According to the programme, China is William Yang’s ninth “monologue with image projection.” As in his other works, this takes the form of a slideshow, a not-so-distant cousin of the family slideshows you used to be subjected to as a kid. With one difference - unlike the possibly boring whine of your great-aunt-once-removed’s voice trying to describe the contents of some blurry photographs, Yang’s slideshows are poignant, witty, and deeply beautiful.
China is the story of separate trips Yang has taken to his grandparents’ homeland. On each venture, he spent time travelling on buses, climbing mountains, and wondering what certain stalls were actually selling. He visits the land of his ancestors and explores the connection he feels to this place of his heritage. His stories modulate from the mundane details of a meal, to the poetic relaying of a spiritual journey. On each trip, he took scores of stunning photographs and videos, which are projected behind him on two separate screens. Sometimes, these two screens show two photos side-by-side, creating a panoramic view of a landscape. At other times, they show complementary images: different angles or enlargements of the same scene, or two almost-identical, but slightly different, photographs of a friend.
Yang’s delivery is impeccably timed and measured, bordering on stoic, yet it perfectly complements the images. Though he mostly views the slides in the reflection of the rear-vision mirror set-up in front of him, the times he does look over his shoulder, or turn around to face the projection, enhance his deep personal connection with the images. There are moments of stillness in his performance in which he seems to meditate on a thought, or a memory. A deceptive simplicity is at play here, along with a charismatic persona, as he tells what are often intensely personal stories, making light of his sharp observations of people. About one of his accidentally acquired guides, for instance, he says: “We both made fatal assumptions about each other. I thought he was gay. He thought I was rich.”
For this performance, Yang has decided to be accompanied live on stage by a musician, the talented Nicholas Ng. Ng plays a variety of traditional Chinese instruments, enhancing the images and the stories with haunting melodies, scratchy sound effects and mournful music. The emotion inherent in the instruments, and in the playing itself, is in perfect balance to the emotion in the stories and images.
Yang meets some interesting characters along his travels, many of which become his guides. It is clear that his engaging charm won them over in real life, just as it draws the audience of China in. This is an incredibly beautiful and moving show, and should not be missed.
The Performance Space presents an Australian Premiere
Venue: Performance Space @ Carriageworks | 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
Preview: 20 March 2007 | 8pm
Dates/Times: 21-24 March | Wed-Sat 8pm; Saturday Matinee 5pm
Tickets: $30 / $25 / $20 + BF - Preview $15 + BF
Bookings: moshtix.com.au, 02 9209 4614, moshtix outlets