Fight the Landlord

Sep 18, 2013

Theatre in the round at Her Majesty’s? The question was answered when the doors opened, and the round was on the stage itself: a circle of bamboo junglement, inside which was a large round table with three girls in panda suits shuffling decks of cards.

Audience members joined the girls at the table (and at two more circles of seats) and became performers as they did their own seemingly endless, pointless shuffling. Perhaps there was a metaphor working here: pandas, bamboo being panda food, possibly a zoo setting … the human zoo reflected in the bamboo circle?

Each of the actors broke the lengthy silence of absurd repetitive action with inhuman vocal montage, then mournful repetition of lines in the opening dialogues which conveyed boredom and tiredness: “resting is tiring because wasting time is hard work”, “weddings are tiring because I can’t be happy”, and they are “depressed – bi-polar bears”. Then repetitive movements: reaching agonisingly over the table for cards as a comic physical expression of the absurdity of our human struggle.

Actors moved among the audience, singing the dialogue, dancing on the table, changing costume under the table and standing on chairs to deliver the most pithy lines: “A formulaic life leaves no room for love”, “conformism – do we self-regulate?” and, tellingly “people say the way you play the game is the way you live your life”. If that is true, then life is at once quirky and comically tedious.

We have a meditation here on life in modern China: landlords and wealth; luxury and how much of it people (read party members?) need; identity and autonomy; playing by the rules and achieving social respect.

The About Square Moon Culture Company from Beijing was established to engage in international co-productions, on this occasion with the Pan Pan Theatre of Ireland. This show has appeared at festivals across China through 2010 to 2012, so, although critical of the conformism of life in China, it must be operating under official imprimatur.

Fight the Landlord is an inventive production with strong absurdist influences. There is much that is said about China that can be applied to our own country, too, if we looked closely enough. Do we self-regulate to conformism?

One of my favourite lines to leave on: “Will she become one of the Top Ten Losers who were Child Stars?” Turn on the TV any night to see the answer to this burning question. Fight the Landlord entertains and raises some interesting questions.

Fight the Landlord will be presented again tonight (September 18) at 7.30pm at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

More OzAsia Festival coverage

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