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In Performance: Thunderstorm 2.0 (Under the Radar)

Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental & Wang Chong
Under the Radar, NYU Skirball
January 6 – 7, 2017

Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental & Wang Chong reimagine Cau Yu’s Thunderstorm, a cornerstone of 20th-century Chinese drama. Thunderstorm 2.0 uses real-time video editing to adapt the source text into a cutting examination of gender, class, and legacy. The audience watches a fully composed film on a screen and simultaneously witnesses the film being made in front of them on stage. Performers scramble on stage in a furious dash to play characters, shoot footage, and manage every detail on set in an effort to create a stark and emotionally evocative silent film. The images are fully scored and narrated live by Pingtan Musicians Jiang Xiaobo and Xie Yan. Tradition, media, and story all collide as Thunderstorm 2.0 honors and critiques a canonical text.

Thunderstorm 2.0 uses many clever real-time editing techniques to tell its story effectively. Body doubles were used repeatedly to create various angles of the same shot. Early in the performance, a man pours a glass of wine. On screen, it is a simple moment with a view of the man from the front as well as a shot from above as he pours the wine. Yet on stage this feat required two table settings, multiple cameras, and nearly half-a-dozen performers. It took so much work and effort to create the simplest of images and I was left wondering, was it was worth it? For the next 90 minutes I found myself in awe of all the work happening before my eyes to create nostalgia or beauty on a screen. I began to question the labor and resources required to create and maintain image. Who does this work? What happens to their agency? For whose benefit? As Thunderstorm 2.0 unravels, the audience is left questioning how they see the world around them.

Photo: Wang Chong

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