Lessons by elephants not to be forgotten

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 November, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 November, 2004, 12:00am

Elephants appear to be clumsy, with wrinkled skin that does little to boost their cute factor. But underneath their huge bodies are delicate and emotional minds.

According to scientists, elephants are intelligent animals with strong social bonds and good memories. They are also the inspiration behind e never forgets, a multimedia production by Theatre du Pif.

Like the company's previous productions, the show is loosely based on literature. Japanese writer Haruki Murakami's short story The Elephant Vanishes and Milan Kundera's novella Slowness set the framework for e never forgets.

Elephant Vanishes tells the story of a kitchen-appliance salesman who is obsessed with an elephant which has mysteriously disappeared from the zoo.

'The story is about alienation in modern cities,' says Sean Curran, artistic director of the company.

'It portrays a kind of warmth and intimacy between the elephant and the keeper. It's not [in] the dialogue but some small gestures. The salesman ... is very lonely because he doesn't have any friends. When you look around our city, there are many characters like him.'

After reading the story, Curran became fascinated by the gentleness and spirituality of elephants.

'When an elephant dies, the other elephants will mourn their dead friend. The elephants are even more human than we are ... we seem to have lost our sense of community.'

Slowness explores the bond between slowness and memory through a love story between a woman and a man.

'People tend to remember things vividly in a slower pace of life but they tend to forget things easier in a fast-paced city life. I think we've lost the pleasure of slowness in this chaotic world,' Curran said.

e never forgets is a unique collaboration of six artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Curran and Bonni Chan Lai-chu of Theatre du Pif will perform alongside South Korean musicians Sung Ki-wan and Jung Tae-hyo, Japanese dancer Makoto Matsushima and Hong Kong actor Lee Chun-chow.

'Regardless of our cultural and arts backgrounds, we feel the alienation of urban environment,' said Chan who directs and performs in the show. 'But we are all united by our passion in the arts.'

The characteristics of elephants - particularly their affectionate nature - will be expressed through a montage of music, dance and storytelling.

'There will be many short stories and elements linked throughout the play. I hope it can provoke audiences to ask questions about their lives,' Curran said.

The show will be performed mainly in English with Chinese and English surtitles at 8pm in Hong Kong City Hall Theatre on Friday and Saturday with a matinee next Sunday at 3pm. Tickets priced at $150 and $100, with half-price concessions for students, can be purchased from Urbtix on 2734 9009.