3. “This is not Lear:” Wu Removes Costume

Lear is Here dir. Wu Hsing-kuo, Taiwan, 2001

Chapter 3: “This is not Lear:” Wu Removes Costume

Who is it that can tell me who I am? Li’Er wakes up on stage and removes the hairpiece and beard of the jingjiu costume to reveal the performer beneath, who speaks in quiet, everyday tones at first: “I am back, this decision is tougher than entering some monastery.” This line marks Wu’s return to the stage after a two year absence (1999-2001), and also marks it as the result of a process of decision and inner struggle, as if the alternative had been to become a Buddhist monk. Li’Er — or more accurately Wu or “the actor”, continues to divest himself of the costume, down to the undergarment, and even removes his make-up as he addresses the head piece and the audience, pondering questions of identity: who is Lear? who is the actor himself?

As he notices the emptiness of the stage, Wu calls to members of his now much-diminished artistic troupe by name, and asks what has become of his power and possessions. At the end of the sequence he repeats the declaration “I am back,” as thunder and lightning begin again on the stage, but now he adds “I revert to my nature.”  A better translation of the line, as Alex Huang had pointed out, would be: “I resume my profession.” (cite)

After the stage darkens completely except for a spotlight on the operatic costume lying in a pile on the stage floor and momentary flashes of lightning illuminating him, Wu, with a turn and a complete change in vocal delivery and movement, becomes another, comic character, close to the Fool in King Lear, and poses another series of question about who is Lear, who the fool is, and what the relation between them might be.


Make clips of:

1. Wu playing the actor (himself)
2. Wu playing the Fool
3. Wu playing the Fool who is playing the role of Li’Er

— maximum 10 seconds each, with annotations that indicate what performance details distinguish the three.