“My Macau”, theatre at the Macau Literary Festival

Macau

The Script Road—otherwise known as the Macau Literary Festival—has long if not always included performances as well as traditional book talks. One of these, performed on 14 March 2018, is the multimedia theatrical “My Macau”, by Portuguese visual artist António-Pedro, which combines live theatre (or at least monologue) with video and live music (mostly eclectic percussion with some keyboard).

The work is entirely epistolary, consisting of letters (ostensibly) sent and received by the author—and actor—during a stint in Macau from 1994-1997. This was a time, both distant and recent, of actual letters, envelopes and stamps and this feeling—sometimes hazy, sometimes musty—of something just out of reach pervades the work.

António-Pedro
António-Pedro

The author says—but this is theatre, so who knows?—that he kept almost 200 letters from this time. The letters in the work, some 20 in all, are mostly read out recorded over period video and some stills of Macau streets, people, harbors and clubs. Perhaps the cadences of Portuguese (it is all subtitled) naturally match the video and the live musical accompaniment, but that seems a bit too serendipitous to be entirely credible. But the creative hand is all the more effective for its subtlety.

The assumption is that the letters are all true; it would not however much, or at all, if they were not. They are grouped into six sections; in a nod to Macau’s predominant pastime, is that the order is chosen by audience using dice and cards. Out of a process that is undoubtedly less random than it appears, a story emerges of a young man far away from home, often at loose ends, alternatively attracted by his new home and nostalgic for the people and places left behind. There is, however, no plot and no narrative arc: only impressions accompanied by visual and auditory snapshots.

“My Macau” is a cleverly-imagined, impressionistic, well-executed and ultimately touching piece of theatre perfectly-suited to the intimate confines of the Teatra Caixa Preta (Black Box) in which it was performed.


Peter Gordon is editor of the Asian Review of Books.