Shinehouse Theatre’s The Whisper of the Waves, part of the Taiwan Season, is a poignant juxtaposition of movement and text that explores loneliness and togetherness. It draws on a wide range of influences, both Eastern and Western, and uses these as raw material to create something new and whole, rather in the same way that Jean-Luc Godard does in some of his early films. Greek mythology, traditional dance, self-reflexive interviews with the director, humour, sound, all become silken threads to be woven together into The Whisper of the Waves’ poetic fabric.
The beginning is rather unfocussed, the choreography not quite strong enough to pull the audience in fully, but it soon snaps together once the first narrative begins, the text helping to ground the movement. The stories are narrated by proxy, by ‘blind’ (blindfolded) performers (‘spirit mediums’, reminding us of mythical oracles such as Tiresias), the stories mimed and danced by others. We even become party to the sophisticated inner thoughts of a potted plant.
It is the words, in many ways, that carry The Whisper of the Waves along. They are refined, multifaceted and referential. The words, in particular, create many truly touching moments and times of self-reflection. That is not to downplay the work’s other elements, such as its movement and sound design, all of which are nicely integrated, the performers clearly loyal to the work.
There are, however, many layers to The Whisper of the Waves, and although these give the piece much appreciated depth, they also make it difficult to structure and pace the work overall. Every so often, it meanders and doesn’t quite manage to conserve its emotive momentum. Individual sections work well, but they are not always sewn perfectly together.
This is, perhaps, a small point. The Whisper of the Waves is an intense work that displays dedication in its making and performance, and demonstrates, yet again, the high quality of contemporary work coming from Taiwan.