Blind World Magazine

Trapped in a Black Hole.

January 21, 2006.
Shanghai Daily news. - Shanghai,China.

With improvised music and movement, director Wang Mo-lin's play "Black Hole: Ending" explores life with a disability in the guise of a post-apocalyptic setting employing a blind actor and a mentally disabled actress in the lead roles, writes Michelle Zhang

In terms of performing arts, can the blind and the mentally disabled do just as good as their able bodied fellow workers?

In "Black Hole: Ending," an avant-garde, experimental drama production to be launched at the newly opened Hi-Theater this weekend, people will find - perhaps for the first time in Shanghai's theatrical history - a blind actor and a mentally disabled actress performing for a major part on the stage.

A group of people are desperately trying to find a way out in endless darkness. They are the survivors of a natural calamity, which destroyed the city they all used to live in suddenly. Trapped in a "black hole," they are eager to find a "new world" to live on. The leader, however, turns out to be a blind person. Is it because blind people are used to living in the dark? Or is it because their inner world is "clearer" than ours?

"The whole performing thing has proved to be a very challenging, very difficult task for me," says the blind actor Liu Maoying, in his 40s. "When put into an unknown space - for example, the new stage this time - we blind people usually feel more scared than ordinary people do. Also, I must develop a close relationship with the other actors. We need to cooperate with each other and trust each other.

"To me, it is a story about people striving for a bright future. I totally understand the process," Liu adds.

He has been working with Taiwanese director Wang Mo-lin on his "Black Hole" series for more than five years. He joined the team as a fresh layman who knew nothing about the performing arts. Today, he is already a very experienced actor.

Besides Liu, an 18-year-old mentally disabled girl from Hong Kong will also take a role in the play.

Director Wang drew inspiration for his renowned "Black Hole" series from the disastrous 1999 earthquake in Taiwan. In 2000, the first part of "Black Hole" was staged in the island province and following that, there was "Black Hole 2" (2001) and a smaller production "Outside Black Hole" (2002).

Last July, Wang invited local playwright Zhao Chuan to join him for a striking end of the series.

"The play is an abstract production, which mainly showcases what it is like to have a disability," Zhao says. "Of course, the actors will also meet some exterior obstacles, such as a mirror or a lake."

According to him, movement accounts for a large part of the performance. The communication between the actors is mainly transmitted through body movements rather than language.

A Japanese musician has been invited to produce the live music. He will use different objects to make sounds throughout the play. Zhao points out that the music is improvised for each performance - so are the actors' body movements.

"We have a main theme," he explains. "Under that theme, the artists play on their own wills. Each performance is unique."

People always find such "avant-garde" productions too complicated to understand, and Zhao supposes "Black Hole: Ending" is no exception.

"But there are always people who understand, perhaps only a small part but that's enough," he adds. "The play has been staged in Hong Kong and Taiwan before coming to Shanghai, and it has proved to be quite acceptable according to the feedback."

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