The Man the Sea Saw

By Yang Fan Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-2 17:03:01

Physical tour de force atop an imaginary iceberg

Physical comedian Wolfe Bowart will bring his fully immersive theater The Man the Sea Saw to the Chinese mainland for the first time at Shanghai Centre Theatre Friday.

A scene from The Man the Sea Saw Photo: Courtesy of Hangzhou Star Dream Factory Cultural & Creative

Physical theater as a genre of theatrical performance relies on physical motions like hand gestures and facial expressions to tell the story in the absence of speech. "When you watch a play without words - a piece of visual theater - you are encouraged to use your mind in other ways - it frees up a person's imagination," Bowart said.

The thrilling adventure of a man adrift at sea on a melting iceberg is told via a wide variety of physical motions like dance, circus skills, clown theater, stage illusion and physical comedy to engage both young and young-at-heart audiences in a visual-audio feast.

"Through magic and acrobatics, film and puppetry, the character explores his new environment like a child, finding joy and creativity in everything. Through small- and large-scale puppetry, the audience will be able to meet a mischievous seal, bothersome owl and a dream-like polar bear. These animals may be puppets but, because of the nature of storytelling, we forget they are not real," said Bowart.

The funny story is a comedy on the surface but has poignant themes at heart, such as loss and finding one's way, selfishness and stupidity, finding hope and returning home. Through the character's efforts to survive the elements and come to terms with his new icy world, he comes to realize how important family is and that he is truly not alone.

Bowart hopes to engage all audience members through his performance, from children to teenagers and adults and grandparents. "There are many layers and levels of the story," he said. "One of the highlights is a very dramatic storm scene that all but takes over the entire theater, as well as a funny and sad scene with a snowman to make the audience laugh, wonder and even shed a small tear."

Although the audience will see only one man on stage, the show is an intricately arranged piece of theater that involves a team of experts to make the magic work. Technical brain Matthew Strachan operates hundreds of lights and audio clips that are very precisely coordinated to the movements onstage. Stage manager Kathryn O'Halloran leads a team of stagehands behind the scenes and Wythe Bowart, who designed and built the magical set, is hidden somewhere onstage assisting with cues.

Bowart made a 66-show tour with The Man the Sea Saw, visiting 27 cities and regions across Australia in 2011, including a season at the 2011 Sydney Children's Festival and headlining the Awesome Festival in Perth.

The show was nominated the Best Visual/Physical Theatre Production of Helpmann Award in 2012.

Perth-based critic David Zampatti said, "Bowart acts out all these adventures wordlessly but with boundless expression, his silent movie-actor's face, acrobat's body and magician's hands telling us all we need to know."

Date: Friday, 7:30 pm to 8:45 pm

Venue: Shanghai Centre Theatre上海商城剧院

Address: 1376 Nanjing Road West 南京西路1376号

Tickets: 120 yuan to 580 yuan

Call 6279-8663 for details

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, Theater, Culture

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