Saturday, 23 August 2003

Vietnam: A Psychic Guide by Chi Vu, Aug 22, 2003

Vietnam: A Psychic Guide
 by Chi Vu  auspiced by Footscray Community Arts Centre
 North Melbourne Town Hall, August 22 to 31, 2003
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Vietnam: A Psychic Guide is a happy and deceptively simple combination of the physical, visual and textual.

The performance is a short series of observations of Vietnam  by Michelle,  a young Australian-Vietnamese woman visiting the homeland of her father and travelling in and around Hanoi.

Her regular postcards to her father (Tam Phan) and friend, Kim,  (Jodee Mundy) in Australia create the spine of the spoken text.

The letters homes are read in both Vietnamese and English. Sometimes the two languages are spoken simultaneously, at others the translation runs consecutively.

Each individual postcard deals with a snippet of Michelle's experience. They read more as poetic short stories than as theatrical text.

But it is the visual and physical languages that are the most compelling. Director, Sandra Long,  uses the full length of the cavernous North Melbourne Town Hall to establish depth and perspective. The space is sparsely designed. (Phil Rolfe) Two enormous flats for visual projections (Massimiliano Andrighetti) are the body of the set.

The projections create a visual landscape of Vietnam through images that are textured, cartoon-like sometimes abstract sometimes representational. Scattered props suggest the Vietnamese environment: baskets, tiny stool and the myriad postcards delivered to father and Kim.

Jodee Mundy uses traditional corporeal mime skills to enhance the telling of the tales. Her movement is fluid and balletic, creating images lyrically against the background of the video imagery or as animated shadows behind the screens.

Chi Vu is on stage to read letter both live on a microphone or as a disembodied voice over. The effect Long creates is mysterious and unpredictable. Tam Phan is a charming presence as father. He is joyous and surprising. He even sings an Elvis song.

Two voiceless performers (Hanna Pyliotis, Melvin Dellosa) are on stage as haunting presences, silent deliverers of postcards and as echoes of the Vietnamese landscape, culture and people.

There is much to commend this production. Sandra Long's interpretation through movement and through word pictures and of images of Vietnam, are fascinating.

By Kate Herbert

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