Meeting with Bodhisattva

Sep 16, 2013

The OzAsia Festival began with a bang with the Australian premiere of U-Theatre’s Meeting with Bodhisattva.

In a fusion of rhythmic drumming, martial arts, Tibetan chanting and dance, Meeting with Bodhisattva tells the story of one man’s struggle to overcome his fears and find peace amid the chaos of the world.

Inspired by the teachings of Bodhisattva (the god of wisdom in Tibetan Buddhism), the show in Her Majesty’s theatre began with the haunting sounds of gongs being struck as a mysterious three-faced figure appeared from the darkness. Soon the stage was filled with 16 performers expertly striking their drums and cymbals to create an exhilarating sound which reverberated around the theatre.

As the unnamed man’s journey continued, the turmoil of his world was illustrated by the ever-increasing speed of the drum beats and frenetic martial arts/dance routines. It was amazing to watch each performer strike their instrument with impossible speed and precision while holding their poses, unflinching, as other performers lunged, kicked and jumped around them in a display of athletic ability which made full use of the crowded stage.

As the pace of the music increased, the drummers seemed to move almost instinctively, keeping pace with the frantic beat and weaving between each other, occasionally altering the position of their drums or tossing their long drumsticks to each other as they danced their way through the maze on stage.

It is difficult to aptly describe the intensity and power of this fast-paced performance; there were times when it seemed that the drums or drumsticks would surely break under the pressure of each powerful blow.

During calmer moments, the unique sound of Tibetan chanting – a moving mixture of deep male and angelic female voices – beautifully complemented the lighter, slower sounds of the drumming and there was something strangely familiar about the foreign tunes.

The show’s minimal use of background props (aside from the instruments themselves, there were only two cut-outs of buildings which inexplicably disappeared mid-way through the show) and simple unisex costumes allowed the audience to focus solely on the performers and seemed to echo the theme of simplicity.

Whether you were touched by its spiritual messages or simply impressed by the athletic ability of its performers, Meeting with Bodhisattva offered audiences a unique cultural experience.

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Meeting with Bodhisattva was at her Majesty’s Theatre on September 13-14.

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