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Reviewed by:
  • Translocal Performance in Asian Theatre and Film by Iris H. Tuan
  • Annie Katsura Rollins
TRANSLOCAL PERFORMANCE IN ASIAN THEATRE AND FILM. By Iris H. Tuan. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 177 pp. Cloth, $54.99.

In her new book, Translocal Performance in Asian Theatre and Film, Iris H. Tuan examines the topic of Asian performance through a translocal lens, inquiring deeply into the invisible ways in which the local has influenced global trends of intercultural performance. The book's thesis, which posits that the "binary opposition between the specific and the universal is gradually disappearing into translocality" (p. 33), is supported by fourteen wide-ranging case studies that illustrate recent intercultural and translocal works for the stage and screen produced and performed in Taiwan. As a professor at Taiwan's National Chiao Tung University, Tuan pulls together an array of current theatre and film works influenced by Taiwan's unique migratory and political history to illustrate how local trends in performance shape our global appetites.

The book's short introduction identifies translocal movements of shifting cultures, increasing modernity, and adaptation in the digital age and the changing relationship these changes have on performances, as they flow in and through the diverse island of Taiwan. Tuan identifies these translocal movements as central to any study of Asian performance, explaining that, "we need new perspectives that chart these emerging mobile geographies and new methodologies of interpreting the performance in Asian theatre and film" (p. 2).

Chapters Three to Eleven are divided up into two parts: (1) Intercultural Theatre in Taiwan and (2) From Local to Global: Hakka, Dance, Chinese Musical, and Film. The first grouping of chapters deal with two theatrical adaptations of Shakespeare which performed for local Taiwan audiences and an adapted novel by Tsaihua Tuan, entitled To Send Away Under Escort. In all three of these productions, Tuan shows that both show makers and audiences are evolving towards more [End Page 512] locally relevant productions rather than solely valuing the import of international theatre. Particularly interesting is Tuan's chapter on Contemporary Legend Theatre's recent adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which she does not ultimately deem a successful production, but uses the company's history and this particular performance to chart a changing philosophy of "rejuvenation" for traditional xiqu and jingju opera. Notably, where Taiwan had previously been apt to present Shakespeare productions that resembled those in the UK, the trend has begun a shift towards featuring more Asian and Chinese aesthetics, conventions and contexts.

In Part 2, Tuan focuses on the rise of Hakka productions in Taiwan, as well as translocal stage musicals and two films. Chapters Six and Seven look at two Hakka productions close up and show how the recent transformation from traditional Hakka three-role tea dramas to musicals and operas adapted for TV, "reflects how, under the influence of Westernization and globalization, the performing arts has sought out originality in the process of modernization, to endow performances with the new cultural translocal creativity" (p. 65). The book's contribution to the belated but growing body of research on Hakka performance is significant. Tuan's book is one of the only monographs to cover Hakka performance with such focus, increasing its visibility within the Asian performance discourse.

Chapter Ten is a stylistic surprise as Tuan takes inspiration from Marvin Carlson to write the book chapter from her personal experience. The result is a lively and engaging emotional ride into Tuan's visceral response to The Great Buddha+, a violent and viral local film directed by Hsin-yao Huang. The writing is so lively, in fact, that it makes the reader wish she had infused a bit more of the style throughout the entire book.

While the collection of case studies can feel wide-reaching and the main argument meanders at times, the translocal lens ties the chapters together to keep the reader reflecting on the ways in which performance homogenization under increasing globalization has spawned new modes of translocal resistance within Asian performance. Due to the book's preponderance of case studies and de-emphasis on foundational theories and methodologies, this text feels best suited for graduate students or scholars in related...


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pp. 512-513
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