“Think of all the tales you’re going to discover…”
Arriving on the B-T stage this 7th week is ‘As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams’, a new adaptation of an 11th century Japanese text. This play includes the elements of what student drama does best: it has an original score, a new script and includes ballet sequences. In short they’re doing something, new, interesting and a little experimental.
‘As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams’ follows the life of Lady Sarashina as she travels through Japan. She is passionate about stories and finds refuge in the tales she is told. The stories are such a significant part of her identity that this mystical play obscures the boundaries between dreams and reality.
Impressively director Laura Cull adapted the original text into a play with help from her friend Harriet Rowe who studies Japanese. The original does not give names to many characters but Harriet was able to find appropriate ones; she also gave cultural advice, having read it in Japanese and being familiar with their customs. Working with her own script meant that Cull was able to develop and change moments as they rehearsed; the characters and script could be developed during the rehearsal process with the input of the actors. She also had the liberty to emphasise moments which she found particularly important from the original; it is her interpretation of the ancient Japanese text that we will be watching in the play.
What I heard from the script was skilfully done; the language maintains the ethereal mood of the piece with lines such as “I continued to bathe in the tales…” Cull has managed to sustain an oriental tone when writing this script. It has a complicated structure as the plot flits between the real and the fantasy worlds; the result is a beautiful mix of stories woven together.
The stories are presented in a range of ways too. Cull wanted it to be an “immersive, multimedia project” including live music and ballet. The music was written especially for the play by Marco Galvani who also wrote the score for His Dark Materials which enjoyed a successful run at the O’Reilly last term. It certainly adds atmosphere to pivotal moments of the play.
Ballet adds to the fairy-like qualities of some of the characters and the dance is used to illustrate the stories on stage. The ballet I saw in the preview was of particularly high quality and I loved the idea that they are mixing so many different techniques in one play. The drama scene in Oxford is very strong but I like that this play is giving dance a platform too. It makes the piece much more varied and I like that they are experimenting with the different ways a story can be communicated.
Whether you are interested by avant-garde ethereal music, some expressive dance or a new translation of an ancient text – this play provides different aspects which will appeal to a range of people. I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.
As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams is playing at the Burton-Taylor Studio from 3rd – 7th March.
IMAGE/Artwork by Shannon Smith, graphic design by Steven Doran