Hakka play about war and humanity to be performed in Taipei

HaChiKu Culture Troupe (哈旗鼓文化藝術團), which is from the Liudui region of Kaohsiung City, will be presenting a theatrical performance called “Final Choice: The Battle of the Burning Village in 1895 (1895火燒庄:最終抉擇)” at Taipei’s National Theater on June 8 and 9. With support from the Hakka Affairs Council, HaChiKu has collaborated with several production teams of contemporary theater to create the play, which explores the essence of war and humanity in the past through the lens of modern society.

Members of the troupe have conducted in-depth historical research on the Battle of the Burning Village, which was fought by Hakka militia and armed civilians defending Changhsing village (長興村) in southern Taiwan during the Japanese invasion of 1895. They avoided the limited perspective that the official history provided. Instead, by adding some artistic and creative interpretations, they produced “Final Choice” and debuted it in 2015.

This year, HaChiKu intends to offer the audience a brand-new tale about the battle. Daniel Wang (王靖惇), a playwright and one of the artists-in-residence at the National Taichung Theater, was invited to join the troupe to re-read history and re-write the story. He adapted the historical incident using a modern narrative tone and incorporated the concept of time travel, cleverly depicting how people in different times deal with their difficulties and make their own decisions.

The newly produced “Final Choice: The Battle of the Burning Village in 1895” is about a group of five people who attempt to design a contemporary board game set during that time. While they play the game, they incarnate those historical figures who made tough decisions during the 1895 battle. Back in the present time, these main characters also have to face difficult choices about their families, careers, and relationships.

Not merely a historical play performed in the Hakka language, “Final Choice” is also a fine piece of musical theater combining music, song, dialogue, and dance. The juxtaposition of past and present settings and dual roles of the actors who travel through time highlight the contrast between the two storylines respectively set in 1895 and 2019.

“Final Choice” is not only a depiction of the most devastating battle in Hakka history during the early era of Japanese rule, but also a dialogue between then and now. Li Jung-feng (李榮豐), leader of HaChiKu, noted that the troupe has experimented on the representation of the story and the revelation of its meanings. He hopes this new version will resonate widely with more members of the general public and compel them to think about priorities and choices in their lives.