Innovative theater troupe to 'flood' Shanghai with a tsunami of sound

A "tsunami" is expected to hit the Shanghai Culture Square in October as U Theater's "The Sound of Ocean" floods the city.
Ti Gong

A “tsunami” is expected to hit the Shanghai Culture Square in October as U Theater’s “The Sound of Ocean” floods the metropolis. 

The Taiwan-based troupe uses drum beats, melodies, poem chanting and sacred movements to recapture the refreshing sound of rain, water, tides and the ocean. It is not a concert that audiences are expected to hear, but to feel with all their six senses.

According to Liu Ruo-yu, founder and artistic director of U Theater, audiences will experience the life of water. A raindrop eventually turns into a stream; a stream runs toward the sea where they join the ocean and reach out into the unknown.

Founded in 1993, U Theater has consistently combined music, drama, literature, dance, martial arts and traditional Chinese philosophy in its stage performances. However, the theater also puts great emphasis on daily training as Zen practitioners, which makes them unique among peers.

All troupe members meditate on a mountain outside Taipei before practicing their various skills. Without outside distractions, the members are expected to communicate with the universe and themselves.

“The Sound of Ocean” idea was born in 1993. Amazed by the sounds of water, composer and choreographer Huang Zhi-qun first tried imitating the sound of raindrops in the woods and eaves with drums. He later heard some chiming temple bells at 3am one morning, and it felt as if he was being washed by an ocean wave. He then became obsessed with bringing the sound to the stage. 

The composer searched for various gongs to match the sound he heard coming from the temple. He finally chose three different gongs to interpret the different sounds made by the ocean: the continuous waves, the raged howling waves and the profound, peaceful, serenity often found in the ocean on a calm day.

It is the first time U Theater has used a drum as its main instrument, and it took Huang four years to complete the piece with five chapters.

When U Theater first staged “The Sound of Ocean” at the Festival d’Avignon in 1997, local critics commented that the performers were “like mountain gods stepping in the mortal world.”

“Every practise we do on the mountain is important to our performance as it determines our condition on stage,” said Huang.  “It helps us to be fully aware of the moments we are on stage.”

Performance details

Date: October 13-14, 7:30pm
Tickets: 80-680 yuan
Tel: 6472-9000
Venue: SAIC Shanghai Culture Square
Address: 597 Fuxing Rd M.

Ti Gong
Ti Gong
Ti Gong
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