[Singapore Arts Festival 2012] The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Photo Credit – Lloyd Smith
Photo Credit – Lloyd Smith

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of the highlight performance for this year’s Singapore Arts Festival.

Based on the book by wildly popular Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, this multimedia theatrical adaption is presented by American filmmaker Stephen Earnhart who took seven years to piece everything together – from puppetry to shadowplay to film to live music.

Photo Credit – Lloyd Smith
Photo Credit – Lloyd Smith

I had the privilege to watch it last Saturday after a long day at work.

I enjoyed it very much. The performance was very beautiful from beginning to end. Even before the show starts, the performers were prancing on the stage in graceful motions.

The puppetry, shadowplay and other visual elements all add to the overall dreamy, surreal atmosphere on stage, befitting of the equally dreams-infused Murakami narrative.

Some professional critics found these additional visual elements distracting from the narrative, but I beg to differ. From the perspective of a lay audience like me, they help layer the mood and tone for the performance.

Btw, tomorrow (2 June) marks the last day of the Singapore Arts Festival 2012. Go check out some of the available programs on the last day if you haven’t done so already!

Video Trailer:

An Introduction to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle on the Singapore Arts Festival website:

…how a prominent entertainment figure takes on the ambitious adaptation of an equally ambitious book by arguably the most popular Japanese novelist today.

The book is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and the author, none other than Haruki Murakami, who commanded the spotlight with the wildly popular Norwegian Wood.

Murakami’s experimental style and compelling characters have gained him prominence in the Japanese literary scene and as a world writer. Classic themes of his stories focus on love and loneliness, realism, alternative worlds and enigmatic characters who are deeply emotional under a seemingly impassive front.

In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, these leitmotifs are not absent. Unemployed, aimless Toru Okada loses first his cat and then his wife, Kumiko. Toru’s struggle to cope with their mysterious disappearances catalyses a warped adventure David Lynch would be proud to call his own, with a phone-sex caller, a bossy prostitute, a death-obsessed teen, an old soldier who shares wartime atrocities, a sadistic politician, a dry well and a dark hotel room.

Such alluring undertones of 3D reality versus surrealism, past versus present and earthliness versus etherealism — it is clear why American filmmaker Stephen Earnhart was transfixed by the idea of transforming The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle into a multimedia production, complete with bunraku-style (a form of traditional Japanese puppet theatre) puppetry, shadowplay, film and live music.

Why you should watch The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle:

…and determine whether the risk Earnhart took to adapt a book of dizzying popularity has paid off. Is it deserving of the praise received at its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival 2011?

…to find out what a seven-year- long production looks, sounds and feels like.

…to see if Earnhart has lived up to Murakami-san’s request for him to “not try to please me. Make something of your own”.


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