yet no matter what, they will be there for each other, to protect them from harm. Projecting lights onto the white balloons, while an almost jarring melody emerges from the piano, we see Wei-chia almost sitting quaintly, looking at the scenes from the bus stop, of cars going by as he reminisces and reflects.
Conversing once again, the live surtitles begin to distort and display inaccurate translations, almost as if the language they share is a secret only they know, one that cannot fully be represented by surtitles unless you yourself listen to it. They wonder how long more their friendship will last, or how much longer they can dance for, particularly as they age faster and faster. But they vow to continue doing it as long as they can stay and work together. Embracing each other, we feel their connection and warmth light up the theatre, and understand that theirs is a friendship that can never be broken.
This is a difficult conversation, as they continue to ponder over death. Yet, even when they are no longer here, it is the memories between them that will stay forever. even though they might not be there anymore. As the lights dim, we are reminded to constantly check in with our loved ones, take a step back and realise just how lucky we are, and to be grateful and cherish all that we will have. Life offers plenty more questions than answers, but amidst it all, with the right friends to accompany you, somehow, you’ll get through it together.
Photo Credit: Chang Chih Chen
Two men, ten years later played from 27th to 28th January 2023 at the Esplanade Theatre Studio. More information available here
Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts 2023 runs from 27th January to 5th February 2023 at the Esplanade. Full programme and lineup available here
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