This past Friday I attended the Asian premiere of the theater production, The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead. Held at the intimate The LAB Space theater in Taipei’s Neihu district, the play opened to much anticipation from the sold-out crowd.
Rave reviews from international performances of the play would have no doubt helped elevate the buzz of the Taipei opening. From The Washington Post calling it “A marvellous, mysterious and funny story”, to the Toronto Star’s praise of the play as “…intensely compelling and rewarding”, the Australian play has become the darling of many theater houses worldwide. And after Friday night’s incredible performance, Taipei can also be added to the list.
Here are a few of my thoughts on the Taipei staging of the play, which I was kindly invited to see by the director of the play and Artistic Director and Founder of Butterfly Effect Theatre, Brook Hall.
It’s your final chance to catch the play this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday (July 21-23), so don’t miss out!
The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead
The Blonde, the Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead is a theater performance which poignantly captures life’s most complicated emotions. Love, lust, anger, disbelief, and tragedy are all painstakingly dissected by the play’s seven characters.
The plot centers around a tragic murder, the details of which ingeniously unravel as each character delivers their own intimate monologue. The audience is drawn in by their painful struggle between confusion and clarity as they try to make sense of their lives post-murder. It is through these heartfelt reflections the fragments of the storyline come together, revealing something much more raw than first imagined.
The most surprising realisation myself, and perhaps other audience members had was how relatable these tragically flawed characters were. As they revealed more and more about their intentions, values, and fears, it became easier than not to find parallels, and in turn, empathy, with even the most unlikable characters.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because part of what makes the play so captivating is how the story unfolds, line by line.
One actress, seven characters
It would be notable for any actress to pull off a nearly two-hour one woman theater performance. But to do so injecting both grace and believability into seven distinct characters —in a second-language, no less– is an achievement deserving of strong commendation. That is precisely what the absurdly talented actress Kim Chen achieved in this staging of The Blonde, The Brunette, and The Vengeful Redhead.
Playing everything from a vexed wife to a nosy neighbor, it was enthralling to watch Chen’s character transformations throughout the play. She was so convincing in her portrayals that I honestly found myself forgetting that she was behind them all. I wasn’t the only one either- my friend also found himself taken aback by her flawless impersonation of an disgruntled and uncouth man.
Chen’s refined skills were particularly evident in her characterisation of two of the secondary characters, a child and a grandmother. To pull off such eerily accurate characterisations so diametrically opposed to herself is a strong testament to Chen’s ability to capture not only the voice and demeanor of a character, but also their heart. For a plot that relies so heavily on each character’s story, this was integral to the authenticity of the play as a whole.
Speaking to the director
I managed to catch the director, Brook Hall, after the show for a quick chat. Having been to a number of his productions at The LAB Space, I have always been struck by Hall’s tireless commitment to promoting the performing arts in Taipei.
The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead is no different, with Hall managing to not only direct and promote the play, but also successfully reach out to the Australian Office and Australian restaurant Woolomoloo to help sponsor the opening night with food and refreshments.
During our chat, he revealed how Chen had to memorise over a mind-boggling 80 pages of script. Hall explained how he had begun discussing the play with Chen a year ago, and how they had rehearsed nearly every day for the past three months. I was interested to learn that one technique he used to get Chen to become one with each character was to direct her to explore a room in character, and ask her to tap into how each character would interact and react with the space and the elements in it.
Listening to Hall speak so passionately about the play was a nice reminder that countless hours go behind the scenes to make a production seem effortless. So many people – Hall, Chen, the set and costume designers, the lighting and music crew, and countless others, worked hard to bring this production to Taipei.
After seeing the play for myself, I can honestly say that The LAB Space’s production of The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead is well worth attending and supporting.
If you’re considering going, I strongly recommend you do so by booking tickets for this Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. It will be your last chance to catch it in Taipei, so make sure you get on it!
Thank you again, Brook, for the invite, and congratulations to the cast and crew on an phenomenal performance. It is no doubt one which I will continue to reflect on for months to come.
The Blonde, The Brunette, and the Vengeful Redhead
7/21 (Fri) 20:00
7/22 (Sat) 20:00
7/23 (Sun) 14:30
(Doors open 30 minutes before curtain)
Tickets can be bought at the door, but it is recommended they are booked online in advance to avoid disappointment.
Where: The LAB Space (實演場)
No 9., Section 1, Beitou Road, Beitou District, Taipei
Nearest MRT: A short 5 minute walk from Qilian MRT Station Exit 2.