Review- Battlefield- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By: Meaghan McGurgan


In 1985 Peter Brook staged The Mahabharata. It was a retelling of the ancient Sanskrit poem about war, death, and the importance of family. It was an era-defining piece of theatre. It was over 9 hours long and had an artificial lake built for it. Parts of the original piece can be found on YouTube, if you have a desire to see it. Brook has revisited the poem and given it a more suitable running time for the modern audience with Battlefield.


Battlefield is very minimal in its presentation, which I enjoyed. When dealing with an epic piece of drama that describes "piles of 10,000 corpses" it's better to let the audience's imagination take off; rather than literally show them the horrors of battle. The designs for this show are predominantly monochromatic, with the exception of fabrics, and a seething, red floor. It made the earth the actors walk upon look like a fiery lake.


Drumming by Toshi Tsuchitori was essential to the story. He was excellent at creating the moments through rhythm and syncopation. Four actors took on the task for this production. They played multiple roles and even took on the forms of animals, Gods, and the opposite sex. They were all individually, very talented as performers. But I found the strength of Battlefield lie in the scenes and vignettes, where the cast worked together to tell us fables. 


Fable spinning is an ancient art. To tell an audience stories with great meaning and symbolism, while keeping them engaged is no easy task. When the cast worked together to tell them, there was a great spark of energy added to the performance. Yes, their monologues were amazing and they show great talent in projection, stance and grounding, but I was captivated by their ability to transform, delight, and teach us. 


Battlefield makes us think within a greater context of contemporary issues, the important part we all have in checking accountability during war and peace. It reminds us about our responsibilities to one another and the circle of life. Why giving up should never be an option. 


For those that had a chance to see Battlefield, count yourself lucky. It was a meaningful piece of theatre that didn't shy away from tough subjects, but rather it charged forward into the breach.


Battlefield has now closed. For more information, click here.


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Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 2.0


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