The good, the bad, the real and the virtual

英譯 English Translation Tanja Wessels / 中譯 Chinese Translation ALICE kok
圖 Photos Eduardo Martins
Dirks Theatre Arts Association puts humanity on stage
 
 
The Nether, a production by Dirks Theatre Arts Association, reflects on technology and virtual reality’s influence on contemporary society. The performance took place in the Macau Cultural Centre Small Theatre Auditorium last month as part of the 28th Macau Arts Festival programme. 
 
The defined line separating reality and the virtual world is slowly fading, bringing humans closer to a dimension that grants absolute freedom to portray themselves as they wish. 
 
During the performance of The Nether, light, sound, video projections and a multitude of objects are used to this end. The objective is to differentiate and balance two dimensions that, on stage, end up blending with a homogenous backdrop. 
 
In a narrative that unfolds in the near future, six characters represent the moral struggle between what is real, false, right and wrong, according to Ip Ka Man, co-artistic director of Dirks Theater Art Association. 
 
The “strong script,” written by American playwright Jennifer Haley, whose works explore issues of virtual reality and the impact of technology on human relationships, identity and desires, reflects what is experienced in today’s societies.
 
“I think the interesting point here is that people can no longer distinguish between what is real and what is virtual. There’s a mix in their own heads,” Wu May Bo, one of the show’s directors, explains.
 
The Nether presents the limbo separating the two dimensions. ‘The Hideaway’ emerges as the alternative life that lies at the heart of the experiences of Sims, Papa, Morris, Doyle, Woodnut and Iris, the characters in the narrative who set out to show the virtual world from different perspectives: “They all fight their own battles but, for some reason, are all connected by the same core of emotions,” Wu says.
 
In the virtual future described by Haley, emotions continue to be the fundamental element of the characters, a conductor wire and a thread weaving the two worlds closer together. 
 
One of the greatest challenges faced by Ip Ka Man and Wu May Bo was the translation of the script - to which they remained faithful - mainly due to the various layers of meaning in the dialogues written in English.
 
 “Cantonese is a complicated language and usually the translation is done from a foreign language or from Chinese, but there is not yet a script written in Chinese,” explains the director, highlighting the important role of the translator Mandy Ip.
 
But how to transport to a stage, characters that wander between two worlds, one of which is a virtual game? Wu May Bo, as well as art director and co-director of the Dirks Theater Arts Association, is also responsible for the movement on stage and explains that they tried to “find a specific way” to differentiate the moments in which the characters are in the real world and those where they are in another dimension.
 
“It took a long time for us to achieve because the actors have distinct physical characteristics and are able to do particular things with them, but it was difficult to find a coherent style. But fortunately we cast a dancer - the actress who plays Iris - who helped us immensely. She can control her body to the point of portraying a virtual game character very well.”